Academics Discuss and Perform Music About HIV/AIDS

John Seesholtz, director of vocal pedagogy at the University of Colorado Boulder.
John Seesholtz, director of vocal pedagogy at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Courtesy of Musica Grande Artists
Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Out of crisis, creativity.

Director of vocal pedagogy at the University of Colorado Boulder John Seesholtz and Houston-based musicologist Matthew J. Jones will present Music and HIV/AIDS — A Look at Then and Now, an interdisciplinary discussion via Zoom at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, October 12. During the free event, they'll look at the intersection of music and the HIV/AIDS crisis.

"I think that it is very important that we have this discussion about the AIDS epidemic as we face our current COVID pandemic," Seesholtz says. "There are several parallels in the USA, as many in our sphere have become enraged about the idea of wearing masks, as well as a stigma in the religious community as lines have been blurred between politics and religion. The fear and anxiety of those facing HIV and AIDS in the 1980s and early ’90s are not widespread among many communities across the globe. I believe history allows us to learn and to find empathy in loss and struggle."

The music of The AIDS Quilt Songbook, a musical response to the shame surrounding the outbreak of HIV, speaks to the ostensible sense of loss and fear during any pandemic, he suggests. During this Zoom session, he'll give a presentation on the history of The AIDS Quilt Songbook and The Lost Songs of the AIDS Quilt Songbook, a collection he edited that comes out November 15. Seesholtz will also perform a few new songs from the new publication.

"My first publication with the Journal of Singing, in 2012, on the topic, has spearheaded years of inquiries about the unpublished songs of the original project," he says. "Especially around World AIDS Day, December 1, when many organizations sponsor memorial concerts to remember those lost. I have given performances of the AIDS Quilt music all over the U.S., and I am considered one of the foremost scholars of the AIDS-related song repertoire."

Jones will discuss his forthcoming book, Love Don't Need a Reason: The Life and Music of Michael Callen, which he wrote about the singer, songwriter, author and forgotten hero of the American AIDS activist movement. Jones says his talk considers songs about AIDS from Callen’s solo records and his time with the Flirtations, a queer a cappella group he co-founded in the late 1980s. He'll also discuss some of the theoretical questions that arose during the writing of the book, including hybrid methodologies and conducting research as an “independent” scholar.

Dr. Susan Thomas, CU associate professor of musicology, spearheaded this collaboration between Jones and Seesholtz.

"I am truly grateful for her efforts in connecting us, and honored to be a part of this discussion and lecture," Seesholtz says. 

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.