Elizabeth May Slater Prize



Elizabeth May Slater Prize



Purpose: To recognize the most distinguished student paper or project, presented at the annual SEM conference, in the ethnomusicology of children, youth, or the education or pedagogy of aspects of the world's musical cultures.

Eligibility: Any Society for Ethnomusicology member in good standing who presents, in person, a formal paper or project description in the ethnomusicology of children, youth, or the education or pedagogy of aspects of the world's musical cultures. Projects may be completed or ongoing. This award is open to student SEM members who apply for the prize, defined as those pursuing an active course of studies in a degree program, academic or applied ethnomusicologists, or members of the greater ethnomusicology field. This award is separate from all other prize competitions.  Papers submitted for other prizes (such as the Seeger Prize) are also eligible for the Elizabeth May Slater Prize.

Prize: A cash prize in an amount decided annually by the Education Section chair; the amount will not exceed $200.

Regularity: Annually. The prize may be withheld by the decision of the committee.

Administration: The selection committee shall be made up of three members of Education Section, with members chosen for the next year's competition by the section at its annual business meeting or by mail-in or electronic vote. Those who are submitting a paper for consideration of this award may not serve on this review panel. Entries will be judged solely on the content of the papers, including the use of video, audio, and /or electronic examples submitted. In general, the May Slater Prize selection committee will decide upon a winner by 15 March each year.

Application Process: To apply for the May prize, each prize candidate must deposit three copies of his/her paper and a completed registration form to the prize committee chair at the Education Section business meeting or deposit said materials in a specified location at the SEM conference. The time and location of the Education Section meeting will be listed in the conference program. The paper deposited is to be the version that is read at the conference and may not be less than 10 double-spaced pages (roughly 3,250 word) and must not exceed twenty double-spaced pages (roughly 4,500 words). Candidates are encouraged to submit four copies of audio or visual examples that will be used in the presentation (CD, DVD, or PowerPoint formats are acceptable) with a brief explanation of how the examples are used in the presentation.

Application Deadline: End of the Education Section business meeting, usually Saturday morning of the annual conference.

Elizabeth May Slater Prize


Awarded annually to the most distinguished student paper or project, presented at the annual SEM conference, in the ethnomusicology of children, youth, or the education or pedagogy of aspects of the world's musical cultures.


Sponsored by the Education Section of the Society for Ethnomusicology.


Bio for Dr. Elizabeth May Slater (1907-1988)


Bachelor of Music:

Mills College, 1935

Master of Arts in Music:

University of California at Berkeley, 1939

Doctorate of Philosophy in Ethnomusicology:

University of California, Los Angeles, 1958


Elizabeth May was born in Denver, Colorado in 1907 to Henry F. May and May Rickard May. At the age of 10, her family moved to Berkeley, California where she attended the Miss. Ransom and Miss. Bridge's School in Piedmont.  After two years at the University of California at Berkeley, she spent two additional years studying music in Paris and then attend Mills College in Oakland, completing her degree in 1935.  She received a Master of Arts in Music degree from Berkeley in 1939 and began teaching music to children in the Oakland area schools.  During WWII she served as a USO administrator, and in 1949 began teaching at Sacramento and San Jose State Colleges.


In 1953, at the age of 46, she decided to return to school to complete a Ph.D. degree. In 1958, she received the first degree given at the University of California, Los Angeles in ethnomusicology and musicology.  Her thesis on Japanese children's music was published by the University of California Press.  From 1959 to 1972 she was the music supervisor for the Santa Monica School District. During this period she also taught ethnomusicology at the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, the University of California at Davis, and the University of Washington.  In 1965, she was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Perth in Western Australia, which she stated as being one of the happiest years of her life.  During her time in Australia she lectured throughout the country and studied Indigenous Australian musics. In 1980, she edited Music of Many Cultures, a collection of articles by leading world experts in the field of ethnomusicology.  This distinguished volume, published by the University of California Press, was a pioneering effort which has become standard in its field. Dr. Elizabeth May Slater died on Feburary 22, 1988 in Santa Monica, California after a long illness.


It is with great pleasure that we name this award for Dr. Elizabeth May Slater. Dr. May Slater was a pathmaker in (and also between) the fields of ethnomusicology and music education. She spent a lifetime carving out a niche for the ethnomusicological study of children's musical cultures, and in developing the foundation for the study of the world's musical cultures and what has evolved as world music pedagogy.

Prize Description as a Word Document:


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