Montag 23.09.2019 17:00 — 19:00
Max-Planck-Institut für empirische Ästhetik, ArtLab Foyer

Growing up in Academia with Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann

Salzburg, 2000

Frankfurt, 2014

What is it to be a scientist? How does one become a scientist? Growing Up in Academia is a conversation series with academics at different levels of their career focusing on the sometimes short, sometimes long and winding roads behind the “official CV”.

At each event, we will have an open conversation (interview) with one faculty member representing science in its broad spectrum. We will cover topics such as dealing with expectations (your own and others’), the role of luck/coincidence in scientific discovery, impostor syndrome, procrastination, and conflicts with advisors. Join us for a conversation about the human factors that are universal undercurrents of working in academia but that too often remain unspoken.

On Monday, September 23rd, Growing Up in Academia features Prof. Dr. Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann, Executive Director of the MPIEA and Director of the Music department 

There is no registration required. We will be pleased to welcoming you at this event.

Melanie's Offical CV

Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann was born in Schwerin (then GDR) in 1979. She studied Classics (Greek) and Musicology at universities in Germany and Austria with a fellowship by the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes and graduated from the Freie Universität, Berlin, in 2002. In 2005, she obtained her PhD in musicology from Zurich University (Switzerland), where she was also awarded her Venia legendi (Habilitation) in 2009 and worked as assistant professor until 2010. In 2010/11, she held a professorship for musicology at the University for Music, Lübeck, followed by a professorship for music sociology and historical anthropology of music at the Humboldt University, Berlin. In 2013, she was appointed as one of two founding directors of the MPI for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt/M., where she leads the music department.

She was awarded with the Hermann-Abert-Preis (Gesellschaft für Musikforschung), the Max Weber-Preis (Bavarian Academy of Science) and the Marsilius Medal (University of Heidelberg). She is a member of the Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft an der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt/M., the Academy of Sciences and Literatur, Mainz, and the Academia Europaea.

So far, she has (co-)authored five books, edited ten and authored 50 articles on a broad range of topics ranging from (European) music history of the 15thto 19thcentury over semiotics and sociology to music aesthetics and psychology.

Melanie's Inofficial CV

The most important event in my life surely was the fall of the German wall thirty years ago – in which I even had my own tiny share carrying a candle at one or two protest marches in my hometown. Otherwise, I would neither have discovered my love for the ancient languages, nor would it have been possible for me to study in countries of the West, let alone becoming a director of a Max Planck Institute.

I really liked going to school and loved all subjects equally well. I know for sure that most of my classmates thought of me as a weirdo. However, my equal interest in each and everything made it quite hard for me to decide for a field of study. After some years in which I was strongly determined to become a pathologist (very much to the horror of my parents), I eventually enrolled for Greek (because the literature in that language covers all topics from poetry over philosophy to the sciences) and classical archeology (because I was dreaming of digging up something as famous as Troy or Mycenae) at the University of Rostock. 

From then on, the course of my studies was following chance as much as deliberation, but with genuine interest as the main driving force: In the second semester, I exchanged archeology with musicology. For some time, my career aspirations were meandering between a music dramaturg at an opera house and a professor for Greek. And I was meandering with them – moving from university to university to become acquainted with other topics, methods, and ways of seeing things. This came to the expense of never really settling somewhere and building strong supportive networks. But I guess, I would have been too naive for these things anyhow.

Part of that naiveté was also that it wasn’t until literally the last weeks of my studies in Berlin that I learned from a lecturer I could never make a career in classical studies without a degree in Latin as well. That came quite as a shock. I called a professor of musicology with whom I had been studying for one semester to ask for his advice. To my greatest surprise, he did not only remember me, but immediately offered me a PhD position at his institute in Zurich. This is how I became a musicologist.

In Zurich, I enjoyed the luxury of a rather old-fashioned academic career path with a six-years position as assistant professor following the PhD: Under a strong supervisor who was as supportive as he was demanding, I really learned how to do (one type of) musicology. However, that I owe his generous support also two academic prizes and perhaps my first professorship, eventually triggered first outbreaks of the impostor syndrome in me. The next to follow where my two other appointments at the Humboldt University and Max Planck Society: One knows how much these institutions need young female professors for their statistics.

But I try to cope with this because I am still enthused by the chance to develop such an amazing and intellectually challenging endeavor like the MPI for Empirical Aesthetics. I neither embrace direct competition nor do I stand out in terms of strategic thinking but I am genuinely intrigued by scientific questions. I am endlessly curious when it comes to understanding humans and why and how they do music, and I can think things through. And in the end, I still hope that this will do the trick.