Dr. Chris McDonald

Dr. McDonald has taught and researched at CBU since 2007. An ethnomusicologist with a specialty in popular music, he is the author of Rush, Rock Music and the Middle Class (Indiana University Press, 2009) and The Cape Breton Piano: Life at the Fiddler’s Elbow (Breton Books, 2022). At CBU, Dr. McDonald teaches courses in CBU’s BACS Music program in areas like ethnomusicology, music theory, and popular music studies, and he directed the Popular Music Ensemble at the CCBS. He is currently Associate Dean of the School of Arts & Social Sciences.

As a musician, Dr. McDonald performs guitar in rock, jazz, and traditional contexts. He is a regular member of the Carl Getto Jazz Group in Cape Breton, and played guitar with the Misfit Boys, a Sydney-based rock band also featuring Dr. Richard MacKinnon. Dr. McDonald has sat on the board of the Cape Breton Music Industry Cooperative for eight years, and was the treasurer of the Canadian Society for Traditional Music from 2006-2016.

His research at the Centre for Cape Breton Studies focusses on the Cape Breton fiddle tradition’s unique piano accompaniment style. From digitizing recordings, editing video, conducting and preserving interviews with pianists, to analyzing and transcribing examples of this accompaniment styles, Dr. McDonald uses the CCBS to study Cape Breton piano from many perspectives. Dr. McDonald has also used the CCBS to do detailed time measurements of drum grooves from important pop recordings to advance the study of musical groove and timing.