James Sullivan Assistant Professor of Music Theory


  • Music Theory

402 Music Practice Building
East Lansing, MI 48824

(517) 353-6485


James Sullivan holds a Ph.D. in music theory and a D.M.A. and M.M. in double bass performance from the Eastman School of Music, as well as a B.M. in double bass performance and a B.S. in mathematics from Indiana University. Prior to joining the music theory faculty at MSU, he was assistant professor of music theory and double bass at the University of Evansville.

Sullivan's research interests include rhythm and meter in post-tonal music, rhythm and meter perception, performance and analysis, and the music of Samuel Barber. He has presented at conferences of the Society for Music Theory, the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, Music Theory Midwest, Pedagogy Into Practice, and the International Society of Bassists. He was recipient of Eastman's Alfred Mann Dissertation Award.

Sullivan is especially passionate about teaching and received the University of Rochester’s Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching and Eastman’s Teaching Assistant Prize. His outlook as a teacher is rooted in the connection between theory and performance and the belief that acquiring skills in one area reinforces the other. He sees music theory as a set of skills that improves the broader musicianship of students and makes them more competent performers, educators, and listeners.

In addition to his work as a music theorist, Sullivan is an active bass player. He was previously section bass with both the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra and the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra. He has performed as a soloist with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, and he gives recitals regularly. He has performed in numerous chamber settings, including with Eastman Broadband at Carnegie Hall under the auspices of David Lang’s Creating New Music Workshop. His Post-Tonal Method Book for the Double Bass won Eastman’s Lecture Recital Prize.