Cesar Favila’s research and teaching focus on Mexican music from colonial New Spain to the contemporary Chicano experience. His work resides at the intersections of music, religion, gender, and race and often examines how the sacred and the profane animate beliefs about salvation.
His book, Immaculate Sounds: The Musical Lives of Nuns in New Spain, is the first monograph on women’s music-making in colonial Latin America. It weaves traditional methods in musicology, such as transcription of rare music sources and translation of historical documents, with arguments from the history of religion and art, literary studies, and critical theory, arguing that women were elevated as co-redeemers when they joined one of the nine orders of nuns active in New Spain. He has also worked with early music ensembles to bring attention to New Spanish convent music through performances and recordings. He was awarded the American Musicological Society’s Noah Greenberg Award, together with Paul Feller-Simmons, for his practice-based collaboration with Tonos del Sur, leading to a concert of convent villancicos in the 2023 Bloomington Early Music Festival. Favila has published articles and research notes in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, the Bulletin of Spanish Studies, the Bulletin of the Comediantes, Diagonal: An Ibero-American Music Review, the Journal of the Society for American Music, and Women & Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture. He is currently researching the penitential songs called saetas through the lens of sound and voice studies. With precedence in premodernity, the penitence and suffering examined in the saetas’ poetry connects with Favila’s long-term interest in the understudied soundscape of cultural Catholicism among contemporary Spanish-speaking communities.
In 2022, Favila was the ACLS Susan McClary and Robert Walser Fellow in Music Studies and named a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars (formerly the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation). His research has been supported generously by the Academy of American Franciscan History, the American Philosophical Society, and the Fulbright Program, among other granting agencies. Favila’s teaching has been honored with a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Faculty Mentor Award and a UCLA Undergraduate Research Week Faculty Mentor Award.
Favila grew up in rural Northern California and was a first-generation college student. He received a BA in music from UC Davis and a PhD in music history and theory from the University of Chicago. He is an amateur organist. In a former period, Favila studied the health sciences and worked in nursing and as a graduate medical education coordinator. He firmly believes that music studies can offer valuable transferrable skills.