Panel Discussion on Teaching in Community College with James Durland, Ruth Mueller and Monica Ambalal

*The teaching in community college colloquium is presented in part through the kind support of both Porter College and the Arts Research Institute.

Music Center Room 131, 1:20-2:50 pm


The Music Department Colloquium will present a panel discussion on music careers in community colleges. The talk will feature Professor Ruth Mueller from Green River College, near Seattle, Professor James Durland from Cabrillo College, Aptos, and Professor (and UCSC PhD candidate) Monica Ambalal from Merritt College, Oakland. Each will share insights into their professional journeys and career trajectories. The panel will also explore: applying for teaching positions in community colleges, successful teaching strategies tailored to these higher learning institutions, and the nature and role of research and creative work in these positions. The format will allow for frequent opportunities for questions and discussion led by Music Department graduate students.


Monica Ambalal was born and raised in Stockton and began her academic career at San Joaquin Delta College before continuing on to receive: a BA from the University of New Orleans, an MA in Musicology from CSU Long Beach, an MA in Ethnomusicology from UC Davis (and soon a Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz). As an academic, she researches musics that center on transnationalism and hybridity with an emphasis in popular music from 1950-1965. She has explored: the sampling of Indian and Arab musics, the rise of the mambo in 1950s NYC, and kitsch/exotica genres. As a musician, she is a cellist of 25 years, a mezzo-soprano, and an amateur accordion player. She has worked in the CA community college system teaching music history, world music, and introductory theory and piano since 2006, and received tenure in 2019. In her current role at Merritt College, in Oakland, CA, she serves as the Chair of Music and the Distance Education Coordinator for the campus. 

James B. Durland, an accomplished composer, earned his Bachelor of Music Theory and Composition from the University of Arizona School of Music, under the mentorship of composer Robert Muczynski. He served as a Music Instructor at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, from 1982 to 1992. He later completed extensive coursework at the University of Northern Colorado, where he received his Master of Music in Theory and Composition. Durland's dedication to nurturing musical talent grew during his tenure at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA, where he served as a full-time tenure track Music Instructor from 1992 to 2019. Notably, from 2014 to 2019, he assumed the role of Program Chair for the Music Technology and Recording Arts Program and created Cabrillo’s acclaimed Associate of Science Degree in Music Technology and Recording Arts. In spring 2019, Durland retired from Cabrillo College. He recently published his first album of original compositions, entitled "Selected Works for Solo Piano,” available on Spotify and other streaming services. 

Ruth Mueller is an Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Green River College near Seattle, WA. She received her PhD in Ethnomusicology from the University of Sheffield, UK and holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in voice performance. Her research deals with South Korean gugak and issues of gender, identity, nationalism, colonialism/post colonialism, storytelling, movement, and embodiment. Dr. Mueller has been published in Asian Musicology, Ethnomusicology, and Asian Theater, and has presented at the Society for Ethnomusicology, International Council for Traditional Musics, and British Forum of Ethnomusicology Conferences. Dr. Mueller joined the faculty of Green River College in 2018 where she teaches global popular and traditional musics, history of jazz, vocal coaching, ecomusicology, and directs the Green River Asian Drumming Ensemble. Ruth also sings with the Symphony Tacoma Chorus and toured with the group this past summer through Portugal and Spain.