In Severine Neff’s eyes, her entire career has been a dream come true. She always felt drawn to music and academia, and being able to combine the two made her feel alive. Dr. Neff particularly loved helping others find the same passion she harbored. Her first professional position was assistant professor at Bates College in Maine, followed by assistant professor at the University of Hawaii and at Barnard College in New York. She then became an associate professor at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory and was promoted to professor at the institution two years later. Although Dr. Neff enjoyed her time there, she eventually decided to leave to join the music department at the University of North Carolina. She quickly found she had made the right decision; she really connected with both the community and with her students. In recognition of her commitment to the program, Dr. Neff was named the Eugene Falk Distinguished Professor in 2004. She maintained the title until 2015, when she was honored as a Eugene Falk Distinguished Professor Emeritus.
The highlight of Dr. Neff’s journey was discovering two unknown works of renowned composer and musical theorist Arnold Schoenberg and writing the first publication detailing his theories. Her work led her to receive a Fulbright to teach about Arnold Schoenberg in Moscow, Russia, from 1998 to 1999. While she was there, she was given the opportunity to speak at the first official conference and publish the proceedings, which really meant a lot to her. Dr. Neff was also proud to speak at the Sichuan Conservatory in China in 2010, to be named a visiting endowed chair at the University of Alabama in 2013, and to earn the Society for Music Theory Publication Grant in 2015. Some other notable achievements include authoring “Coherence, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Instruction in Form” and “The Musical Idea,” serving as the editor-in-chief of “Schoenberg in Words” and ‘Music Theory Spectrum,” and editing “Theory and Practice.”
Dr. Neff prepared for her endeavors by obtaining a Bachelor of Arts from Barnard College in 1971, a Master of Arts from Yale University in 1972, and a PhD from Princeton University in 1979. She also holds a Master of Fine Arts from Princeton University. To keep in touch with her peers, Dr. Neff joined prominent professional organizations like the Society of Music Theory and the College Music Society.