CMS Spotlight

January 2023 - Lisa Urkevich

Symposium General Editor Lisa Urkevich is Professor of Musicology/Ethnomusicology and former founding Division Head (Dean) of Arts and Humanities and founding Chair of the Department of Music and Drama at the American University of Kuwait (AUK). She also regularly serves as an advisor for international government and private sector initiatives in the performing arts and education. Before joining AUK, she was a full-time professor at Boston University and has also held teaching positions at Bucknell University and the University of Maryland.

Lisa works tirelessly behind the scenes to publish not just one, but two volumes of Symposium, CMS’ virtual academic journal, each year. We asked Lisa a few questions about her experience working as Symposium General Editor, and we hope you’ll enjoy reading about her role!


Q: When did you begin your service with CMS, and what led you to take on the position of General Editor for Symposium?

A: When I accepted the position in the Spring of 2017, I was really interested in serving as General Editor for a few reasons. Firstly, CMS has been important to me since I was in grad school, and in fact, my first publication was an essay in a 1993 CMS Newsletter, thirty years ago. Then later, as a professor and administrator in the Middle East, sometimes I felt isolated and I wanted to stay connected with multiple facets of music and higher education and engage with colleagues who have perspectives different than mine. I knew that being the Symposium General Editor would give me this opportunity. Also, I knew the journal would be going through a major transformation, and I so enjoy a complicated challenge!


Q: In what ways has your engagement with CMS been meaningful to you and helped you in your own career?

A: I am a full professor and at a senior level in my career, so I did not accept the Symposium position to assist with promotion or anything like that. But for sure, the job has been meaningful. There are a lot of mundane tasks involved with being a General Editor but restructuring the journal to align with other quality publications, interacting with our Component Editors and authors, and helping to assess disparate material within so many different music disciplines has been thought provoking and expanded my mind. And then a daily byproduct of being General Editor is the basic content knowledge, so I find myself often saying things to my faculty and colleagues like, “Do you know about this new music App that was reviewed in Symposium?” or “Have you heard about this new teaching methodology?” or “I read the most interesting article with a new take on Schubert’s “Erlkoenig” in Symposium.


Q: Putting together the Symposium requires a lot of work! What does a typical publication cycle look like for you, workload-wise, and how do you balance this work with your other responsibilities?

A: The workload is indeed daunting at times. The journal has seven Components, each with its own editor. Unlike other journals, we deal with many types of subjects and diverse writing approaches, and we are inclusive and appreciate the idiosyncrasies of our different disciplines. For instance, the manuscript formatting of a Music Educator is not like that of a Musicologist. Dealing with different styles takes more time. For success, we must have a strong structure, clear guidelines, processes, deadlines, and most importantly, competent, conscientious Component Editors and CMS Office staff.

Regarding a cycle, Scholarly and Music Business-Industry articles, Forum essays, and PLLT video, are submitted through our website along with books, tech, or audio that one seeks to be reviewed. Then the appropriate editor and I are notified, and different editors will follow different protocols. For instance, our scholarly articles are double-blind peer-reviewed and so those submissions are sent to qualified referees with their own deadlines and guidelines, and subsequently the editors accept, reject, or ask for revisions from the author, depending on referee recommendations. Discussion between authors, editors, and referees might go back and forth for a while as editors try to polish the submission to its best quality. On a certain pre-determined date, the Component Editors give me a final product, which I check, and then the editors and I might go back and forth with discussion. Then when ready, I inform the CMS office to process the articles, images, bios, etc. And the office and I might need to hash out further details.

We process about twenty articles or reviews per issue, twice a year, so getting everything publication ready takes a bit of time. Once the office informs me that all the articles are properly up on the website, the editors, authors, and I review everything again and I ultimately give the final approval for release to the public. Then a few weeks later, following strict guidelines, the CMS office prepares a PDF of the issue that goes to JSTOR, and again, this is reviewed before it is released for final publication.

I would say, 4-5 months out of the year are intense for me because of all of our checks and balances, our quest for integrity, and the complexity of our publication. I deal with problems year-round, from ethics, to formatting, discontented submitters, retiring editors, new board members, etc. but my work with the journal issue itself really kicks in at the end of the summer and beginning of the New Year, and this is when I do brace myself. I know I will be working on weekends and evenings. Time management is of the utmost importance.

But when that final announcement goes out, that the issue is published, the whole team quietly celebrates and feels contented that we have produced a fine product for the enhancement of our discipline.


Q: How do you envision the Symposium evolving in the coming years?

A: I am really proud of the improvements we have made these past years, our updated standards and clear processes. Every problem we encountered was a learning experience and we have used our struggles to refine and perfect our guidelines, which are published on the website. Now my goal is to focus on journal visibility and impact factor within a virtual environment so that Symposium, authors, and editors get the exposure and credit they deserve.

Also, as an American who lives overseas, I would love to see Symposium more engaged internationally. There are so many global practices and methodologies and unique music perspectives and research that USA higher educators might find compelling. And likewise, there are so many amazing American systems in higher education and fresh investigations that would be so beneficial to international scholars and professionals. So hopefully, Symposium can start forging stronger global ties in coming years.


Q: What advice might you give to students (undergraduate and graduate) who are looking to become involved in the editing side of academic journals?

A: My advice to students interested in editing is to first Publish! Publish! Publish!--in a variety of journals, in a variety of formats. Our best editors, board members, and reviewers are experienced published authors. You learn so much from being a submitter who must follow guides, styles sheets, deadlines, and interact with editors. Publish and then reach out and offer to serve as an editor, and I suggest beginning as a review editor. Books, audio, film, technology reviews are usually not too long or complicated and serve as a great way to learn the basics of editing before moving onto more intricate peer-reviewed scholarly types of publications.

But aside from editing, I encourage everyone, active scholars and professionals, students, retirees, to engage with Symposium. Have your voice heard. Write a Forum essay. Get that research published. Do you have a great performance or performance-lecture that is worthy of attention? Send it to us. Have you issued an audio recording, written a book, prepared new tech that you want reviewed? Submit it. Symposium provides a unique opportunity for you to connect with others and help enrich and sustain our music discipline and we need everyone’s involvement during these dynamic times.