Sean Williams (ethnomusicologist)

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Sean Williams (born 1959, Berkeley, California) is an ethnomusicologist who teaches at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

Her primary areas of teaching include Irish studies and Asian studies; she leads the Sundanese music ensembles Gamelan Degung Girijaya (Enduring Mountain Gamelan) and Angklung Buncis Sukahejo. She received a BA in classical guitar performance from UC Berkeley in 1981, and an MA (1985) and Ph.D. (1990) in ethnomusicology from the University of Washington (Seattle).


Sean has written numerous articles about music in Indonesia, Ireland, and Japan, and written or edited several books:

  • 1998 The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (Southeast Asia) (Garland/Routledge - with Terry E. Miller)
  • 2001 The Sound of the Ancestral Ship: Highland Music of West Java (Oxford University Press)
  • 2005 The Ethnomusicologists' Cookbook (Routledge)
  • 2008 The Garland Handbook of Southeast Asian Music (Routledge - with Terry E. Miller)
  • 2010 Focus: Irish Traditional Music (Routledge)
  • 2011 Bright Star of the West: Joe Heaney, Irish Song-Man (Oxford - with Lillis Ó Laoire)
  • 2015 The Ethnomusicologists' Cookbook, vol.2 (Routledge)
  • 2019 English Grammar: 100 Tragically Common Mistakes and How to Correct Them (Zephyros)

Her book Bright Star of the West won the Alan P. Merriam Prize for Outstanding Book in Ethnomusicology in 2012. She has been a council and board member of the Society for Ethnomusicology, in which she served as Second Vice President, is a participant in the Special Interest Group on Celtic Music, and was formerly on the board of the Society for Asian Music,;[1] she belongs to several other music-and-culture-related societies. As president of the Irish Cultural Society of the Pacific Northwest, she hosts the Sean-nós Northwest Festival in Olympia, Washington every spring. She has a Facebook profile called Captain Grammar Pants, in which she posts tips on grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and etymology.

Sean Williams is also a musician; she plays numerous Indonesian instruments along with the classical guitar, Irish fiddle, and banjo. She sings in Irish, English, Indonesian, and Sundanese. In the summers she sometimes teaches at the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop in Port Orchard, Washington.


  1. ^ Asian music: journal of the Society for Asian Music - Volume 37 - Page 163 Society for Asian Music - 2006 "A former editor of Asian Music, she also co-edited the Southeast Asia volume of the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, and the two volumes of The Ethnomusicologists' Cookbook (Routledge)."