About Dr. Amie

Dr. Amie Maciszewski is an internationally acclaimed sitarist, teaching artist, and ethnomusicologist who has spent her adult life studying, performing, teaching, and promoting South Asia’s music/culture.

She completed nearly a decade of immersive training in India (1977-85), under the late Pandit Suresh Misra) at Santiniketan, West-Bengal, also earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Hindustani music/sitar there. She has taken periodic immersion training from Grammy-nominated Ustad Aashish Khan since 1991 and the late Hindustani vocal legend Padma Vibhushan Girija Devi (1996-2017).

Amie earned a PhD in Ethnomusicology at University of Texas/Austin during which time she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. She was also a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow (ethnomusicology) at University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada).

My Role as a Cultural Mediator

I have chosen the lifelong study of the complex and diverse music culture of the Indian subcontinent because I believe that understanding one culture in depth will facilitate understanding of and appreciation for other cultures.

Intercultural communication is and has always been an integral part of my (Amie Maciszewski’s) life. Growing up in rural New Mexico in a Polish immigrant family, I was exposed from infancy to at least three cultures and languages.

Because I was bilingual in Polish and English, it was relatively easy for me to acquire a level of proficiency in Spanish and French by the time I was a teenager. This instilled in me not only a deep curiosity about and appreciation of diversity but also a keen awareness of social inequality. Thus, as a youth I began my lifelong quest to grasp the nuances of very different cultures found in their respective expressive traditions.

After completing my university studies in anthropology and music at University of New Mexico, I set out to experience the cultures I was reading about, traveling overland to India in 1976. My prior exposure to the music of the Indian subcontinent consisted of recordings of the Beatles and other pop musicians experimenting with Indian instruments for “exotic” sound-bytes and Ravi Shankar’s pioneering work in introducing Indian classical music to the west. I thought I would dabble in learning sitar.

But once I reached India and experienced the sound of sitar live for the first time in a touristy sitar shop in Benares, India – I was spellbound. It was an entire shift in consciousness, and I have not looked back since. In my four decades plus of close association with the Indian subcontinent and its people and culture, I have acquired fluency in Bengali, and proficiency in Hindi as well as in spoken Urdu.

Thus, my role is that of a cultural mediator between music makers and performing artists of diverse communities, academia, and the public sector. In other words, I advocate for an interdisciplinary approach to the study and practice of musics around the world as an exercise in cultural connectedness.

My Gurus

The Late Padmavibhushan Dr. Girija Devi

“Amelia is a very sincere and dedicated disciple of mine whose deep interest in Hindustani music has led to notable undertanding, accomplishment and professionalism as a vocal instructor and sitar performer.”

Sarode Maestro Ustad Aashish Khan

“Amelia is one of my most hard working, sincere, and dedicated students. She realizes how deep and spiritual our music is and always tries to convey that in her performance and teaching. She is a very accomplished performer on sitar and a faine teacher and ensemble director of both instrumental and vocal music.”

My Research

I am an ethnomusicologist specializing in the music cultures of South Asia. As a scholar advocating the study of world musics as an important means of promoting peace through raising awareness of and respect for the diversity of human expression, my theoretical underpinnings and action research overlap with:

  1. Feminist studies, particularly gender and music/performance;
  2. Issues in ethnography and fieldwork, particularly the ethnography of performance;
  3. South Asian Studies, music and human rights, music and advocacy;
  4. Documentary/ethnographic film, critical/cultural studies of music;

I have been conducting research on the courtesan performers of North India, known as tawaif or baiji, since 1995. My research primarily focuses on ethnographic methods such as interaction with members of the community and point-of-view documentary films. I have published articles and films about various aspects of their lives, music, and social movements. Additionally, I have been investigating social relations, musical production and reproduction, and agency among these courtesan women in collaboration with Professor Regula Qureshi, and have been involved in advocacy work to support the community.

Currently, I am examining the role of media in the lives of lesser-known tawaifs and the constraints that disrupt their careers. I am working on co-authoring the autobiography of a prominent female Hindustani vocalist, as well as conducting a study of the teaching methods and philosophy of senior Gurus at the Sangeet Research Academy. My research has been supported by grants from Fulbright IIE, Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Alberta, University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Asian Studies, and SSHRC.

My Writing

My writings are focused on examining the history and current issues facing socially marginalized musicians, specifically courtesans in India and Pakistan, through feminist ethnography and oral history and analyzing the relationship between gender and genre in performance, transmission, and literature.

My theoretical and ethnographic orientation are concentrated around:

Unpacking, through feminist ethnography and oral history, the historiography of socially marginalized musicians from the late colonial period through the present day , especially the diffuse community of courtesans in India, referred to as tawaif-s in the North and devadasi-s in the South;

Identifying and examining issues of women’s rights, human rights, and sustainability in the flows of transmission and patronage of diverse musics and musicians in North India and Pakistan (particularly courtesans and their communities)– from the local to the global;

Critical examination and interpretation of the complex relationship between gender and genre in performance practice, transmission, and literature;

Action research and culture-brokering on behalf of the abovementioned musicians’ community through teaching, writing, performing, and ethnographic films;

Reflexive interrogation of the use of performance practice and study as a tool for research and re-presentation–with my own Hindustani music ensemble work, private instruction, and performance practice; as well as with the above mentioned community.

My Films

I have produced four films documenting my ethnographic research since 1994 on socially marginalized women musicians in North India.

Disrupted Divas: Conflicting Pathways

For low-status women entertainers in India, survival means tough decisions– sometimes with heartbreaking consequences. 

A Documentary by Dr. Amie Maciszewski & Ms. Mars. 

Chandni’s Choice

Juried screenings at Asia-Texas [Austin] and Indo-American Arts Council [New York City] Film Festivals, 2007; Yellow Frames [ Delhi] Film Festival, 2009

Guria, Gossip, Globalization

Special Jury Award, Dallas South Asian Film Festival, 2004; invited screenings include Columbia, Pittsburgh, Carnegie-Mellon, Princeton Universities, U of Arizona, Arizona State U, MIT, and Wheaton College, Austin Asian Film Festival (2004); India Habitat Centre, Delhi, Center for Social Science Studies, Calcutta

Our Stories, Our Songs: North Indian Women’s Musical Autobiographies

Featured in International Women’s Day 2000 Media Festival, Austin, TX


View & download my CV, which includes:

  • Education
  • Teaching & Workshop Facilitation Experience
  • Performance & Ensemble Leading Experience
  • Teaching Artist Experience
  • Conferences & Presentations
  • Publications
  • Films & Film Scores
  • CD Recordings
  • Languages & Interpreting Fluencies
  • Advocacy & Community Service Projects