Mackenzie Pierce

Assistant Professor of Music


Mackenzie Pierce researches music of the twentieth century, with a main focus on the politics of culture in eastern Europe. His current book project examines the generation of Polish and Polish-Jewish composers whose lives were affected by World War II and the Holocaust. This project recovers the central role played by acculturated Polish Jews within Poland’s classical music scene and examines the musical responses to suffering among this community. He also writes and teaches about topics such as trauma and memory studies, the history of music technology, musical nationalism, music and capitalism, and the music of Fryderyk Chopin.

Committed to archival and interdisciplinary research, Pierce has been supported through fellowships from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, the Kościuszko Foundation, and the Beinecke Foundation. In the United States, he regularly presents new findings for audiences at annual meetings of the American Musicological Society and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Abroad, he has been invited to speak by major Polish cultural and academic institutions, including the Union of Polish Composers, the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Jewish Historical Institute, and the Chopin International Piano Competition.

His publications appear in the leading journals of the field. His article on Chopin and music diplomacy, published in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, was awarded the Polish Studies Article prize by the British Association for Slavonic & East European Studies in 2023. In Holocaust and Genocide Studies, he published on the first known opera to commemorate the Holocaust, Tadeusz Zygfryd Kassern’s The Anointed (1951). Other articles, most focused on Polish and Polish-Jewish musical culture, appear in The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Music Studies, The Journal of Musicology, 19th-Century Music, and Nadia Boulanger and Her World. For non-paywalled access to these publications, visit 

Pierce’s research on un- and under-performed repertoires has led to collaborations with international scholarly communities and performers. A highlight of this work was a festival at Cornell University and Swarthmore College which featured six US premieres of works by Roman Palester and the (re)premiere of Poland’s first postwar feature film, Forbidden Songs, with new English subtitles.

Pierce holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Cornell University and a B.A. with Highest Honors from Swarthmore College, and he studied cello performance at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. He joined the University of Michigan from the consulting firm EAB, where he advised senior university leadership across the country on issues such as enrollment strategy, pandemic resiliency, and the student debt crisis.