Sarah Morelli

Sarah L. Morelli

Associate Professor

Professional Biography

Dr. Sarah Morelli (Ph.D. Harvard, 2007) is an ethnomusicologist specializing in classical music and dance of North India. Her areas of scholarly interest include music and dance practices in South Asia and diaspora communities, kathak dance, the body, gender, music and religion, and popular music. Active as both a scholar and performer, Prof. Morelli teaches courses in which students examine the profound and varied connections between music, dance and other aspects of human experience. She also leads the DU North Indian Classical Ensemble, an ensemble focusing on kathak dance, open to all University of Denver students, faculty and staff.

Professor Morelli trained in North Indian classical performing arts with two legends in their fields: kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das and sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan, as well as their senior disciples Pt. Rajeev Taranath, Dr. George Ruckert, Gretchen Hayden and Steve Oda. She performs kathak nationally and internationally as a solo artist and member of the Leela Dance Collective, most recently playing the role of Sri Ramachandra in the production Son of the Wind.

Prof. Morelli's forthcoming book, A Guru's Journey: Pandit Chitresh Das and Indian Classical Dance in Diaspora (University of Illinois Press) is an ethnographic account of Pandit Das's dance company and school, his contributions to kathak dance and processes of culture-change in artistic diasporas. These issues also inform her earlier work on hip-hop and youth culture in South Korea. Prof. Morelli's research on kathak has led to publications in The Music of Multicultural America: Performance, Identity and Community in the United States (edited by Kip Lornell and Anne Rasmussen), Anthropological Notebooks and College Music Symposium Forums. She is the author of the Instructor's Manual for the college-level world music textbook Soundscapes (W.W. Norton, 3rd ed.) and is currently co-editing a volume with Zoe Sherinian titled Music and Dance as Everyday South Asia.

Prof. Morelli regularly presents at academic conferences including the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), in which she has been an active member since 1996. She currently serves as SEM Board Member at Large and served as Local Arrangements Chair for the 2017 national conference. Prof. Morelli also currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Chhandam Chitresh Das Dance Company in San Francisco and she is the founder of Sureela Academy, a kathak school serving the Denver area.

Courses Taught
Undergraduate courses—Soundscapes: Exploring Music in Multicultural America, Introduction to World Musics, Dance in India
Graduate seminars—Studying Music in the Field: Theory and Method in Ethnomusicology, Music and Belief in World Cultures, Musics of the African Diaspora, Music Dance and Everyday Life in South Asia, Topics in Hindustani Music
North Indian Classical Ensemble


  • Ph.D., Ethnomusicology, Harvard University, 2007
  • BA, Music and Russian, Dickinson College, 1995

Professional Affiliations

  • Society for Ethnomusicology