Dr Bonnie B. McConnell

PhD, University of Washington; MA, University of Washington; BA Oberlin College, BM Oberlin College
Senior Lecturer
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: (02) 61257015

Research interests


Music, health, and wellbeing

Music and gender

Music, conflict, and development

Musics of Africa and the African diaspora


Bonnie McConnell is Senior Lecturer and Higher Degree Research Convenor in the ANU School of Music. Her research examines music in relation to issues of health, identity, and social change in Africa (The Gambia, Tanzania, South Africa) and Australia. She holds an MA and PhD in ethnomusicology with a graduate certificate in public health from the University of Washington.

McConnell is the author of the monograph Music, Health, and Power: Singing the Unsayable in The Gambia (2019, Routledge). The book received an Honorable Mention for the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Kwabena Nketia Prize, which recognises the most distinguished book on music of Africa and the African diaspora published during the past three years.

McConnell’s research has been supported by the Fulbright-Hays Program, the American Association of University Women, the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the Freilich Foundation. Her work appears in the journals EthnomusicologyAfrica Today, Social Science & Medicine, Popular Music and Society, Voices, International Journal of Community Music, Ethnomusicology Forum, and BMJ Open, among other publications. In 2020, McConnell was awarded the Rebecca Coyle Prize from the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (Australia-New Zealand) for her article “Afropolitan Projects: Music, Representation, and the Politics of Belonging in Australia.” The prize recognises the best paper on popular music of the Australia-New Zealand region. McConnell is co-founder of the Musical Care International Network which facilitates international and interdisciplinary knowledge exchange relating to musical care.  

At the ANU, she teaches courses on contemporary approaches to ethnomusicology and music research methods.  


Researcher's projects

Music, Health, and Power: Singing the Unsayable in The Gambia

McConnell's first book is an investigation of music, health, and power in the Gambia through the lens of Muslim women's performances. It examines the way women have adapted indigenous musical healing practices in order to address contemporary public health challenges. In the face of political repression and economic austerity, women use music to address sensitive health topics, challenge gender inequality, and promote collective action. Focusing on the music of kanyeleng fertility societies as well as popular dance music, the book demonstrates that female performers navigate complex gendered expectations and religious restrictions to access new forms of power and influence in contemporary Gambia. (Funded by the Fulbright-Hays Program and the American Association of University Women) 

Musical Care International Network

This network of practitioners and researchers working on musical care throughout the life course emphasises international and interdisciplinary collaboration. It includes practitioners and researchers from a broad range of disciplines and practices, including but not limited to community music, ethnomusicology, medical humanities, medicine, music anthropology, music in health, music education, music psychology, music sociology, and music therapy.

Project Team and Network Co-Founders

Neta Spiro
Bonnie B. McConnell
Katie Rose M. Sanfilippo


Developing Transdisciplinary Health Humanities Education at the ANU

The project aims to develop a cross-university community of practice and innovative, sector-leading approaches to health humanities education. Health humanities is a transdisciplinary field of research and education that explores human health from a perspective not anchored to a particular discipline, but informed by knowledge, perspectives and practices from medicine, psychology, humanities, and the creative arts. Drawing on the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of scholars and educators, this project aims to develop health humanities education at the ANU as a means to build student capacity for transdisciplinary problem solving relating to health and wellbeing. The project is funded by a Strategic Learning and Teaching Grant and is co-led by Bonnie McConnell and Lillian Smyth.

CHIME-IN: Social Singing for Perinatal Mental Health

The project brings together an interdisciplinary group of researchers to explore the way music may be employed to support perinatal mental health for women from migrant and refugee backgrounds in Australia. The project is funded by a Working Group Grant from the ANU Gender Institute and led by Bonnie McConnell.

Developing a Community Singing-Based Intervention for Perinatal Mental Health in The Gambia 

This is an international partnership building project exploring how music can be used to support maternal mental health in The Gambia. McConnell is co-Investigator on the project which is led by Lauren Stewart, Goldsmiths, University of London (Funded by UK Global Public Health Partnership Award, AHRC/MRC)



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Updated:  20 July 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers