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Virginia Whitney
Adjunct Professor, School of Music

Teaching at Cairn since 2014

Virginia Whitney


  • MMus in Music Theory, Temple University
  • BMus in Theory/Composition, Wheaton College


A native of Trenton, NJ, Virginia graduated from the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music in 1978 with a BMus in theory and composition. While a student there, she studied with Vida Chenoweth, one of the early pioneers in developing a model for understanding the structure of unwritten non-Western music systems as a tool for helping minority peoples develop Christian hymnody.

From 1982-2001, she and her husband served with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea as Bible translators with the Akoye people, being involved in the translation and literacy process, as well as encouraging ethnic hymnody with the Akoye and people of other language groups.

Since returning to the USA, she has been an active member of Lansdale Presbyterian Church (PCA) where she has served as music director and accompanist. She has recently become involved in ethnomusicology fieldwork again by researching the music of the Oroko people of Cameroon, with the goal of encouraging the Christians to use their local music styles in worship. Virginia has also worked with several other people groups in Cameroon, as well as some in The Gambia and Peru.

Additional Information

Contact Information:
[email protected]

Academic Specialties:

  • Ethnomusicology – with a focus on the analysis of oral-tradition melody and its relevance to Christian missions

Publications & Presentations:

  • Edited, revised, and published the 2nd edition of Sing-Sing: Communal Singing and Dancing in Papua New Guinea by Vida Chenoweth, 2021
  • Created and maintaining cataloging the life and works of Vida Chenoweth
  • “A Melodic Analysis of Akoye Song,” Master’s Thesis, Temple University, 2008
  • Edited, revised, and published the 3rd edition of Melodic Perception and Analysis by Vida Chenoweth, 2006
  • “Gulf Province.” Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, 9:494-498. New York, Garland, 1998
  • “Akoye Music: A Reflection of an Individualistic Culture.” Ivilikou. Papua New Guinea Music Conference and Festival, 45-49, 1997


  • Society for Ethnomusicology
  • Global Ethnodoxology Network

Personal Interests:

  • Road trips
  • Sewing
  • Making music in small ensembles

Teaching at Cairn since 2014