Jack Forbes Headshot

Jack Forbes

  • Lecturer, Musicology & Ethnomusicology
  • Faculty Member, Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies
  • Co-Director, Community World Music Ensemble


MM, Musicology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
BM, Music Theory, UW-Eau Claire


Jack Forbes is an ethnomusicologist and percussionist with research pursuits in music and politics, music and identity, performance theory, popular music, and musics of the Americas. Since 2001, the Guatemalan marimba has been his primary interest, specifically the social and musical history of the marimba orquesta from its emergence in the 1920s to the present day. Mr. Forbes’ research in Guatemala has been supported by the U.S. Department of Education, the Florida Department of State, and the respective Centers for Latin American Studies at the University of Illinois and University of Florida. He has presented his research at meetings of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, the Latin American Studies Association, the North Central Council of Latin Americanists, and the Society for Applied Anthropology. Recent publications include the entries for “Reggaetón” and “Marimba (American, Guatemalan, Marimba de Arco)” in Music Around the World: A Global Encyclopedia, Volume I, published by ABC-CLIO in 2020.

Mr. Forbes holds an M.M. in musicology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.M. in music theory with a minor in anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he was a member of the Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honors Society and the Lambda Alpha National Collegiate Honors Society for Anthropology. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Florida, where he was a recipient of a Graduate Alumni Fellowship and a Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Research Award.

Since 2016, Mr. Forbes has served as a lecturer in musicology and ethnomusicology at UWM, teaching courses on popular and folk musics in the U.S., musics of the world, and musicological bibliography. His classes feature music and musicians in the city of Milwaukee, providing local examples of wider histories/concepts and seeking to foster deeper connections between students and our communities. Guest artists and other outreach projects have received funding from the William F. Vilas Trust and the Peck School of the Arts Community Engaged Arts Initiative.

His pedagogical approach centers on the importance of socio-historical contexts, critical thinking/listening, and an active civic engagement central to the Wisconsin Idea and a liberal arts education. Previous teaching positions include the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design’s Liberal Studies Program, Cardinal Stritch University’s Department of Performing Arts, the University of Florida’s School of Music and Center for Latin American Studies, and the Anthropology Department at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.

Mr. Forbes has performed in several different musical projects in Milwaukee, most recently with singer-songwriter Claudia Johnson. As a lover of all things “414,” he enjoys seeking out new artists and sounds across Milwaukee’s varied music scenes. A product of public education, Mr. Forbes is a proud partner of a public educator and co-parent of a Milwaukee Public Schools’ student.