Jeff Todd Titon received the B.A. from Amherst College, and the M.A. (English) and Ph.D. (American Studies) from the University of Minnesota, where he studied ethnomusicology with Alan Kagan, writing his dissertation on blues music. He taught at Tufts University (1971-1986), where he co-founded the American Studies program, and held appointments in the departments of English and music. In 1986 he moved to Brown as professor and director of the doctoral program in ethnomusicology, a position he held until retirement in 2013. He is the author or editor of eight books, including Early Downhome Blues (1977; 2nd edition, University of North Carolina Press, 1994), which won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award; Worlds of Music (six editions since 1984, with translations into Italian and Chinese); Powerhouse for God (a book, record, and documentary film); Old-Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes (University Press of Kentucky, 2001), American Musical Traditions, (Gale, 2002), and the Oxford Handbook of Applied Ethnomusicology (Oxford Univeristy Press, 2015). Since his retirement in 2013 he has remained active, publishing several essays, editing one book, and giving numerous lectures and keynote addresses. His current research in ecomusicology may be tracked on his blog at http://sustainablemusic.blogspot.com. In the spring 2016 semester he will hold the Basler Chair of Excellence for the Integration of the Arts, Rhetoric and Science at East Tennessee State University. While in residence, he will offer a series of public lectures on his current project, a book on a "sound ecology."
Titon has been a visiting professor at Carleton College, Amherst College, Berea College, the University of Maine, and Indiana University. From 1990 to 1995 he was editor of Ethnomusicology, the Journal of the Society for Ethnomusicology. He is a Fellow of the American Folklore Society and a member of their Executive Board. His fieldwork has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition to his current research and writing in ecomusicology, his ongoing projects include musical conservation partnerships with Old Regular Baptists in eastern Kentucky, with whom he has produced two CDs for Smithsonian Folkways (1997 and 2003); the first of these was selected in 2015 for permanent recognition on the National Recording Resgistry. Other works in progress include a second book volume and a website on the life and preaching of the Rev. C. L. Franklin, father of the singer Aretha Franklin, which will include Titon's video footage of Franklin's whooped sermons. In addition to his scholarly research and teaching, Titon is a musician. For two years he was the guitarist in the Lazy Bill Lucas Blues Band, a group that appeared in the 1970 Ann Arbor Blues Festival; in the 1980s he took up the fiddle and banjo, and most of his music-making today involves old-time string band music from the upper South.