Guest Lecture - Dr. Holly Wissler


Dr. Wissler's lecture is titled "The Quechua Q'eros of the Peruvian Andes: Grief-Singing in Animal Fertility Rituals".

The Q’eros of the high Andes of Peru are known for musical traditions that are connected to an ancient Andean past. This talk explores musical expression that is intimately tied to their most basic cosmological beliefs and their relationship to the mountain gods and mother earth.


Dr. Holly Wissler, originally from Iowa, is an applied ethnomusicologist and adventure travel guide residing in Cusco, Peru. She dedicates herself to collaborative projects with the Quechua Q’eros of highland Peru, and the near-extinct Wachiperi people of the Harakbut linguistic family in the Amazon rainforest foothills of the Madre de Dios river basin. Holly is regular guest lecturer for National Geographic, Coltur Peruana de Turismo Tour Agency, and various US academic study abroad programs. She often facilitates rich cultural exchanges between US visitors and Q’eros guests in her lectures. Wissler has worked as an adventure travel guide in the Andes of Peru since 1982 and the Himalayas of Nepal since 1987, principally for Wilderness Travel (

In 2010, Wissler digitized and returned fifty years of audio-visual archives to both the Andean Q’eros, and the Amazonian Wachiperi. Both groups were able to see and/or hear past documentation about their culture never before seen or returned to them. She spearheaded a two-year project with the Queros-Wachiperi community for the rescue and documentation of Wachiperi songs and immaterial culture (2010-2012), partially funded by the Amazon Conservation Association, Washington, D.C. This project led to an invitation to work as coordinator and presenter for five Wachiperi representatives in the 2015 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which featured Peru.

Wissler is also a classical flutist, and holds two Masters degrees from the University of Idaho: MM in flute performance and MA in music history, as well as a PhD in ethnomusicology from Florida State University (2009), funded by a Fulbright-Hays doctoral dissertation research abroad grant. She has published numerous articles about her work in Peruvian, US and European journals. Holly is the producer of two video documentaries: Qoyllur Rit’i: A Woman’s Journey (1998), about Qoyllur Rit’i, the largest pilgrimage festival in the Peruvian Andes and her inside role as mayordoma (sponsor) of a dance group, and Kusisqa Waqashayku (“From Grief and Joy We Sing,” 2007) about Q’eros’ musical rituals.

Wissler has adopted her deaf godson from Q’eros, Dante, and as a result works as advocate for Deaf Education in Peru. Dante is the son of Victor Flores Salas, featured in the documentary, who grieves about the death of his wife, Dante’s mother. In 2016 she will split her time between Cusco and Austin, Texas, where Dante will begin his education at the Texas School for the Deaf.

For the Spring 2019 semester, she is a visiting lecturer at the University of Texas' Butler School of Music. 

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