Otto Muller, PhD

Core Faculty

Teaching Philosophy

The term “teaching” can bring to mind the image of an expert standing in front of a classroom telling people what is true, or how to do things. In my own education though, I learned the most from teachers and colleagues that brought curiosity and questions, collaborators that I was able to talk with to imagine new strategies, to experiment, make mistakes, and arrive at new understandings. I love working at Goddard because its structure allows me to support students in ways that are genuinely collaborative, empowering, and imaginative.

There are three beliefs that ground my work as an advisor:

  1. That learning transforms—it changes us. In order to create space for emergent learning, we start out with honest conversation, building a foundation of trust, curiosity, mutual respect, and ongoing dialogue that continues throughout the semester.
  2. That knowledge is produced in and through culture. Sciences, philosophies, and other academic and creative fields all have their own languages and nuances and unique modes of discovery and proof. By recognizing the ways these knowledge systems work, we can understand and infiltrate them in critical and creative ways that make real change in the world.
  3. That skills are developed through practice. Learning a skill isn’t just about having someone with more experience tell you what to do—it’s about setting goals and creating habits and practices that support intentional and incremental improvement over time. This is something that we can do together to build adaptive skillsets for new situations.


PhD in Music Composition, University at Buffalo, SUNY

Certificate in Music Composition, L’Accademia Musicale Chigiana

BMus in Music Composition, Northwestern University

BA in Philosophy, Northwestern University

Areas of Expertise

  • Music (Composition, Theory, Ethnomusicology)
  • Socially Engaged Art
  • Critical Pedagogy
  • Sound Design
  • Philosophy (Ethics, Aesthetics)
  • Cultural Studies

Pronouns: He/His/Him

Meaningful Action in the World

By the time I completed my doctorate in music composition, I had developed a conflicted relationship with the field. The study of music and sound offers an incredible opportunity to see the ways pattern and nuance—tiny fluctuations in frequency and duration—become encoded with cultural meaning significance. At the same time, I was increasingly critical of the ways that the academic study of was shaped by elitism and cultural imperialism.

Goddard offered me an opportunity to teach from a place of curiosity and critique, which has transformed my own creative practice. With my colleagues, Suiyee Wong and Antonio Gonzalez Walker, I co-designed the BFA in Socially Engaged Art as a program where artists interrogate the ways that the arts act as a catalyst for social change. Accordingly, my own work has shifted toward interdisciplinary interrogations of place, positionality, and complicity that use the musical score as a poetic text, that employ sound to generate forms of ceremony, and that produce spaces for community conversations. I have collaborated with dancers, directors, and media artists to create research-based art around the world, and started the Rural Noise Ensemble here in Vermont, which uses “noise” as a critical framework for re-thinking the rural imaginary.

At the same time, I have been engaged in legislative advocacy and mutual aid projects in my own community and have been active as a scholar, changing the ways that music and art are understood and taught in higher ed more broadly. Website

Affiliation BA Sustainability
BFA Socially Engaged Art
Individualized Bachelor of Arts
Undergraduate Studies Program

Location Plainfield, Vermont

Important Announcement

The Board of Directors for Goddard College have made the difficult decision to close the college at the end of the 2024 Spring term.  


Current Goddard students will have the opportunity to complete their degrees at the same tuition rate through a teach-out with like-minded institution, Prescott College. Updates and scholarship funds will be available in the coming weeks and months. Information will be posted to

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