Mia Doi Todd is a ‘breath of fresh air’ in the music department


While she has only been working at Occidental for less than half a semester, songwriter and now professor Mia Doi Todd said she is excited to introduce the students of Occidental to the art of songwriting. According to Occidental’s faculty page, Todd is originally from LA and has returned to the city after getting her bachelor’s degree at Yale University and studying dance with Kazuo Ohno in Japan. Todd has worked both as a singer and a songwriter, and has become a prominent presence in the LA music scene.

“I’ve been songwriting for about 30 years, so I have a lot of experience,” Todd said, “I’m excited to teach, it’s my first time teaching at a [college]. I’m really excited to engage with the students because I’ve learned so much about songwriting that I want to share.”

Outside of writing her own music, Todd said she enjoys listening to and takes musical inspiration from local LA artists like ThundercatMiguel Atwood-Ferguson, and Carlos Niño.

Composer and audio engineer Max Foreman, who is Todd’s colleague at Occidental, said Todd brings both warmth and a wealth of knowledge about the LA music scene to Occidental’s music department.

“[Todd] just has this sense of openness about her that is very welcoming to all people. It is just a breath of fresh air, I have to say,” Foreman said, “Because there are great musicians, and there are great people. It’s really wonderful to work with somebody who is both.”

Associate Professor and Music Department Chair David Kasunic, one of Todd’s colleagues, said the music faculty members at Occidental are special because not only are they excellent musicians, but they are also effective teachers who embrace the ethos of a liberal arts education.

“The great benefit of being a music department in Los Angeles is that we have some of the best musicians in the world at our doorstep,” Kasunic said, “These are musicians who have successful professional careers and who don’t need to be at Oxy — they choose to be.”

Similarly, Foreman said Occidental’s location in Northeast Los Angeles — which he considers one of the most vibrant music scenes in the country and possibly the world — allows students the incredible opportunity of learning from people who are actively creating music.

Todd said she chose to teach at Occidental because her friend and colleague Julia Holter had a great experience working as a professor of music in Fall 2022. Todd has given voice lessons before, but has never taught in a collegiate environment. She said she is enjoying making students laugh and watching them break out of their comfort zones.

“I really enjoy seeing students rise to the occasion,” Todd said, “Watching a student who I thought might be more on the quiet side raising their hand and volunteering to sing something in front of the whole class is so exciting.”

Todd said she has been impressed by the work her students have done so far this semester, but that she’s not surprised at the high quality of work they are capable of producing.

“For some reason, songwriting can really kick in around the age of 20,” Todd said, “A lot happens emotionally at that time in life, so it’s perfect for college-age people to be writing songs.”

Foreman said Occidental is very lucky to have top level faculty members like Todd.

“She knows so many wonderful people and she makes such wonderful music,” Foreman said, “She also has this positivity and an attitude of warmth and inclusiveness that we really prioritize. So all in all, I think you couldn’t ask for a better person to be teaching this particular class at this particular time.”


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