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Elizabeth May Slater
(1907 - 1988)
By: Henry F. May, University of California-Berkeley
Published: Fall, 1988, Ethnomusicology, volume XXXII, No 3
Elizabeth May Slater died February 22, 1988, in Santa Monica after a long period of illness. She was the daughter of Henry F. May and May Rikard May and was born in Denver in 1907. When she was ten the family moved to Berkeley. Elizabeth attended Miss Ransome and Miss Bridges' School in Piedmont. After two years at the University of California at Berkeley, she spent two more years studying music in Paris and then went to Mills College, from which she graduated in 1935. She got an M.A. in music at Berkeley in 1939. After teaching in the Oakland schools, she served in wartime as a USO administrator. Beginning in 1949, she taught at San Jose and Sacramento State Colleges.
In 1953 at the age of 46 she decided to get a Ph.D., and in 1958 she received the first degree given at UCLA in ethnomusicology and musicology. Her thesis on Japanese children's music was published by the University of California Press. From 1959 to 1972, she was a music supervisor in the Santa Monica schools. During this period she also taught ethnomusicology at the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, the University of California at Davis, and the University of Washington. In 1965 she was Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Perth in Western Australia. During this year, which she said was one of the happiest of her life, she lectured throughout Australia and studied aboriginal music in the field. In 1980 she edited Musics of Many Cultures, a collection of articles by leading world experts in the field of ethnomusicology. This distinguished volume, published by the University of California Press, has become standard in its field.
In 1976 Elizabeth May married George W. Slater, who died in 1978. She is survived by two brothers, John R. May of San Rafael and Henry F. May of Kensington, California. Those who wish to do so may make gifts in her name to the Music Department of the University of California at Berkeley or Los Angeles, or to the Society for Ethnomusicology, Morrison Hall 005, Indian University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405.