Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Emily Wilbourne

Committee Members

Elizabeth L. Wollman

Anne Stone

Sally Childs-Helton

Subject Categories

American Popular Culture | Film and Media Studies | Musicology


Musicology, Fan Studies, Popular Culture, Filk, Wizard Rock, YouTube


In this dissertation, I study three forms of music-making within media fandom and their respective communities: filk, roughly, the folk music of the science fiction and fantasy fandom; wizard rock, a punk/DIY movement inspired by J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels; and the YouTube musicals of Team StarKid and AVbyte. I consider their individual histories and the popular music movements and genres that influenced their respective developments. Even though the practices of these three communities are very different, their participants use similar, if identical, discourses when discussing what they do and why they do it, including but not limited to: openness, acceptance, the equality of all participants (and by extension, the lack of hierarchy), and the celebration of amateurism. The rhetoric itself is found throughout media fandom, in creative and non-creative sectors. However, unlike other creative communities in fandom that, today, exist primarily online, the rhetoric in these musical communities is attached to performance and social practices, as well as in-person and online interactions. In addition to providing the first academic histories for these communities, I analyze the ways in which participants’ behaviors align with and contradict the rhetoric. This demonstrates that the rhetoric’s purpose is not merely descriptive, but more often, imaginative and teleological.