Steven Elster, Ph.D.

Assistant Research Scientist


Research Interests

In 2010, Dr. Elster received his Ph.D. in Music, from UCSD. Over the last two hundred years and as they were displaced from their lands, the California tribes lost much of their cultural knowledge and practices. Despite this trauma, tribal members continue to celebrate some of their ceremonies. Through their ways of perceiving each other and the world, through their approaches to storytelling, and via the ceremonies that they continue to celebrate, tribal members continue to carry forward their cultures. In his dissertation,"They'd sing and they'd tell: Native American song cycles and creation stories in Southern California." Dr. Elster considered a number of questions that can help to establish a conversation between the past and the present, with respect to music. To begin to establish a dialogue between past and present cultural practices, Dr. Elster asks questions such as How were creation stories told in the past? It appears that there is a definite relationship between the way creation stories were told in the past and the way that music is performed today.

Project Summary

Steeped in and informed by centuries of embodied knowledge, tribes and their members offer a kind of acumen that only they can bring to the table. Dr. Elster was exploring ways of drawing upon this knowledge and the desire of tribal members to bring their own ways of thinking and being to approaches for addressing present-day issues when he began to write grants for Southern California tribes in 1999. His first grants -- focused on the development of youth leadership and drug prevention -- were for Campo (2000), Jamul (2001), and San Pasqual (2005). Under the auspices of CIHED, Dr. Elster continues to work with San Diego tribes in the areas of education, drug prevention, and energy efficiency and renewable energy.