Interdisciplinary Program in Music and the Black Church

This interdisciplinary program, positioned within the Institute of Sacred Music but working in partnership with YDS and other units, aims to organize and expand the scholarly attention paid to the music of the Black Church and to this tradition’s extraordinary influence on a host of musical cultures—confessional and commercial, American and global. Drawing on constituencies at Yale, in New Haven, and beyond, Music and the Black Church hosts a concert series, residencies, symposia, and course offerings.

Directed by Professor Braxton Shelley, the program links scholars in the Department of Music, the School of Music, the ISM, the Divinity School, and the Department of African American Studies, fostering interdisciplinary exchange. The program, while focused on Yale faculty and students, is not narrowly academic. It trains students at the intersection of practice, performance, and scholarship. Through its slate of activities, the program draws together practitioners and scholars, students and congregants, neighbors and visitors, pursuing a fuller consideration of this crucial strand of African American life and history.

Conferences, symposia, and publications The program’s regular gatherings of scholars and practitioners of black sacred music will facilitate both practice and reflection. Single-day symposia and multiday conferences will result in a variety of publications from edited volumes to special issues of journals.

Guest artists/artists-in-residence The program will foster interactions between students and leading performers of the Black Church’s musical traditions. As students learn from expert creators—musicians and preachers, composers and arrangers—both short visits and extended residencies will present opportunities for the program to invite members of the New Haven and broader communities into the ISM’s network.

Summer event in church music Alongside its scholarly conferences, the program will regularly convene a cross section of musicians, ministers, researchers, and parishioners to explore themes of particular interest to their congregations, listening across differences of vocation and training to sharpen the capacities that are most vital to their work.

Summer fellows In order to strengthen the pipeline of students interested in studying black sacred music, the program will recruit and support cohorts of undergraduates who will come to campus to receive intensive research training to fuel their chosen summerlong investigations of topics in black sacred music.