Baylor's Black Gospel Music Restoration Project Available on iTunes U

February 24, 2010

Follow Us on Twitter: @BaylorUMedia

The Baylor University Libraries' Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, a popular download among the university's content available on iTunes U, is a digital record and catalog of the most at-risk music from the black gospel music tradition from the 1940s to the 1980s.

The project - supported by the Baylor Libraries - is led by Robert Darden, associate professor of journalism at Baylor. Sixteen songs from the project are available as a free download on iTunes U, a dedicated area within the iTunes U Store. Among the songs are such black gospel treasures as Ain't That Right, Great Get'n Up Morning, Old Ship of Zion and This Train is Bound for Glory.

"Baylor is happy to be a part of iTunes U and to offer exciting projects such as this one, free to the public," said Colin Witt, director of electronic communications at Baylor. "The opportunity to feature unique research work taking place at Baylor is exactly the reason we wanted to be a part of the iTunesU community."

"I am so pleased that our Black Gospel Music Restoration project is being featured on iTunesU," said Pattie Orr, vice president for information technology and dean of libraries at Baylor. "Through creatively employing digital technologies, Baylor University Libraries leads in the preservation of this rich cultural heritage, and iTunesU provides a mobile platform that allows us to share this music with the world."

Darden's search has turned up 78s, 45s, LPs and music in various taped formats used in the United States and abroad. Those involved in the project also are compiling taped interviews, informal photos, music programs, newspaper clippings and sheet music.

The project grew out of a 2005 editorial by Darden, published in The New York Times, in which he shared his concern that while contemporary gospel was thriving, early gospel might be lost forever. While albums by such legends as Mahalia Jackson are readily available on CD, music recorded by lesser known greats such as the Sensational Nightingales, the Roberta Martin Singers and the Spirit of Memphis, were hard to find, he noted.

"For an unabashed fan like me, it's a painful situation," he wrote. "I realize that no corporation is going to put out albums just to please a few aficionados, but they may not realize that many people want to hear this music."

He was approached by several people interested in preserving music from "the Golden Age of Gospel Music." Among the financial contributors were Charles M. Royce, chairman of the board of TICC Capital Corp. in Greenwich, Conn., and Harold (BBA '51)and Dottie Riley of Austin.

When Royce came across Darden's New York Times article, he recognized the need to preserve this important piece of history and was impressed by Darden's passion. In turn, his gift to Baylor created the Charles M. Royce Black Gospel Music Restoration Project. In addition, support from the Rileys of Austin strengthened Baylor Libraries' digitization and preservation efforts by equipping the Libraries with the Ray I. Riley Digitization Center, named in memory of Harold's father.

To expand and increase this one-of-a-kind initiative, The Prichard Family Foundation established the Lev H. Prichard III Traditional Black Music Restoration Endowed Fund in 2009. Paying tribute to Lev Prichard III, the gift embodies Lev and Ella (BA '63) Prichard's love of cultural and educational ventures.

One of the major contributors of records was Bob Marovich, a Chicago collector.

"It is from his collection of gospel 45s that the majority of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project songs were drawn," Darden said.

Besides Darden and Witt, others at Baylor University contributing their talents to the ongoing project are Dr. Gardner Campbell, director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning at Baylor, who has done interviews with Darden and Marovich for the site; and Tim Logan, assistant vice president for Baylor's Electronic Library, who has helped identify tracks to use.

"It has been a real pleasure working with such talented, hard-working folks," Darden said.

The project's site also includes an interview Campbell did with Darden called A Gospel Journey and a joint interview with Darden and Marovich, presented in several segments.

In addition to the 16 tunes available on iTunes U, about 180 partial tracks are provided, Witt said. Logan said Baylor has obtained about 1,500 records for preservation.

Baylor launched on iTunes U in September 2009. It offers free downloads of more than 400 audio and video files. Among site highlights are episodes of Inside Baylor Sports, podcasts such as the College of Arts and Sciences and KWBU-FM's Wordwise, and lectures and speeches presented at Baylor.

For more information about Baylor's Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, visit the project web site.

CONTACT: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321