Pruit Symposium to Highlight Doris Akers, Lucie Campbell, Fanny Crosby Among Other Women Contributors to Black Gospel Music

February 24, 2021
Pruit Symposium 2021

Contact: Carl Flynn, Baylor Libraries and ITS
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WACO, Texas (Feb. 24, 2021) – The 2021 Pruit Memorial Symposium at Baylor University – "Lord, Don't Move the Mountain: Women's Voices in Gospel Songs and Hymns" – will welcome Dr. Mellonee Burnim of Yale University and Dr. Alisha Lola Jones of Indiana University-Bloomington, along with a panel of distinguished music scholars to explore the contributions of women to Black Gospel in a series of virtual conversations hosted on Zoom on Feb. 25, March 2, and March 9 at 3:30 p.m. CST.

On Feb. 25 at 3:30 p.m. CST, Horace Maxile, Ph.D., associate professor of music theory in the Baylor School of Music and a leading expert on the contributions of Black composers in classical and concert music, will open the 2021 Pruit Symposium with a panel discussion, “On Themes of Influence, Innovation and Invocation,” which features Dr. Fredara Hadley of The Juilliard School, Dr. Cory Hunter from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester and the Rev. Dr. Braxton Shelley at Harvard University.

The symposium will continue at 3:30 p.m. CST Tuesday, March 2, with a keynote address by Jones, assistant professor in the department of folklore and ethnomusicology at Indiana University-Bloomington, who will speak on “Tracing a Womanist Legacy of Self-Possession and Musical Sisterhood in the Life of Gospel Foremother Lucie E. Campbell.”

The annual symposium will conclude at 3:30 p.m. CST Tuesday, March 9, with Burnim delivering the closing address, “The Song-Sermon as Signature Shirley Caesar.” Burnim, professor emerita at Indiana University-Bloomington, currently serves as visiting professor of ethnomusicology at Yale University.

“Women’s voices have long been prominent in the composition and performance of gospel songs and hymns,” said Pruit Symposium co-chair Kathy Hillman, assistant professor and director of Baptist Collections at Baylor. “This year seemed an appropriate historical moment to recognize and celebrate the influence, contributions and rich legacy of Doris Akers, Lucie Campbell, Fanny Crosby and so many other women like them, including Mahalia Jackson who co-wrote ‘Lord, Don’t Move the Mountain’ with Akers.”

The Pruit Memorial Symposium brings the perspective of the Christian intellectual tradition to bear on contemporary issues of common concern. Since 2013, the symposium has been dedicated to exploring the Black gospel music tradition in conjunction with the Baylor Libraries' Black Gospel Restoration Project.

Pruit co-chair Robert Darden, Master Teacher and professor of journalism, public relations and new media, is the founder of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project (BGMRP) at Baylor — the world's largest initiative to digitize, scan and catalog the fast-vanishing legacy of vinyl from gospel music's golden age.

"The Black Gospel Music Restoration Project is forever linked with the Pruit Memorial Symposium. We share the same goal of exploring and celebrating one of America's oldest and most influential music genres," Darden said. "The BGMRP, which provides the gospel music and sermons for the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, has become a destination for scholars and music lovers alike and the scholarship generated here—and often shared at Pruit—continues to drive this unique and expanding collection."

Zoom credentials will be posted on the Pruit Symposium website one day before each scheduled event. Participants may request a reminder email on the website that will be distributed one day before each event and contain the Zoom credentials. The keynote addresses and panel discussions are planned for an hour, with time for moderated questions from the online audience.

The Pruit Memorial Symposium Endowment Fund was established in 1996 by Ella Wall Prichard and the late Lev H. Prichard III of Corpus Christi in memory of Helen Pruit Matthews and her brothers, Dr. Lee Tinkle Pruit and William Wall Pruit. Since 2013, the Pruit Memorial Symposium has explored the tradition of Black gospel music in association with the Baylor Libraries’ Black Gospel Music Restoration Project.

Dr. Mellonee Burnim is professor emerita in the department of folklore and ethnomusicology and retired director of the Archives of African American Music and Culture at Indiana University-Bloomington. A past director of the Ethnomusicology Institute at IU, she has served as chairperson in the department of African American and African Diaspora Studies. She is a distinguished alumnus of the University of North Texas and was chosen as the first Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Ethnomusicology and Ritual Studies at the Yale Institute for Sacred Music in 2004. In 2001, Burnim was selected as a Ford Foundation womanist scholar at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. She holds the BME (cum laude) in music education from the University of North Texas (1971); MM in ethnomusicology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1976); and the Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Indiana University (1980).

Dr. Alisha Lola Jones is assistant professor in the department of folklore and ethnomusicology at Indiana University-Bloomington. She is a graduate of University of Chicago, Yale Divinity School, Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Oberlin Conservatory. She is a member of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s council and co-chair of the Music and Religion section of the American Academy of Religion. Additionally, as a performer-scholar, she consults with seminaries and arts organizations on curriculum, programming and content development. She recently published Flaming with Oxford University Press. Her research interests include musical masculinities, gastromusicology, global pop music, future studies, ecomusicology, music and theology, the music industry, musics of the African diaspora and emerging research on music and future foodways in conjunction with The Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley, California.

Dr. Fredara Hadley serves as professor of ethnomusicology in the department of music history at The Juilliard School. Her core research considers how people of African descent use music genres to construct and maintain community. A native of West Palm Beach, she earned an undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University; a Master of Arts in African American studies from Clark-Atlanta University; and a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Indiana University. Hadley has been published in the Journal of Popular Music Studies, ICTM Yearbook, Billboard magazine and other outlets. She has presented at meetings for the Society for Ethnomusicology, Society for American Music, International Council for Traditional Music-Study Groups on African Music and Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Her newest project focuses on Shirley Graham Du Bois, one of the earliest Black women musicologists and opera composers.

Dr. Cory Hunter holds a dual appointment as assistant professor of music at the University of Rochester and assistant professor of musicology at Eastman School of Music. He received his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Eastman School of Music in 2006 with distinction, a Master of Divinity and Certificate of Music from Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music in 2009 and his Ph.D. in musicology from Princeton University in 2016. His current book project, The Politics of Spiritual Realism in Gospel Music Discourse and Practice, examines Black gospel music in the 21st century and the ways in which gospel artists use various musical and discursive practices as strategies to communicate their theological commitments.

Rev. Dr. Braxton Shelley is a native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and serves as a minister, musician and musicologist. He earned a B.A. in music and history from Duke University and both a Master of Divinity and a Ph.D. in the history and theory of music from the University of Chicago. Shelley is an assistant professor in the department of music and The Stanley A. Marks and William H. Marks Assistant Professor in the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. His research focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to musical analysis with a special interest in African American popular music. Bringing together the tools of ethnography, historical context and music analysis, he seeks to elucidate the relationships between how sound is organized and how it is recruited to organize expressive culture.

Dr. Horace Maxile, associate professor of music theory in the Baylor School of Music, holds the Ph.D. in musicology from Louisiana State University. He also completed studies at Louisiana Tech University (B.S. in music education) and Southeastern Louisiana University (M.M.). Prior to his appointment at Baylor, Maxile taught at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and served as associate director of research at the Center for Black Music Research (Columbia College Chicago). His research interests include the concert music of African-American composers, gospel music and musical semiotics. Among his publications are articles in Perspectives of New Music, The Annual Review of Jazz Studies, Black Music Research Journal, Journal for the Society of American Music and American Music. He was associate editor of the Encyclopedia of African-American Music (Greenwood Press, 2011). He has served as editor of the Black Music Research Journal, chair of the Society for Music Theory Committee on Diversity and as a member of the American Musicological Society Council.


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