Music Conference: Theorizing African American Music

Harry Lawrence Freeman
Harry Lawrence Freeman
June 16-18, 2022

Case Western Reserve University
Harkness Chapel and Classroom, 11200 Bellflower Road Cleveland, OH 

Proposal Submission Deadline: December 10, 2021

Call for Papers

Project Description and Dates

“Theorizing African American Music” highlights African American perspectives on music and music theory, perspectives that have historically been marginalized in the academic study of music in the United States. In our current environment, the situation is ripe for such perspectives to be heard. Because American music theory is deeply rooted in whiteness, African Americans have had virtually no agency in shaping how music theory, as a subdiscipline, is taught or how musical genres that are deeply rooted in African Americanism are presented. This conference intends to provide a new platform for all scholars interested in the theory and analysis of African American music.

This conference welcomes contributions from music theorists, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, music critics, and others invested in African American music. Scholars and performers of all identities are welcome to respond to the call and participate of course, however, we do wish to foreground black voices with this conference, since for so long those voices were either marginalized or, worse still, erased from American music’s history. The intent of the conference is twofold. First, we seek to address this erasure of African American scholars and their perspectives from the discipline of music theory due to the field's historic commitment to whiteness. Equally important, we seek to include musicological, ethnomusicological, and other perspectives on all American musics that can reasonably be said to have roots in African Americanism.

“Theorizing African American Music” will be an in-person conference at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, from June 16 to 18, 2022.

If circumstances related to Covid prevent the convening of an in-person conference in Cleveland, we will move to an online format. We intend to give small grants to participants—such as graduate students or contingent faculty for example—who may have trouble paying for the trip to Cleveland, and we believe that dormitory accommodations will be available for a nominal fee. 

Keynote Speaker

Dwight Andrews Professor of Music Theory and African American Music, Emory

Dr. Dwight Andrews
Professor of Music Theory & African American Music
Emory | College of Arts and Sciences

For a full bio visit this page.

Dwight Andrews is Professor of Music Theory and African American Music at Emory University and Pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan, the Yale Divinity School, and a PhD in Music Theory from Yale University. Andrews is presently a Dubois Research Fellow at Harvard University working on a manuscript on spirituality, religion, and jazz. His research interests include twentieth-century music theory and aesthetics, and the intersections of race, gender, and commodification of African American music. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has appeared on over twenty-five jazz and ‘new music’ recordings with artists such as Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Davis, and Geri Allen. Andrews has also been recognized for his collaborations with playwright August Wilson having served as musical director for the Broadway productions of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, and Seven Guitars. His film credits include The Old Settler, The Piano Lesson, Miss Evers' Boys.


Steering Committee Members

Naomi André is Professor in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Residential College at the University of Michigan. She received her B.A. from Barnard College and M.A. and Ph.D. (Music: Musicology) from Harvard University. Her research focuses on opera and issues surrounding gender, voice, and race in the US, Europe, and South Africa. Her publications include topics on Italian opera, Schoenberg, women composers, and teaching opera in prisons. Her book, Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement (University of Illinois Press, 2018) won the Lowens Book Award from the Society for American Music and Judy Tsou Critical Race Studies Award from the American Musicological Society. Her earlier books include Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera (2006) and Blackness in Opera (2012, co-edited collection). She has edited and contributed to clusters of articles in African Studies and the Journal of the Society for American Music. Most recently she is a co-editor for the essay collection African Performance Arts and Political Acts (University of Michigan Press, 2021). She is the inaugural Scholar in Residence at the Seattle Opera and a founding member of the Black Opera Research Network (BORN).

Philip Ewell is Professor of Music Theory and Director of Graduate Studies in Music at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He is also on the faculty of the CUNY Graduate Center. In August 2020, he received the “Graduate Center Award for Excellence in Mentoring,” based on the many doctoral dissertations he has advised. He received the 2019–2020 “Presidential Award for Excellence in Creative Work” at Hunter and was the “Susan McClary and Robert Walser Fellow” of the American Council of Learned Societies for 2020–2021. Dr. Ewell’s monograph, On Music Theory, and Making Music More Welcoming for Everyone, will appear with the University of Michigan Press’s Music and Social Justice series in 2022. He is also coauthoring a new undergraduate music theory textbook, The Engaged Musician: Theory and Analysis for the Twenty-First Century, that will be a modernized and inclusive work based on recent developments in music theory pedagogy, with a projected publication date in 2023.

Eileen M. Hayes is Dean of the College of Arts and Communication at The University of Wisconsin Whitewater. She is the author of Songs in Black and Lavender: Race, Sexual Politics, and Women's Music (University of Illinois Press, 2010), and her writings have appeared in Ethnomusicology and Women and Music: The Journal of Gender and Culture. She is the co-editor, with Linda Williams, of Black Women and Music: More than the Blues (University of Illinois Press, 2007), and she has been the recipient of numerous fellowships, such as the Ford Foundation Postdoctoral, Danforth Compton, and DAAD-University at Göttingen. Hayes has held presidential appointments in the Society for Ethnomusicology and Society for Music Theory, and she serves as Vice-President of Pi Kappa Lambda, the music honors society. Hayes is Past-President of the College Music Society, and her research into the interactions of race, gender, and sexuality with respect to African American music and culture is complemented by her advocacy on behalf of women, faculty of color, and other underrepresented constituencies.

Travis A. Jackson is Associate Professor of Music and Humanities at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Blowin’ the Blues Away: Performance and Meaning on the New York Jazz Scene (University of California Press, 2012). His other writings include essays on jazz history and historiography, intersections between jazz and poetry, Duke Ellington’s “travel suites” and world music, the politics of punk, and popular music and recording technology. He is currently writing a monograph on post-punk music, graphic design, discourses of branding, and attitudes regarding race and empire in the United Kingdom between 1977 and 1984.

Christopher Jenkins is Associate Dean for Academic Support at Oberlin Conservatory.  He is pursuing a DMA in viola performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a PhD in musicology from Case Western Reserve University, where his work focuses on the music of African American composers. He also holds degrees from Columbia University and Harvard University in International Affairs and Music Theory, respectively. His research interests include the aesthetics of performance and composition in classical music by African American composers, and his work has appeared in the Journal for the American Society for Aesthetics and Action, Criticism and Theory for Music Education. His forthcoming book, to be released in the spring of 2022 and published jointly by Routledge and the College Music Society, highlights the challenges of supporting students of color in conservatories.

Horace Maxile, Jr., Associate Professor of Music Theory, holds the Ph.D. in Musicology (Music Theory emphasis) from Louisiana State University. He also completed studies at Louisiana Tech University (BS Music Education) and Southeastern Louisiana University (MM). Prior to his appointment at Baylor, he 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, as the chair of the Society for Music Theory Committee on Diversity, and as a member of the American Musicological Society Council.

Mark Pottinger, Ph.D., is Professor of Music and Chair of the Music and Theater Department at Manhattan College, where he founded the Sound Studies program, an area of research that is at the intersection of musicology, acoustics, audio technology, and performance studies. Winner in 2017 of the prestigious Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, Dr. Pottinger is the author of a number of publications on the music and cultural life of nineteenth-century Europe and the contemporary listening environment. His current book project, Science and the Romantic Vision in Early Nineteenth-Century Opera, examines the natural sciences in the first half of the nineteenth century and their relationship to the supernatural as found in early German, Italian, and French romantic opera. Noted for his exuberant energy and passionate conversations about the power of music, Dr. Pottinger regularly lectures for the Metropolitan Opera and their HD Live in Schools educational programming.

Teresa Reed specializes in music theory, music history and literature, and African American studies. She served as Chief Reader for AP Music Theory and was involved in developing content for the AP Music Theory Exam.  She has written and lectured widely on various aspects of music theory and African American music, and two of her books, The Holy Profane:  Religion in Black Popular Music (2002) and The Jazz Life of Dr. Billy Taylor (2013) won honors from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections.  Her other publications include reviews, encyclopedia entries, and articles in Black Music Research JournalJournal for Eighteenth Century StudiesJournal of Religious ThoughtPopular Music and Society, and Readings in African American Church Music and Worship. She has been featured on National Public Radio’s Curtains at 8 and on the BBC’s The Gospel Truth, and her work has been cited and reviewed in VibeDownbeat MagazinePublisher’s WeeklyNew York City Jazz RecordJazzTimesNew York Review of Books, and on NPR. She was on the faculty of the University of Tulsa for twenty-five years, where she served as Professor of Music, Director of the African American Studies Certificate, Director of the School of Music, and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She currently serves as dean of the University of Louisville School of Music.

Rosita Sands, EdD, is the Dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts at Columbia College, Chicago. Her research and teaching specializations are in the areas of ethnomusicology, black music research and pedagogy, and music education. Prior to joining the Columbia College faculty, she served as Associate Director and Director of Columbia College's Center for Black Music Research. She is published in the areas of African American-Caribbean carnival traditions, multicultural music education, and the pedagogy of black music. Dr. Sands has contributed essays and chapters to African American Music (Burnim/Maultsby eds.), Multicultural Perspectives in Music, Kaleidoscope of Cultures: A Celebration of Multicultural Research and Practice, Critical Issues in Music Education, and The Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History. She is also published in the Journal of Music Teacher Education, The Black Perspective in MusicBlack Music Research Journal, and Action, Criticism, and Theory in Music Education.

Program Committee

Fredara Mareva Hadley, Ph.D., is an ethnomusicology professor at The Juilliard School in the Music History Department. Hadley teaches courses on jazz history, African American music, and ethnomusicology, and her research centers on the diverse musical legacies and impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Her publications include the ICTM Yearbook and Journal of Popular Music Studies as well as outlets including The Washington Post and Billboard Magazine. She's presented her research at academic conferences both domestically and abroad. Hadley’s other area of research focuses on Shirley Graham DuBois and the influence of musical pan-Africanism in her opera Tom Tom and her ongoing political engagement. Hadley earned her undergraduate and Masters’s degree from Florida A&M University and Clark-Atlanta University, respectively, and her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Indiana University. Her forthcoming book is a survey of the musics that HBCU campuses nurture and the broader cultural impact of those musics.

Marc Hannaford (he/him) is a music theorist whose interests lie at the intersection of jazz and improvisation, identity (especially race, gender, and disability), performance, and embodiment. He completed his PhD at Columbia University in 2019 with a dissertation on Muhal Richard Abrams, pianist, composer, and cofounder of the Association for the Advancement for Creative Musicians (AACM). His publications appear in Music Theory Online, Women & Music, and Sound American. The Society for Music Theory’s Jazz Interest Group awarded him the 2019 Steve Larson Award for his paper, “Affordances and Free Improvisation: An Analytical Framework.” As a committed pedagogue, Marc helps students develop personal engagements with music via the critical exploration of manifold approaches: theoretical, analytical, historical, and creative. He is also an improvising pianist, composer, and electronic musician who has performed and/or recorded with Tim Berne, Ingrid Laubrock, Tom Rainey, Tony Malaby, and William Parker.

Program Committee also includes: Naomi André, Philip Ewell, and Travis Jacking.

Local Arrangements Committee also includes: Christopher Jenkins.