Berklee’s Africana Studies Division to Launch Gospel Performance Program
Berklee’s Africana Studies Division will launch a new Gospel Performance Program for high school students ages 15 and over this summer on its Boston campus. The immersive five-day program, which takes place August 15–19, is open to all levels of instrumentalists and vocalists, from newcomers to more advanced musicians.
In addition to presentations on gospel music's history, culture, and its influence on current music performance, the program will focus on the gospel music industry, from performance to business techniques, and explore opportunities for professional engagement. Students in the program will also receive instruction on their instruments.
The Africana Studies Division was founded in August 2021 as a response to student, staff, faculty, and alumni activism and advocacy, and is the first academic division to cross between Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Led by Emmett G. Price III, the division's dean, Africana Studies aims to be the preeminent global hub where mastery in performance and academic excellence intersect to reflect the brilliance, resilience, and hope of Black culture.
Berklee faculty and gospel musicians, including Mark Copeland, Dennis Montgomery, and Nichelle Mungo, will conduct classes centered on their respective areas of expertise in the genre. In addition, students will break out into smaller ensembles based on their instruments and receive focused instruction on how to perform gospel. Each day will begin and end with a master class from Dr. Teresa Hairston, a gospel music scholar, and Kurt Carr, an acclaimed songwriter and gospel artist. The program will conclude with a concert performance by the students led by Carr.
"The vision for this summer program existed well before I arrived. However, with the renowned faculty involved, joined by Dr. Hairston and the phenomenal Kurt Carr, this annual program will be one to watch for years to come," said Price. "This is the first of many new offerings to be announced as we build a new academic concentration within the newly formed Africana Studies Division in the area of gospel music arts, industry, and culture."
"I am excited to work with Dr. Emmett Price and the Berklee faculty to amplify the importance of the gospel genre. Although gospel music has shaped the soul of America's musical icons, from Elvis to Aretha, too often it has been overlooked in academia,” said Hairston. “Berklee's prestige as a trend-setting academic institution that has produced amazing world-class talents now advances to a new frontier. This will be a groundbreaking program."
Hairston recently completed her first of two years as a Berklee visiting scholar in residence, with the second half of her residency taking place during the 2022–2023 academic year. She's also the trailblazing publisher of Gospel Today magazine, which she founded in 1989 as a four-page newsletter.
Carr, who will be a visiting artist in residence in the 2022–2023 academic year, is a four-time Stellar Award winner recognized for his achievement in the gospel music industry.
"I am elated to have been invited to partner with Dr. Emmett Price and Berklee College of Music faculty in the development of a curriculum solely dedicated to gospel music," said Carr. "Gospel music is vastly recognized as one of the art forms authentically developed in America. Its chord progressions, phrasing, and gut-wrenching interpretation are clearly the musical bedrock of many other genres such as rock and roll, country, R&B, and pop. From the King, Elvis, to the Queen, Aretha, the sound has not only resounded in the church but also in the world. Berklee, a trendsetting institution, has undoubtedly produced a roster of amazing world-class talent and now advances to a new frontier bringing gospel music to academia."