Bill Banfield Named Professor Emeritus of Africana Studies at Berklee

Banfield, who has retired from the college, established Berklee’s Africana Studies initiative in 2005.

May 4, 2021

Dr. Bill Banfield has been named professor emeritus of Africana Studies at Berklee College of Music. Banfield was hired in 2005 as director of the college's Africana Studies initiative and as a professor in the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department. He also led the development of curricula and programming for Africana Studies beginning in 2006.

Throughout Banfield’s time at the college, he created and taught a variety of courses, including the Sociology of Black Music in American Culture and the Theology of American Popular Music. In 2010, Berklee opened the Africana Studies Center, which included a meeting room, dedicated research area, and space to house artifacts, recordings, journals, books, and exhibits.

Banfield also oversaw the Africana Studies Music and Lecture Series, which serves as a platform to reflect upon and experience cultural aspects of the African diaspora through music and dialogue. Artists who took part in the series include Bobby McFerrin, Nona Hendryx, Lalah Hathaway B.M. ’90, Esperanza Spalding B.M. ’05, the Clark Sisters, the late Geri Allen, and Dr. Cornel West, among others. Throughout his time as director of Africana Studies, Banfield assisted in the establishment of the minor in music and sociology: Africana studies track. Within the curricula, students evaluate racial and ethnic identities as presented by artists, musical groups, and society in general as they gain awareness of race as part of the multifaceted nature of identity.

“Dr. Bill Banfield is a creative force who focuses on cultural education, meaning, and action. He is one-of-a-kind—someone whose vision, teaching, music, programming, and presence influenced our institution and forever shaped Africana Studies at Berklee,” said Dr. Darla S. Hanley, dean of the Professional Education Division at Berklee. “It’s so fantastic to honor him with this well-deserved title, professor emeritus of Africana Studies.” 

Outside of the college, Banfield is a leader in the contemporary arts world, with various achievements in music, composition, scholarship, and professional service. In 2019, he was appointed as a research associate for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, one of the institution’s 12 research and cultural centers. Banfield also twice served as a judge for the Pulitzer Prize, in 2010 and 2016, and has commissioned and recorded orchestral performances by over a dozen domestic and several international symphonies and orchestras. Banfield received his Bachelor of Music from the New England Conservatory, a Master of Theological Studies from Boston University, and a Doctor of Musical Arts in composition from the University of Michigan.

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