*All events are free and open to the public*
Why We Sing: Indianapolis Gospel Music in Church, Community and Industry is a one-day conference which explores how the city of Indianapolis has served to inform, enrich and disseminate this uniquely African American religious music expression both locally and globally. Gospel music has been an important component of religious expression in African American churches since its rise to prominence in the mid-twentieth century; it now stands as a key factor which distinguishes African American churches of all denominations.
The study of gospel music serves as a lens to interpreting African American religious and cultural identities, as well as the impact of his uniquely American form of expression on global cultures. Indianapolis, Indiana is rich in its treasure of recording artists and studios, radio announcers, producers, promoters, church choirs, vocalists and instrumentalists linked to the performance and dissemination of gospel at both the national and international levels.
The conference includes three roundtable discussions with the eight prominent Indianapolis gospel music icons featured in this newsletter. In addition, each roundtable is framed by two IU scholars, one of whom introduces and frames the discussion, the other which provides summary and synthesis from their respective disciplinary perspectives in ethnomusicology (Dr. Portia Maultsby), religious studies (Dr. Sylvester Johnson) and African and African Diaspora studies (Dr. Valerie Grim).
The conference seeks to stimulate further scholastic treatment of gospel music through documenting the regional significance of Indianapolis in the evolution and development of this musical genre, whose audience crosses boundaries of race, culture, age, language and nationality.
Why We Sing concludes with an evening concert at Fairview United Methodist Church, which showcases a local volunteer-based community choir, under the direction of Sherri Garrison, worship leader at the 10,000 member Eastern Star Baptist Church in Indianapolis; and performances by Indianapolis recording artists Rodnie Bryant, an Indiana University alum, and Lamar Campbell, whose credits include appearances on NBC’s Today and CBS’s Late Night With David Letterman, alongside Aaron Neville, all accompanied by a four piece live band, under the musical direction of gospel recording artist, Tyron Cooper, former director of the IU Soul Revue.
Al “the Bishop” Hobbs former Executive Vice Chair of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, past General Manager of radio station WTLC in Indianapolis and founding chair and president of Aleho Records, will serve as emcee. Participation in the community choir offers a rich and rewarding aural-based learning experience characteristic of gospel choir instruction nationwide.
Conference organizers include ethnomusicologists, Dr. Mellonee Burnim, and graduate students Tyron Cooper and Raynetta Wiggins, all of whom represent the National Research Council number one ranked IU Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.
College Arts and Humanities Institute, Institute for Advanced Study, the Office of the Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Jacobs School of Music, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Traditional Arts Indiana, the Archive of African American Music and Culture, the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, the African American Arts Institute, and Fairview United Methodist Church.