Three Black Gospel Music Experts on Preparing, Teaching, and “Being” in the African American Aural-Oral Tradition

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The purpose of this multiple case study was to gather musical and nonmusical perspectives from three experts on teaching Black gospel music in the African American aural-oral tradition. Research questions included: (a) What is the process Black gospel music experts engage in when preparing for and teaching gospel music in the aural-oral tradition? (b) In the view of Black gospel music experts, how does race intersect with the preparation, teaching, and performance of gospel music? (c) How do Black gospel music experts advocate for incorporating gospel music into public school vocal music programs? Participants were purposively selected, and data collection included observations, researcher-singer participation, and multiple interviews. Expert agreement emerged regarding teaching processes as a nonmusical “state of being” deeply infused with cultural, community, and spiritual values. Rehearsals were uninterrupted musical experiences with limited nonverbal instruction made possible from robust aural-oral immersion preparation. While participants insisted race was not a prerequisite for engagement in gospel music, they agreed the influence and mediation of race plays an active role, citing the proliferation of anti-Blackness in the academy as foremost among the barriers to rigorous preparation to teach Black gospel music. Experts advocated for teaching gospel music in schools to offer students the opportunity to participate in the accessible, inclusive, participatory, and communal experience available in gospel music.

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Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education

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