Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Music

First Advisor

Jacob Will


This study investigates the representation of African American composers within the solo vocal literature genre of classical music. Literature suggests the music of African American composers is seldom taught in classical musical studies. The study explored one publicly available college recital database from each U.S. geographical region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West), which included listings of songs performed at each recital. The researcher recorded the number of recitals including African American composers and provided a numerical breakdown of song genres associated with African American Americans that included African American arts songs, Spirituals, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, and operatic arias. The number of represented composers was also recorded according to their race (e.g., White, African American, Hispanic, Asian). 2,083 recitals were examined in total and only 159 contained music written by African American composers.

The results suggest songs by African American composers were severely underrepresented and underutilized on the recital programs across the examined colleges/universities in all regions included in the study. This study determined that African American vocal music is currently not a part of the classical canon used to instruct college students in music.

It is generally acknowledged that the time is right to begin programming more classical song repertoire by African American composers on college campuses and the author will suggest steps that can be taken toward this end.


© 2021, Ramelle Brooks