Postscript by Martin Jean
November’s launch of the ISM’s interdisciplinary Program in Music and the Black Church was the culmination of a longstanding dream and planning phase. I am grateful to Terrance McQueen for his reflection on it, and doubly grateful to Prof. Braxton Shelley for curating and leading it.
For my part, it represented the best of what the ISM was founded to do. We were honored to spend a life-changing evening with some of the leading Gospel instrumentalists of the age, as well as scholars who have devoted their life to understanding, interpreting, and preserving the meaning of this immense body of work. Dr. Cornel West claims that Gospel music is America’s greatest musical gift to the world. We heard evidence of this on November 3.
Marquand was at COVID capacity that evening, and we were joined then and through later viewing by thousands of others who have shared their own thanks for these great gifts. But these thought leaders have made us aware that we were joined by still more – by the people, living and dead, whose life experiences shaped, nurtured, and transmitted this music through the generations. We worshiped that evening with saints and angels and the whole company of heaven, and my heart was overflowing with thanks for this feast of music and prayer.
This event is truly a beginning of a new chapter in ISM’s history. Music and the Black Church is a multi-pronged program that will bring classes, sounds, and practices to Yale through scholars, musicians, and church leaders. It will nurture not only Yale students, but prepare people for ministry in parishes and for leadership in the academy and society. As soon as COVID protocols allow, you will soon be reading about events to engage clergy and church musicians as well as seminars to gather young scholars who are at the beginning of their explorations of these riches. I look forward to learning alongside so many others as we walk down the path together.