Gospel music scholar Braxton Shelley appointed to faculty

May 25, 2021

Yale Divinity School Dean Greg Sterling issued the following statement today to the Divinity School community.


It is my pleasure to share the exciting news that the Rev. Dr. Braxton Shelley, Assistant Professor of Music at Harvard, will join the Yale faculty in July. Prof. Shelley will come to us as a tenured Associate Professor with appointments in the Institute of Sacred Music, YDS, and the Music Department of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He will serve as faculty director of a new interdisciplinary Program in Music and the Black Church, housed in the ISM. 
As both a scholar and practitioner, Prof. Shelley is an unparalleled leader in the field of gospel music—an area that we have, for some considerable time, been needing and wanting to develop at Yale. A musicologist who specializes in African American popular music, Prof. Shelley focuses his research on gospel performance, digital culture, media studies, sound studies, phenomenology, homiletics, and theology. His recently released first book, Healing for the Soul: Richard Smallwood, the Vamp, and the Gospel Imagination (Oxford University Press) combines theology, Black Studies, and music studies to understand the power and importance of gospel songs and the centrality of music in the Black Church. The book helps readers understand the religious experience created through the music and preaching of Black churches. He is in the process of completing his second book, which focuses on the music of the great preacher G.E. Patterson—his musical style as well as his use of radio and other media. Prof. Shelley also has nearly a dozen articles and book chapters published or in press.
After completing a B.A. in Music and History from Duke University, Prof. Shelley earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. He has served on the Harvard faculty since 2017. Prof. Shelley has amassed a range and quantity of awards that belie his young age; among them, the 2016 Paul A. Pisk Prize from the American Musicological Society, the 2016 Graduate Student Prize from the Society for Christian Scholarship in Music, and the 2018 Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award from the University of Chicago Division of the Humanities.
To give you an idea of the quality of his work, Prof. Shelley’s article “Analyzing Gospel” (Journal of the American Musicological Society, 2019) won the Adam Krims Award from the Popular Music Interest Group of the Society for Music Theory, the Jaap Kunst Prize of the Society for Ethnomusicology, and the Alfred Einstein Award of the American Musicology Society. To win one of these awards is an accomplishment. To win all three of them is rare. To win all three simultaneously is unheard of.
Braxton Shelley is a rare talent, not only because of the quality of his work, but because of its range as well. As a scholar and practicing minister, he is the personification of a gospel music program—a program that I am confident he will lead with the skill of a virtuoso while offering the Black Church and the broader church community a resource that is sans pareil.
Please join me in welcoming Braxton Shelley to our community!
Best wishes,
Greg Sterling
May 25, 2021