Author of Book about Collector of Black Musical Protest Will Lead Jandoli Institute Forum

Lawrence Gellert, a music collector who worked to introduce white audiences to a tradition of Black musical protest during the 1930s and 1940s, will be the subject of the Jandoli Institute’s next music and social justice online forum.

Dr. Steven P. Garabedian, author of a book about Gellert, will lead the discussion, which is scheduled for Monday, May 17, at 7 p.m.

“Musically, I see a parallel between the music Gellert collected and today’s hip hop,” Garabedian, an assistant professor of history at Marist College, said. “Politically, the lesson of Gellert and Black musical protest is one about the value of dominant culture allies to communities in struggle, cross-cultural coalition and its perils, and the stultifying haze of mass white delusion and denial when it comes to the realities of systemic injustice and the long fight to undo it.”

Garabedian’s book, A Sound History: Lawrence Gellert, Black Musical Protest, and White Denial, tells the story of Gellert’s rise in popularity and stature as a music collector, as well as the efforts of critics to dismiss him as a fraud.

“The book is about that rise and fall, but his material was authentic and reliable,” Garabedian said. “I approached the book as a cultural history, not just a story about the collector.”

Garabedian’s presentation, part of the institute’s “Sharp Notes, Sharp Thoughts” series, will be followed by an online discussion with:

  • David Freeman, a musician, producer and cultural arts educator. Freeman is a faculty member at Pace University’s Department of Media, Communications, and Visual Arts and Director of Education for Brooklyn Raga Massive. He also serves on the board of The Association of Teaching Artists.
  • Alex R Gillham, an assistant professor of philosophy at St. Bonaventure University. Gillham’s research focuses on topics in ethics, ancient philosophy and philosophy of religion. He is particularly interested in the connection between music, identity and morality.
  • Richard Lee, an associate professor in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University and executive director of the Jandoli Institute. He writes and comments regularly on the intersection of music and public policy. During his career as a journalist, he covered rock’n’roll for several years before establishing himself as a political reporter.
  • Stephen Wilt, an archivist at Media Transfer Service in Rochester and host of a weekly podcast, ”Street Corner Talking.” As station manager and music director at 88.3 WSBU-FM, he interviewed professional musicians, celebrities and athletes. They included Stephen Stills, Judy Collins, Louis Anderson, Doug Flutie, Dr. Oz, Jimmy Page and many others.
  • Paul Ziek, chair of the Department of Media, Communications, and Visual Arts at Pace University, where he teaches strategic and organizational communication in both the undergraduate and graduate programs. 

To register for Monday’s forum, complete the institute’s online Registration Form.

The Jandoli Institute launched “Sharp Notes, Sharp Thoughts” in October to explore the connection between music and social justice. The institute developed the project in collaboration with the Department of Media, Communications, and Visual Arts at Pace University. Through the project, scholars, musicians, journalists and others show how music has been — and can continue to be — a positive tool for social change.

Previous forums have explored how today’s society should view the Band’s 1969 song “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”; the Jazz and People’s Movement which brought attention to African American jazz musicians in the 1970s; the role musicians’ fans can play in promoting social justice, punk music’s ability to question corporate behavior and the role of ticket corporations in the music industry.

Dr. Steven P. Garabedian


Categories: Jandoli Institute, Media

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