Gospel Music Training, Performance Practice and Its Impact on Leadership Development and Performed Nationalism in a Collegiate Military Choir
Balthrop, Carmen A.
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Since America’s beginnings as a British colony, its musical standards have adhered to those of Western Europe. For this reason, musical forms native to America like Black folk spirituals and Gospel music have historically been marginalized in favor of music in the Western classical tradition. Today, a bias towards music of the Western classical tradition exists in those American universities that grant music degrees. While this bias is understandable, inclusion of Gospel music history and performance practice would result in a more complete understanding of American music and its impact on American nationalism. The United States Naval Academy is one of the few American universities that have consistently elevated the performance of Gospel music to the level of Western Classical music within its institutional culture. The motivations for writing this document are to provide a brief history of Gospel music in the United States and of choral music at the Naval Academy. These historical accounts serve as lenses though which the intersection of Gospel music performance practice and leadership development at the United States Naval Academy may be observed. During the last two decades of the twentieth century, Gospel music intersected American military culture at the U.S. Naval Academy. After a few student-led attempts in the 1970s, a Gospel Choir was formed in 1986 but by 1990, it had become an official part of the Music Department. Ultimately, it received institutional support and today, the Gospel Choir is one of three touring choirs authorized to represent the Academy in an official capacity. This document discusses the promotion of Gospel music by the Naval Academy in its efforts to diversify Academy culture and ultimately, Naval and Marine Corps leadership. Finally, this dissertation examines the addition of performed cultural expression (Gospel music) in light of a shift in American nationalism and discusses its impact on Naval Academy culture.