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Last modified: Monday, October 22, 2012

IU professor invited to present Seeger Lecture at Society for Ethnomusicology's annual meeting

Oct. 22, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Society for Ethnomusicology has invited Indiana University Professor Portia Maultsby to be the 2012 Charles Seeger Lecturer for its 57th Annual Meeting in New Orleans on Nov. 1 to 4.

Portia Maultsby

Portia Maultsby

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The Charles Seeger Lecture, one of the highest honors in ethnomusicology, is named after the late pioneer in the study of the science and history of music. He was a major figure in American folk music and is the father of legendary folk singer-songwriter Pete Seeger.

Maultsby, the Laura Boulton Professor of Ethnomusicology in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology in IU's College of Arts and Sciences, is well known for her pioneering scholarship in the area of African American music, beginning with her service as guest editor for a special issue of Ethnomusicology on black music in the U.S. in September 1975.

The Society for Ethnomusicology's annual meeting will be held in conjunction with the American Musicological Society and the Society for Music Theory -- the fourth joint meeting of the three societies since 1985. The Society for Ethnomusicology, founded in 1955 to promote the research, study and performance of music in all historical periods and cultural contexts, has more than 1,800 members worldwide. Its business office is based at IU Bloomington.

Maultsby was one of the first scholars to conduct field research on African American popular music within the context of music industry beginning in 1979. In 1983, she shadowed the vice president for urban (black) music promotion at Polydor Records' New York office and an independent record promoter in Harlem.

Her research interests prompted her attendance at black music industry conventions for more than 10 years. During and since this time, she has amassed nearly 200 interviews of artists, producers, songwriters, arrangers, radio and club DJs, as well as record company executives, managers, promoters and attorneys. They are housed in the Archives of African American Music and Culture, which Maultsby has served as founding director since 1991.

Recognizing the uniqueness of this line of research, in 1986, Bernice Johnson Reagon, then director of the program in black American culture at the Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution, invited Maultsby to spearhead a two-day colloquium titled "Rhythm and Blues: 1945-1955." The international coverage of this event, which featured a broad spectrum of representatives of the record industry, extended the range and impact of her research, and facilitated her increasing involvement in work in the public sector, including consultancies on film documentaries such as "Eyes on the Prize II" and the 2010 Carnegie Hall Celebration of African American Music produced by renowned opera singer Jessye Norman.

She is currently a consultant for the National Museum of African American Music, slated for construction in Nashville, Tenn.

Maultsby holds degrees in musicology and ethnomusicology from the University of Wisconsin. Recruited in 1971 to IU's Department of Afro-American Studies, with an affiliate appointment in the School of Music, Maultsby developed courses on black popular music, including rap/hip-hop, and became the founding director of the IU Soul Revue. A keyboard player, she served as the group's primary songwriter, arranger and producer of commercial recordings. In 1977, the release "Music Is Just a Party" was selected by Billboard as a Top Single Pick in its First Time Around Category. The IU Soul Revue, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012, remains the only ensemble of its kind in the country.

Co-editor of the Illinois Press series "African American Music in Global Perspective," Maultsby also is co-editor of the "African American Music: An Introduction" (Routledge, 2006), which includes chronologies of major African American musical genres, as well as explorations of such defining issues as gender, agency and the music industry. Since 1998, she has engaged in research on black music in the Netherlands, investigating the role and function of African American gospel music in Dutch culture.