Yale University’s Braxton Shelley Wins Four Awards for His First Book

Braxton Shelley, an associate professor of music and sacred music at Yale Divinity School, has won four awards for his book Healing for the Soul: Richard Smallwood, the Vamp, and the Gospel Imagination (Oxford Univerity Press, 2021). The book uses the work of renowned gospel musician Richard Smallwood to explore the significance of vamp (a recurring musical phrase or chord progression) in Black gospel tradition and its potent and transformative spiritual power.

For this book, Dr. Shelley has been awarded:

  • The Lewis Lockwood Award from the American Musicological Society, given for a book of exceptional merit by a scholar in the early stages of their career;
  • The Emerging Scholar Award-Book from the Society for Music Theory, for a book published no more than seven years after the author’s receipt of a Ph.D;
  • The Ruth Stone Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology, which honors the most distinguished English language monograph in the field of ethnomusicology by a new author; and
  • The inaugural Portia Maultsby Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology, which recognizes a distinguished English-language monograph in the field of ethnomusicology that focuses on African American music and/or Black music of the diaspora.

A theorist of African American sacred music, Dr. Shelley is the faculty director of Yale’s new interdisciplinary Program in Music and the Black Church at the Institute of Sacred Music. He is also a minister.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in music and history from Duke University, Dr. Shelley received a master of divinity degree and a Ph.D. in the history and theory of music from the University of Chicago. He is completing work on a second book – An Eternal Pitch: Bishop G. E. Patterson and the Afterlives of Ecstasy – which is forthcoming from the University of California Press.


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