Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Music

First Advisor

Rhonda Hackworth

Second Advisor

Ethel Young-Scurlock

Third Advisor

Michael Worthy


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



The purpose of this study was to examine the African American gospel piano style in the 21st century, further examining the role of musical enculturation, transmission, and preservation through the lived experiences and perspectives as reported by five gospel pianists throughout the United States. A collective case study design (Stake, 1995) was used to explore how the gospel piano style is being learned, developed, transformed, transmitted, and preserved. Research questions focused on participants’ beliefs about the stylistic transformation of gospel piano in the 21st century and factors that influences those beliefs such as past and present stylistic developments. The data generation method included semi-structured interviews, artifacts, biographies, and recordings. Findings revealed that gospel piano is: (1) primarily learned informally through aural acquisition and listening to other gospel pianists and genres; (2) developed through experiential learning through church performance with assistance from mentors and supportive networks; (3) experienced transformation in the 21st century through evolution, commercialism, infusion of new genres, virtuosic musicianship; and (4) is being transmitted and preserved through teaching, technology, notation, and scholarship. These findings provide valuable insights into the African American gospel piano style for novice and practicing gospel pianists as they continue to develop and become efficient in the genre and for music educators interested in understanding this genre and style of performance practices.



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