A native of Rocky Mount, NC, Braxton D. Shelley is a minister, a musician, and a musicologist. He earned a BA in Music and History from Duke University and both a Master of Divinity and a PhD in The History and Theory of Music from the University of Chicago. Dr. Shelley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Music and the Stanley A. Marks and William H. Marks Assistant Professor in the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.
Dr. Shelley’s research agenda focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to musical analysis, with a special interest in African American popular music. Bringing together the tools of ethnography, historical context, and music analysis, he seeks to elucidate the relationships between how sound is organized and how it is recruited to organize expressive culture. This award-winning work has ben recognized by both the Society for Christian Scholarship in Music’s 2016 Graduate Student Prize and the American Musicological Society’s 2016 Paul A. Pisk Prize. Shelley’s dissertation, “Sermons in Song: Richard Smallwood, the Vamp, and the Gospel Imagination,” developed an analytical paradigm for gospel music that braids together resources from cognitive theory, ritual theory, and homiletics with studies of repetition, form, rhythm and meter. He is at work on a scholarly monograph on African American gospel performance.
Dr. Shelley’s scholarly interests in gospel music and black preaching emanate from his practical investment in both genres. As both an ordained minister and experienced church musician, Braxton travels widely lending his gifts to many services of worship. As such, Rev. Dr. Shelley’s work exemplifies the power that becomes available through the fusion of scholarship and practice.