Ethnomusicologist and pianist Courtney-Savali Andrews has been named Assistant Professor of African American and African Diasporic Musics at Oberlin Conservatory. The newly created, interdisciplinary position, which spans the conservatory’s jazz studies and musicology divisions and is supported by the college’s Department of Africana Studies, begins with the 2022-23 academic year.
The appointment follows a two-year period in which Andrews served as a visiting assistant professor of ethnomusicology at Oberlin, a role in which she taught courses in both the college and conservatory.
Andrews is a 2004 double-degree graduate of Oberlin, with a Bachelor of Music in piano performance—under the mentorship of Alvin Chow and Francis Walker Slocum—and a Bachelor of Arts in Africana studies. She completed a doctorate in musical direction for theater and opera at Arizona State University and anticipates a PhD in ethnomusicology this fall from Victoria University of New Zealand, where her research focused on the notable musical families in classical music of the Samoan Islands. Other current research projects include the reconstruction of operas by early 20th century African American composers and alumni of Oberlin Conservatory, and another articulating water drumming practices between the Black Atlantic and Black Pacific (Melanesia).
In the past two years as a visiting faculty member in the conservatory, Andrews taught seminars on African American classical composers and introductory courses on African American music history in the conservatory and Black Arts Workshop in the College of Arts and Sciences, among other courses. In addition, she served as musical director consultant for the debuts of two African American theater mainstage productions and as a guest speaker on numerous Oberlin panels related to Black music and culture, as well as topics pertaining to diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is the faculty advisor to Oberlin’s student-run Oberlin Jazz Society.
The newly created faculty position is Oberlin’s first appointment dedicated to Black music since the 2010 death of Wendell Logan, a beloved professor of African American music and founder of Oberlin’s jazz studies division. Logan, a highly influential mentor to Oberlin musicians of all stripes and across generations, counted Andrews among his students.
“Courtney-Savali Andrews brings a unique combination of experiences and scholarship that will greatly enrich the education and artistic experiences of our students,” says Chris Jenkins, the conservatory’s associate dean for academic support and liaison to the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Jenkins also chaired the committee that conducted the search for the position. “It is particularly fitting that students will retain a connection to the legacy of Dr. Logan through their work with one of his students.”
"For the past two years, I have taken up with high regard the responsibility of teaching the year-long legacy course Introduction to African American Music to a diverse cross section of students seeking the best of what Oberlin College and Conservatory have to offer, considering a critical study of musical traditions out of the Black experience,” says Andrews. “As an inheritor of the deep vision and hard labor of Wendell Logan, I am honored to continue his position to privilege the histories of Africana peoples and cultures as the rich context from which various musical expressions are rooted.”
Prior to joining the Oberlin faculty, Andrews was a conductor and guest lecturer in Samoan studies at the National University of Samoa, and a teaching fellow in ethnomusicology at Victoria University. Since 2018, she has also served as a teaching artist and collaborative pianist at Seattle Opera.
“For students of both the college and conservatory, I look forward to building more capacity for the study of music and music research that include vernacular expressions more familiar to the general body of music-makers on campus,” she says. “Through courses and programming, I would like to see opportunities for students to work out their growing interests in music production and songwriting, music business, and promotion with a focus on popular musics out of the Africana diaspora: regional hip-hop studies, Afro-beat, Afro-punk, reggae, folk, and gospel.
“In other ways, I would also like to create a space for the visibility of our students who identify as Pacific Islander and offer courses that center our histories and cultural legacies within the U.S. and abroad. Much to my surprise upon my return to Oberlin, I have connected with more than a few students who share my respective heritages as a Pacific Islander or Africana Polynesian. Twenty years ago, I was encouraged to stand boldly and give significant attention to the study of my cultural heritages by Dr. Logan and Professor Caroline Jackson Smith in Africana studies. I move with the same intention for our students connected to this region of the world who seek to find themselves in their studies and this college community.”
Andrews’ permanent appointment to the conservatory faculty coincides with the creation of Oberlin’s new minor course of study in African American music, which was established in February 2022 and is available to all Oberlin College and Conservatory students.
Oberlin Conservatory’s newly created position dedicated to African American and African diasporic musics continues the institution’s ongoing efforts to expand curricular diversity and support inclusion. Learn more about Oberlin's commitment in the Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity and the conservatory’s Racial Equity and Diversity Action Plan.
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