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Research Unbound: Carry Me Home

September 14, 2023 @ 4:15 pm - 5:15 pm CDT

Please join the Grinnell College Libraries at 4:15 p.m., September 14, as we continue our Faculty/Staff Research Series with Randye Jones, cataloging and media assistant at the Grinnell College Libraries, for her Research Unbound talk, Carry Me Home: A Lecture. Negro spirituals have long been connected with the Underground Railroad, serving as a means to communicate between the enslaved who wished to escape bondage and those who provided passage through the secret routes that led to freedom. Now more than a century beyond those dangerous times, the folk songs of that era serve as inspiration for concert performance. Refreshments will be served.

Soprano, author, and music researcher Randye Jones is a native of Greensboro, North Carolina. She had her first exposure to Negro spirituals—and German hymns—growing up in her home church. She received her bachelor’s degree in music education from Greensboro’s Bennett College, studying with Mary Jane Crawford, and her master’s degree in vocal performance from the Florida State University in Tallahassee, where she studied with Barbara Ford and Enrico di Giuseppe. She continued her studies in vocal literature at the University of Iowa, studying with Stephen Swanson. While at Florida State, Jones expanded her musical interests to include both music research—especially related to vocal music by African American musicians—and music librarianship. She became a music cataloger at the university, followed by additional library work at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Jones currently catalogs and manages the media collections for the libraries at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.

Jones authored her first book, So You Want to Sing Spirituals, as part of The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) series, So You Want to Sing. Published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2019, the guide looks at the history of the concert spiritual and effective approaches for introducing the songs to the vocal music community. Her second book, Recorded Solo Concert Spirituals, 1916-2022–a compilation describing more than 5,600  commercially recorded tracks, was published by McFarland and Co. in May 2023. She also serves as a member of the NATS/Rowman & Littlefield Editorial Board.

As a researcher, Jones has been a pioneer in the production of websites featuring the achievements of African American vocalists. She created the website Afrocentric Voices in “Classical” Music, which launched in 1998, as well as her past work through her online radio broadcast stations, Afrocentric Voices Radio, and Afrocentric Sounds. In 2015, Jones launched the Spirituals Database, a site with information on more than six thousand concert spiritual recording tracks by an international array of singers. She has also published several online articles, including “The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual” and essays on tenor Roland Hayes’s recording, “Were You There,” and Marian Anderson’s “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand,” recordings which were selected for the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. Jones recently served as the Humanities Scholar, consulting for the musical production, Dear Mr. Duncan, based on the life of baritone Todd Duncan.

In addition to her activities as a recitalist, Jones has been a presenter or panelist at Growing The Voices: Festival 500, the Research, Education, Activism, and Performance (REAP) National Conference on Spirituals, the Harry T. Burleigh Society program, and the Tennessee Chapter of NATS workshop, as well as conferences sponsored by the African American Art Song Alliance (AAASA), the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM), the Association of Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC), and the Music Library Association (MLA). She was interviewed for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 2016 documentary, Spirituals: The Foundation of Popular Music, and was the featured presenter for the 2015 Dean’s Convocation at William Penn University, Oskaloosa, Iowa.

Of the honors for her work, Jones most recently received the 2021 Florence Price Award for Advocacy, 2022 MLA Citation for a lifetime of contributions to the research of the Negro spiritual and advocacy of paraprofessional member participation within the organization, and AAASA’s 2022 Willis C. Patterson Research Award.


Grinnell College Libraries Faculty/Staff Research Series


Burling Library, Grinnell College
1111 6th Ave.
Grinnell, IA 50112 United States
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(641) 269-3350
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