Conference Report: SCSM Annual Meeting

Mercer University in Macon, Georgia March 3–5, 2022

by Austin Testerman, Florida State University

This year’s annual meeting was a major comeback for SCSM as we were able to meet in person once again. Gathering together for stimulating conversations, papers, and meals at the beautiful Mercer University in Macon, Georgia was a truly healing experience after the time of separation that has been experienced worldwide. There were many new members and first-time conference goers in attendance, as well as longtime members who were able to welcome and acclimate those learning what SCSM is all about. We also celebrated the large number of graduate students who were there to present and absorb knowledge from others. There was a broad range of paper, panels, and performances that created an academically invigorating atmosphere.

Conference Keynote: Dr. Jean Ngoya Kidula, University of Georgia

The concurrent opening sessions provided a glimpse at the diversity of scholarship that takes place in our society as presenters “Engaged Pop Culture” and examined “Contemporary Practices of Worship.” Both sessions and the presenters that led them showed us how more modern thought and practices can be incorporated into our study of worship and music in the church. These were followed by the plenary Keynote address with Dr. Jean Kidula, Professor of Music (Ethnomusicology) from the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia. This address used a case study of the praise and worship song “Way Maker” by Sinachi to look at issues of unity and cultural translation within Christian communities via processes of promotion and dissemination. After hearing from Dr. Kidula we were blessed with the beautiful Kaleidescope Concert performed by many talented Mercer music students. Thursday evening was rounded out with the conference banquet which solidified the fellowship that in-person meetings can truly provide.

Friday was a day packed with various amazing papers and presentations. The three morning concurrent sessions spanned topics surrounding diversity and inclusion in worship music. The afternoon provided opportunities to hear three graduate student poster presentations as well as our secondary plenary session “Ethnographic Research and the Study of Christian Music.” This panel discussion provided insight into what ethnography is as well as how care and humility are important factors when researching any community. The rest of the afternoon was full of even more stimulating papers presented on myriad topics included performance, composition, and theology.

The day was rounded out by a spectacular organ lecture recital by Isaac Johnson on “Gregorian Chant Revival and the Organ Masses.” The final day of our annual meeting maintained the high standard of research that was presented over these three days. The three concurrent morning sessions outlined church music education and hymnology/context/localization. The day was finished with an excellent hour-long graduate student panel on navigating careers outside of academia.

The SCSM 2022 Annual Meeting was a much-needed return to face-to-face communication. Even with the hybrid format for some of the presentations, the energy that was given from the presenters was amazing and made us all excited for what is to come in this society. We look toward next year’s meeting at Duke University with joyful anticipation!

Austin Testerman is currently a graduate student pursuing his M.M. in Musicology from Florida State University. As a fifth generation Floridian, Austin is interested in researching local music and worship histories in communities around his home state. His thesis research looks to outline the evolution of musical and worship practices at First Baptist Church Midway in Plant City, Florida. He is currently serving as the Instrumental Director at First Baptist Church of Tallahassee where he conducts the orchestra and assists with handbell choir. When not researching, Austin enjoys playing Brazilian music with FSU’s Grupo Jaragua, and getting way too competitive playing Mario Kart with his fiancée.

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Chelle Stearns

Chelle Stearns

Associate Professor of Theology at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology