About the Center

The Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) is an independent research unit of Columbia College Chicago devoted to documentation, research, preservation, and dissemination of information about the history and current expressions of black music on a global scale.

Our Mission
The Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) at Columbia College Chicago documents, collects, preserves, and disseminates information about black music in all parts of the world and promotes understanding of the common roots of the music, musicians, and composers of the global African diaspora.

The CBMR was founded in 1983 by Samuel A. Floyd Jr. in recognition of a need for an integrated approach to the study of black music that encompasses the arts and humanities as well as social, political, and historical approaches to scholarship. The CBMR is a research unit of Columbia College Chicago, and its programs have been funded by a number of major foundations and giving agencies. (For a more extensive history of the Center, see the "Our History" section below.) The Center for Black Music Research is a member of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium and Chicago Collections, as well as CARLI and the Center for Research Libraries.

The CBMR supports and originates study in the areas of black secular and sacred folk musicbluesblack rocksambaragtimejazzgospel musicrhythm and bluesmusical theater and danceopera and concert musicreggaesonmerengue/méringuebomba y plenasalsacalypso and other genres from the Caribbean, traditional and contemporary music from Africa, and hip-hop and other contemporary musics.

The Center for Black Music Research distinguishes operationally between "African-American music" and "black music." In the CBMR's lexicon, African-American music emanates directly from the black experience in the United States. Black music, on the other hand, is music in any style or genre composed by people of African descent—including European and European-derived concert-hall music by black composers—as well as vernacular musics created and performed by African-descended people the world over, including African-American music, African music, and Afro-Latin American or Afro-Caribbean music.
Our History

Since 1983, the CBMR has grown from a single office for the founder to a permanent suite of offices occupying nearly 8,000 square feet and, at its peak, a full-time staff of ten plus several part-time employees and work-study students.

The CBMR Library and Archives is devoted to collecting materials about black music the world over. It was established in 1990 and opened to the public in 1992; it currently holds more than 8,400 cataloged books and dissertations, 11,000 sound recordings in all formats, 4,500 scores and pieces of sheet music, and over 100 archival collections including personal papers or organizational records that contain research materials, published and unpublished music scores, manuscripts and typescripts, audio-visual recordings, paper-based and photographic materials, ephemera, publications, and oral-history interviews. The CBMR Library and Archives also holds several ethnographic collections, including three from documentary filmmakers and two containing musical bows (instruments).

To date, the Center's publications list includes more than 50 issues of Black Music Research Journal, 5 issues of Lenox Avenue: A Journal of Interarts Inquiry, 5 issues of CBMR Monographs, 46 issues of CBMR Digest, 6 issues of Kalinda! newsletter, and 4 issues of Stop-Time! newsletter. During 1999, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers released the Center's International Dictionary of Black Composers. The Center also co-publishes with the University of California Press the Music of the African Diaspora book series.

Since 1987, the CBMR has developed and presented performances of four critically acclaimed professional ensembles, including the Black Music Repertory Ensemble, Ensemble Kalinda Chicago, Ensemble Stop-Time, and the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble. The ensembles have presented lecture-demonstrations and performances in Chicago and on tour and cover the widest possible range of black music styles, genres, provenances, and time periods.

The Center has organized National and International Conferences on Black Music Research, which have been held in Chicago, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, New York, New Orleans, and Trinidad and Tobago. Some conferences have been held jointly with other organizations, such as the American Musicological Society, The College Music Society, the Society for American Music, and the Society for Ethnomusicology, among others. Of special note are international symposia on Black Vocality in 2013 and 2014, organized by Gianpaolo Chiriacò, scholar at the University of Salento and cofounder of CBMR Europe.

Since 1995, the CBMR has hosted eighteen Rockefeller Resident Fellows and is the only organization ever to have won three four-year cycles of this funding. The Center also awards small grants in honor of Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson to support researcher travel to come to the Center to use the collections.

The Center for Black Music Research also develops special research and performance projects, such as Project Kalinda, Project Stop-Time, the unique Interarts Inquiry Initiative and the Black Music and Linguistics Initiative, and has hosted dozens of colloquia, forums, and seminars. Beginning in 2013, the CBMR offered a Faculty Fellows program to support research and art projects, new curriculum and course development, and new scholarship in black music.


CBMR General E-mail

Reference E-mail

Library and Archives Staff

For reference assistance please send your request to:

Janet Harper, MLIS, Reference, Instruction, and Community Engagement Librarian

Harper has a master's degree in library science with a concentration in technical services from Wayne State University. An experienced cataloger, she has worked in academic, medical, and automotive libraries and archives and specializes in the cataloging of African-American–related materials. Harper heads up the CBMR's community engagement and events planning and coordinates reference services, visits and tours, and class presentations by CBMR staff.

Laurie Lee Moses, BA, MM, MS-LIS, Archivist and Digital Librarian
Moses is a graduate of the LEEP Program of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with a focus on data curation and special collections. She is also a performer/composer and holds a master’s degree in composition from Roosevelt University. Since joining the CBMR in 2009, Moses has developed and applied her interests in Chicago soul and House music, Black appeal radio, audio preservation, community politics, user-centered design, technology innovations, and graph databases. Currently sole archivist and primary contact for donor relations, she also acts as webmaster and directs digital initiatives at the CBMR.

Research Staff

Melanie Zeck, MLIS, MM, Research Fellow

Melanie Zeck is Managing Editor of the Black Music Research Journal, the peer-reviewed journal of the Center for Black Music Research. Research Fellow at the CBMR, and Reference and Instruction Librarian at the Columbia library. Trained as a music librarian and historian, she joined the CBMR in 2005 to provide fact-finding and fact-checking services for the Center’s staff and constituents. In this capacity, she has collaborated with and provided extensive informational support for researchers from six continents on a broad range of topics in black music research and history. She has also been consulted by American and European professional and student orchestras, choruses, and individual instrumentalists and vocalists in the discovery and programming of pieces by composers of African descent for public concerts and recitals. In order to facilitate interdisciplinary inquiries at the CBMR, she built and maintains a database on African and Diasporic organological subjects, including historical and contemporary research on drum languages, pluriarcs, goombay drums, and mouth bows, as well as theoretical issues of identity and expression among Afro-descendent peoples throughout the Diaspora. Melanie’s own research has been published in the Encyclopedia of African American Music (ABC-CLIO 2011), in CBMR Digest, and on the Oxford University Press’s OUPBlog. She and CBMR founder, Samuel A. Floyd Jr., recently finished their book-length manuscript on black music, which is currently in production with Oxford University Press. Melanie is completing her dissertation on music and social reconstructionism at the University of Chicago.

FAQ : black music and the CBMR

What is the African Diaspora?

The term African Diaspora refers to geographical locations in which people of African descent reside, or resided at one time, and are considered to constitute communities.

How does the Center define “black music”? Is it the same thing as “African-American music”?

The Center distinguishes operationally between “African-American music” and “black music.” In the CBMR’s lexicon, African-American music emanates directly from the black experience in the United States, descended from the calls, cries, hollers, spirituals, ragtime, and blues of the slavery and post-slavery periods; it includes jazz, R&B, black gospel, and all the forms to which these genres have given birth, as well as concert music composed by African-American composers.

Black music, on the other hand, is any music composed or performed by people of African descent, including African-American music, African music, Latin American and Caribbean music, and European and European-derived concert-hall music by black composers.

Does Black Music Research Journal accept unsolicited manuscripts?

The BMRJ considers all scholarly submissions relating to the study of black music. Please see the submission instructions.

Does the Center sell anything?

The Center sells its own publications; review a detailed listing and ordering information here. Purchase CDs and learn more about from the Recorded Music of the African Diaspora series, as well as other recordings by CBMR ensembles. The CBMR is on SoundCloud too!

The CBMR also offers memberships to support our various inititiatives.

Where is the Center located?

The Center is on the sixth floor at 618 South Michigan Avenue (between Harrison Street and Balbo Drive) in Chicago. Our mailing and delivery address is 600 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605.

Is the Center a museum?

No. But small exhibits of materials from the CBMR Library and Archives are displayed in display cases, in the library Reading Room, and occasionally in Columbia College Chicago galleries, as well as in exhibits mounted from time to time by local institutions, and by consortia of libraries, museums, and archives in the area.

May I bring a group to tour the Center?

The CBMR Library and Archives hosts visits by groups of up to 25 people. Librarians and the Archivist are available for presentations about the Center and its collections; please contact us and let us know what you'd like to see. Visits can be arranged by calling (312) 369-7586, emailing the reference desk at cbmrref@colum.edu, or setting up an appointment online.

May I bring my class to visit the CBMR Library and Archives?

Sure! You are welcome to bring your class to the CBMR, with 25 students or less, or staff can come to your classroom, whether it's on campus at Columbia College Chicago or located at other Chicago-area colleges and universities. The CBMR Library and Archives staff offers presentations on research methods, music archives, or specific black music topics, as well as more in-depth workshops and hands-on sessions with the collections. Librarians are available to introduce students to the resources at the CBMR, and to assist students in a variety of projects and assignments.

All class visits should be scheduled in advance by calling the CBMR Library at (312) 369-7586, or emailing the reference desk at cbmrref@colum.edu. You and your students may also use the appointments tool. A librarian will then get in touch to discuss the class visit and activities and assignments. Advance notice is very much appreciated.

May I visit the CBMR Library and Archives?

Yes. The CBMR Library is open to the public. Current hours of operation are 10am to 4pm, Monday through Thursday, and Fridays from 10am to 1pm. Please check the main page for possible changes. Anyone with an interest in black music is welcome to come to the CBMR Library to conduct research or just to look through the collections or listen to music.

Do I need to make appointment?

No. However, since the librarians sometimes host groups of students in the CBMR Reading Room, it is always a good idea to call ahead or email cbmrref@colum.edu if you know in advance when you’ll be arriving. If your research time is limited, the librarians can help you plan your research to make the best use of your time.

What materials are housed in the CBMR Library and Archives?

The CBMR Library and Archives is a comprehensive research collection covering all idioms in black music of the United States and the African diaspora. Its collections include books, dissertations, periodicals, sound and video recordings, photographs, printed music, manuscripts, and archival materials. Many of these materials can be discovered by searching the CBMR Collections Database.

May I check out library materials?

No. The library and archival collections are noncirculating. All materials must be used on site. However, photocopies of print material excerpts or audio selections (for specific uses) may be made, as long as the copying meets the criteria of the “Fair Use” guidelines under copyright law. CBMR Staff will assist you.

May I contact a librarian for reference assistance?

Yes. Please feel free to contact the CBMR Library’s reference desk by telephone at (312) 369-7586 or by e-mail. You may also set up appointments online.

Does the Center accept material donations?

Yes. If you have black-music-related materials (for example, sound recordings, photographs, printed music or scores, archival materials) that you wish to donate to the CBMR Library and Archives, please contact the CBMR Archivist and Digital Librarian, Laurie Lee Moses, by email at lmoses@colum.edu and include some details about your materials, along with your contact information. You may also call (312) 369-7518.

If you wish to donate money to the Center, go directly to our ActiveNet donations page. You may read more on this website about different funds, and ways to donate to the CBMR. Simply click on the blue "Donate Now!" button when you are ready to give.

Can the Center’s performance ensemble be engaged for non-CBMR events?

Normally this is not possible unless you have sufficient funding to support all expenses associated with the event. Occasionally, CBMR performance ensembles have gone on tour.

Are recordings of the Center’s performance ensembles available for purchase?

Yes! CDs from the Recorded Music of the African Diaspora series are available for order, and other recordings may be streamed at no charge. Check out the CBMR on SoundCloud too!

Can anyone attend CBMR events?

Most CBMR events are open to the public. Many are free of charge, whereas some require tickets, RSVPs, or registration fees, often nominal.

How can I be notified of the Center’s performances and other public events?

To join our mailing list, please sign up for the email list (scroll down the page)! Or, sign up from Facebook and Like our page. If you'd like to include your mailing address for future notifications, please email cbmr.contact@colum.edu.

How can I contribute to the CBMR?

You can support the CBMR’s mission by becoming a CBMR member, donating materials, or making monetary gifts.

International Advisory Board
Supporting Organizations
The Center enjoys the continuing financial support of its parent organization, Columbia College Chicago, and has received grants from a variety of private and governmental funding sources. The following is a partial list of organizations and foundations that have contributed to the Center's various programs.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois
Borg-Warner Foundation
The Chicago Community Trust
Chicago Cotillion Charities Foundation, Inc. (Links)
The Chicago Defender
Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
Chicago Football Classic
Chicago Mercantile Exchange
Chicago Sun-Times Charity
Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York
Consulate General of the Netherlands in Chicago
Aaron Copland Fund for Music
Arie and Ida Crown Memorial Foundation
R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co.
The Ford Foundation
Friends of the Chicago Public Library
Lloyd A. Fry Foudation
Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation
The GRAMMY Foundation
Harris Bank
Harris Foundation
Hilton Hotels
Illinois Arts Council
Illinois Humanities Council
Institute for Museum and Library Services
Joyce Foundation
Mayer and Morris Kaplan Foundation
Links Foundation
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Robert McCormick Charitable Trust
Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation
Meet the Composer/Reader's Digest Commissioning Fund
Kenneth F. and Harle G. Montgomery Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities
NBC 5 Chicago
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation
Northern Trust Company
Parsons Family Foundation
Procter & Gamble Fund
Reed Foundation
Rockefeller Foundation
S. USA Life Insurance Company, Inc.
Sara Lee Foundation
Charles Sebring Family Foundation
South Carolina Educational Television
Jerome H. Stone Family Foundation
U.S. Cellular
United States Trust Company
Virgin Islands Council on the Arts
Virgin Islands Cultural Heritage Institute
Virgin Island Humanities Council
West Indian Company
WVON 1690