Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Lynwood Montell, Charles Wolfe, Burt Feintuch

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Singing school teachers, who teach rural church congregations to sing from shape-note gospel songbooks, are still working in southcentral Kentucky, but the demand for them is smaller than it was in the first half of the twentieth century. The interdependence network in which singing school teachers, songbook publishers, and community singing events were key parts began to weaken in the 1940s as a result of the growth in popularity of professional gospel quartet concerts and gospel record albums. Many gospel music enthusiasts who once looked to songbooks as a major source for new material and for developing singing skills turned to albums and concerts in the 1940s. Singing school teachers began to be called on less frequently.

The first three chapters of this thesis contain an overview of the gospel singing events, the songbook publishers, and the singing schools. The nature of the relationship between these three gospel music institutions is established. In the fourth chapter, I profile three singing school teachers of southcentral Kentucky. In the conclusion, the development of popular religious music since the early 1800s is summarized and the importance of researching Southern white gospel music as a step toward a greater understanding of Southern music traditions as a whole is examined.


Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | Music | Music Education | Music Pedagogy | Music Performance | Music Practice | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology