On Oct. 6, UF School of Music ethnomusicology graduate student Terri Brinegar presented her dissertation research in the form of a paper titled The Influence of Reverends Andrew (A. W.) and William (W. M.) Nix on Thomas A. Dorsey at Baylor University’s 2017 Pruit Symposium.
The symposium, Singing the Sermon: When the Message and Music Matter, focused on the restoration of black gospel music.
Brinegar’s paper specifically focuses on Andrew Nix, a large influencer of Thomas A. Dorsey, who is considered to be the “Father of Gospel Music.”
“In the 1920s, a lot of African Americans were being pushed towards assimilation of white ideals,” she said. “Rev. Nix, as I am arguing, continued traditional vocal practices. He was someone who denied assimilation.”
This summer, she visited Columbia University where she was able to access the National Baptist Convention’s 1921 meeting minutes. Through that research, she was able to form a focus for her dissertation.
“That opened up a whole slew of information for me to really follow through on this particular project,” she said. “So, I wasn’t really thinking about writing about Thomas Dorsey that much, but I really wanted to clear up the confusion between my research subject Andrew Nix and his brother, William Nix, which has been confused for years and years and years.”
She is currently five months into her dissertation-writing process, which also looks at vocal practices of African American ministers and how the voice is an index for race, class and tradition, and although this was her first time presenting, she said it was a positive experience.
“This was the most confident I’ve been at a conference because I feel that I am the expert in this particular area of Rev. Nix,” she said.
After gathering research at Columbia, Brinegar went on to interview Nix’s daughter and son to clarify erroneous information scholars had written about him.
Brinegar presented her paper in Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, specifically chosen because of gospel music’s religious ties.
She said overall, the symposium, which started in 1998, was an amazing conference and everyone she met was kind.
“We did a gospel sing one night, in which we performed,” she said. “I got up and sang with the choir. It was just a really moving experience."