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School of Music

Faculty and Staff

Birgitta Johnson

Title: Associate Professor / Ethnomusicology / African American Studies
Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
School of Music
Website: Dr. Birgitta Johnson's website
Phone: 803-777-8370
Fax: 803-777-7248

School of Music Room 321

Resources: Birgitta Johnson CV


Dr. Birgitta J. Johnson teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in world music, African American music, African music and ethnomusicology. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Music from Agnes Scott College where she played piano (major), violin (principal second), Ghanaian drums and sang in Joyful Noise (gospel choir). Johnson received her Masters and Doctorate degrees in Ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles where she worked with Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, Cheryl L. Keyes and Francisco Aguabella in African American and African music and Afro-Cuban music, drumming, and dance. She has served as a lecturer at the University of California, Pomona College, Pitzer College and Scripps College and as a postdoctoral fellow in ethnomusicology at Syracuse University teaching courses African American sacred music, African music, the blues, hip-hop, and world music. Her research and teaching areas of interests include African American and African music; music and worship in African American churches; musical change and identity in Black popular music; music in African American megachurches, sacred music in the African diaspora, and community archiving. A multi-instrumentalist and singer, she has performed professionally and/or recorded with artists and ensembles from a variety of genres including the African American Philharmonic of Atlanta, the Southeast Symphony Orchestra of Metropolitan Los Angeles, the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA The Tampa Experience and GMWA Live in Kansas City 2004), Faithful Central Bible Church Mass Choir (Live from Faithful Central Zion Rejoice!), Francisco Aguabella’s AfroCuban Folkloric Group, CJ Emmons, and the ESPY Awards with Justin Timberlake, The O’Jays, Yolanda Adams, Talib Kweli, and BeBe Winans. She also serves as a faculty member in the USC African American Studies Program, the School of Music’s first joint-appointment faculty member with the program.


Dr. Johnson’s research interest include: Ethnomusicology; world music; African American and African music; music and worship in African American churches; musical change and identity in Black popular music; music in African American megachurches; sacred music in the African diaspora, and community archiving. Specific genres: gospel music, praise and worship, blues, hip-hop, rhythm and blues, soul, and neo-soul.


Dr. Johnson teaches world music and ethnomusicology courses for the School of Music as well as the African American Studies Program. In addition to MUS 555 “World Music Survey,” and "AFAM 380 “The Cultural History of Rap,” she also teaches “Blues Routes, Culture, American Society,” “Black Sacred Music,” “Music of Africa,” and “Lemonade and Beyond: Black Women’s Agency and Community Building Through Musical Performance."

Selected Publications

Columbia Museum of Art’s Binder Podcast Special Series:  More Than Rhythm: A Black Music Series Hosted by Dr. Birgitta Johnson. (2022-2023) Hear episodes at 

“She Gave You Lemonade, Stop Trying to Say It's Tang: Calling Out How Race-Gender Bias Obscures Black Women’s Achievements in Pop Music” in The Lemonade Reader: Beyonce, Black Feminism and Spirituality. (Routledge Press). Edited by Kinitra D. Brooks and Kameelah L. Martin. 2019.

“Singing Down Walls of Race, Ethnicity and Tradition in an African American Megachurch” in Liturgy 33:3 (2018), 37-45.

“How ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ Became an Anthem For Every Cause.” Broadcast. American Anthem Series. National Public Radio (NPR). Aired July 4, 2018.

Carolina Stories: Charlie’s Place. Emmy Award winning documentary. Betsy Newman, Executive Producer. South Carolina ETV. See film at Aired April 26, 2018.

“Gospel Music” in Oxford Bibliographies in African American Studies Online (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press). 2017.

“This is Not the Warm Up Act!: Praise and Worship Expanding Liturgical Traditions, Theology, and Identities in an African American Megachurch” in The Spirit of Praise: Music and Worship in the Pentecostal-Charismatic Tradition (Penn State University Press). Edited by Amos Young and Monique Ingalls. 2015.

“Outkasted Conversations #24: Birgitta Johnson.” Invited video interview for an episode of the series Outkasted Conversations hosted by Dr. Regina Bradley (Kennesaw State University) for Red Clay Scholar TV. (23:06 minutes)  June 29, 2014.

“Summer Sessions: Birgitta Johnson and Musigology” for Dr. Guy Presents Musiqology: Where Music’s Past & Present Collide blog and curriculum interface of Dr. Guthrie Ramsey (University of Pennsylvania). Contributing writer. August 9, 2013.

"Gospel Archiving in Los Angeles: A Case of Proactive Archiving and Empowering Collaborations" in Ethnomusicology Forum 21:2 (August 2012), 221-242. 

“Back to the Heart of Worship: Praise and Worship Music in One African American Megachurch in Los Angeles” in Black Music Research Journal 31:1 (Spring 2011),105-129.

Publications in Progress

Dr. Johnson’s current manuscript project, Worship Waves, Navigating Identities: Music in the Black Church at the Turn of the 21st Century explores the impact of post-Civil Rights era cultural movements and socio-political changes on the state of music performance, transmission, and worship traditions in today’s Black Protestant churches.

Professional Organizations

Society for Ethnomusicology
Society for American Music
College Music Society
Gospel Music Workshop of America
International Council for Traditional Music

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