The Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) are hosting the first regional gathering for the celebrated Black Sacred Music Symposium, Feb 15-18 on the UNCSA campus.
Founded in 1991 by Dr. Ollie Watts Davis, the Black Sacred Music Symposium is a four-day conference dedicated to the study and performance of Black sacred music traditions, culminating in a large-scale community choral performance to celebrate the music, the methods and the message behind the impactful genre.
The concert, which is open to the public in addition to Symposium attendees, will take place on Feb. 18 at 4 p.m. in the Gerald Freedman Theatre.
Black Sacred Music Symposium XVII marks the first time that the Symposium will be held away from its home at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where it was founded. Dr. Ollie Watts Davis, Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the College of Fine and Applied Arts, and Suzanne and William Allen Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has directed the Symposium biennially for 32 years.
The XVII Symposium at UNCSA is an opportunity for anyone with a passion for and interest in choral music, specifically black sacred music, to learn about and perform the music from visiting instructors, Grammy-nominated artists and scholars.
Additional presenting partners for the Black Sacred Music Symposium XVII include Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Winston-Salem State University Department of Music, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, Union Baptist Church, Triad Cultural Arts, Inc., and the City of Winston-Salem Human Relations/Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Department.
Thursday, February 15, 2024 - Sunday, February 18, 2024
Watson Hall, UNCSA
Participants in the Black Sacred Music Symposium will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and performance of the music as well as reach a deeper understanding of its message. Attendees learn from distinguished guest artists and perform with them in concert. Seminar topics range from the history and development of African American sacred music traditions, including congregational singing, folk and concert spirituals, metered and improvised hymns, anthems, and traditional and contemporary gospel expressions to choral conducting and vocal and instrumental techniques.
Distinguished artists who honor the Black Sacred Music traditions with achievements in the arts, education, ministry and law make up the teaching faculty. For the 2024 symposium, the guest artists include Dr. Ollie Watts Davis, Berris Bolton, Rev. Dr. K. Edward Copeland, Kimberly Fullerton-Smith, Dr. Alonza Lawrence, and L’Tanya Moore-Copeland.
Online registration for the four-day Black Sacred Music Symposium has ended. Please visit the box office at Watson Hall for last-minute symposium registrations on Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m., located on the UNCSA campus.
See FAQ for group sales and detailed schedule.
Sunday, February 18, 2024 | 4 p.m. | Reception Following
Gerald Freedman Theatre, UNCSA
Attendees of the Symposium are not required to participate in the concert, but those interested can take part in a powerful and unforgettable performance. Conversely, the general public who did not take part in the Symposium are welcome to attend the concert. The concert program will feature works performed by the symposium choir and band including soloists and featured performances from the University of Illinois Black Chorus, the Winston Salem State University Singing Rams, a UNCSA String Quartet and liturgical dance performed by UNCSA students.
Tickets to the public concert are $15.
Founded in 1991 by Dr. Ollie Watts Davis, the Black Sacred Music Symposium is a four-day national conference dedicated to the study of the sacred music traditions of Black Americans. It has sustained a 32-year uninterrupted legacy of presentation at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
The Black Sacred Music Symposium provides participants with viable methods necessary to expand both their performance of the music and understanding of its message. Participants learn from distinguished faculty and perform with them in concert.
Seminar topics include the history and development of African American sacred music traditions: congregational singing; folk and concert spirituals; metered and improvised hymns; anthems; and traditional and contemporary gospel expressions; as well as solo singing, choral ensemble, instrumental accompanying, and conducting techniques.
The conference structure consists of plenary addresses, presentations and panels sessions; evening rehearsals and interludes led by guest artists; and lightning talks and testimonials from scholars who are actively engaged through research, service, and practice.
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
1533 S Main Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27127
There is no cost to register for the conference.
Because registrations for a group of fifteen or more must be submitted together, we currently cannot accept them online. Please call the UNCSA Box Office at 336-721-1945 or email email@example.com for more information about registering your group.
If you entered an email address when you registered, you will receive an email acknowledgment within 30 minutes of submitting your registration.
Registration is now closed.
There is no registration fee for the conference. All participants registered by Monday, February 5 are guaranteed access to all events.
There is a $15 cost for the concert ticket for those just attending the concert but not the conference.
The registration portal will remain open after the February 5 deadline. Concert participation and registration are not guaranteed when registered after that date.
There is no late registration fee. All participants registered after Monday, February 5 are not guaranteed access to all events.
We accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express credit cards.
We accept cash and credit cards for payment.
Conference check-in will take place in the foyer of Watson Hall (UNCSA) on Thursday, February 15th and Friday, February 16th from 5-6 p.m. and on Saturday, February 17th from 9:30-10 a.m.
When you arrive, our greeters will direct you to the registration tables in Watson Hall.
*Symposium T-shirts are available for purchase for $15; Sizes 2XL & up available for an additional $5.
The Black Sacred Music Symposium is a professional conference and business casual is suggested for Thursday and Friday. If you purchase Symposium swag items, we encourage you to wear those items on Saturday.
The attire for Sunday’s concert is a choir robe with black bottoms (skirt/dress, stockings, pants, and socks) and black shoes underneath.
*If you do not have a robe, you will be supplied one by the University of Illinois Black Chorus.
Yes, you may purchase concert tickets here. Tickets are $15 each.
Tickets for the concert may be purchased here.
125 – 150 participants
Yes, all buildings are wheelchair accessible. Please be sure to include accessibility needs when making your registration.
There are many restaurants near the UNCSA campus. See this website for a listing of the restaurants.
Yes! #BSMSXVII and #BSMS2024
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional questions.