Research News

Vanderbilt center to study God in Music City during spring 2008; Double CD, performances, panel discussions planned

A series of musical performances, panel discussions, the release of a double CD of religious music and a conference to sum it all up will mark a semester-long investigation of “God in Music City” at Vanderbilt University.

“We’re trying to explore and break down boundaries that have often kept people from having meaningful dialogue across differences,” said Allison Pingree, director of Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching and co-leader of the Music, Religion and the South study group of the university’s Center for the Study of Religion and Culture.

The series will include discussions of gay Christian music, God in country music videos and a daylong bus tour of Nashville houses of worship. Performances will be staged at the Bluebird Café, the Basement, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and Vanderbilt. For a full listing of events, go to

Singer-songwriters Tom Kimmel and Julie Lee are serving as artists-in-residence for the “God in Music City” series.

Most events are open to the public. Tickets are required for some. An undergraduate course open to Vanderbilt students, “Music and Religion: God in Music City,” will also run during the semester.

The Center for the Study of Religion and Culture at Vanderbilt is devoted to interdisciplinary scholarship to create new knowledge and a richer understanding of religion and culture. Its Music and Religion and the South study group is entering its third year of work, and its first of public presentations.

The “God in Music City” series opens with a CD release party 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at The Commons Center at Vanderbilt. The “God and Music City ” CD on Lime Pulp Records includes 35 songs from performers including Kimmel, Lee, Pierce Pettis, the Corinthian Baptist Church Mass Choir, Music City Shabbat, Jewly Hight, Christian Teal, The Harpeth Valley Sacred Harp Singers, Nashville in Harmony and the St. Ann Catholic Church Folk Group.

The CD, produced by Blair ethnomusicologist Greg Barz, will be on sale for $15. The release party is free and open to the public. For more information on the CD, go to

Other events include:

  • First public performance by The New Agrarians (Kimmel, Pettis, Kate Campbell) along with opening act Julie Lee at the Bluebird Café, 4104 Hillsboro Pike, 9 p.m. Jan. 15 and 16. Tickets cost $30. Go to for more information or to reserve seats.
  • John McClure, the Charles G. Finney Professor of Homiletics and chair of the Graduate Department of Religion, speaks on “Music, Religion and the South: Notes from the Field” 4:10 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, in Buttrick Hall. Free and open to the public.
  • A bus tour of Nashville worship spaces from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, led by Robin Jensen, Luce Chancellor’s Professor of the History of Christian Art and Worship at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Space is limited; go to for more information.
  • An evening of sacred blues to be celebrated at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at Downtown Presbyterian Church.
  • A panel discussion, followed by a concert by the Nashville Chamber Orchestra on “Music of the Spirit.” Program selections will be drawn from suggestions made on the NCO’s blog at Panel discussion, moderated by Allison Pingree, begins at 7:30 p.m., and the concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Tickets range from $19 to $69. To purchase, go to,1,3,1,4,3&PerfNo=1257.
  • A variety of performers will interpret the 23rd Psalm during “The Lord is My Shepherd: Variations on Psalm 23” with commentary by Michael Alec Rose, associate professor of composition at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, 7 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Steve and Judy Turner Recital Hall at Blair. Free and open to the public.
  • “Strange Bedfellows, a panel discussion about gay Christian music along with performances at The Basement (1604 8th Ave. S.) 9 p.m. Thursday, March 13, with moderators Jewly Hight (music critic, artist and degree candidate at Vanderbilt Divinity School) and Ellen Armour, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair in Feminist Theology and director of the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality. Free and open to the public.
  • James Hudnut-Beumler, dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, and James Byrd, associate dean for the graduate department of religion, will discuss “God in Country Music Videos” 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, in the art room of Vanderbilt Divinity School. Free and open to the public.
  • “God in Music City” capstone conference April 17-18 at various times and locations.

Selected events from the God in Music City series will be podcast at VUCast, the website of Vanderbilt News Service, at For updated information, visit the God in Music City website at

Media Contact: Jim Patterson, (615) 322-NEWS