Gospel in West Philadelphia

In the Fall of 2003, the graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in Music 650 developed fieldwork projects in collaboration with two church communities in West Philadelphia. One team of students spent the semester with the congregation at Monumental Baptist Church while
another was welcomed by the community at
Millennium Baptist Church
. Penn students worked on a variety of projects throughout the semester, including ethnographic writing, photo essays, video and audio recording, and transcription. Importantly, both groups also became involved in the weekly routines of these churches, variously volunteering for after-school tutoring programs, attending choir rehearsals, and participating in Sunday worship services. Students spent a great deal of time with Monumental and Millennium and did so out of a keen sense of reciprocity and collaboration—a sensibility that rests at the heart of successful community partnership (and of ethnomusicological fieldwork). The culminating project for the two groups was a documentary video from each, detailing their experiences in the church communities. These films were screened at an end-of-semester celebration in Penn’s Amado Recital Hall to which members from both churches and the Penn community were invited. The documentaries illustrated the rich spiritual and communal legacies of both churches and also confirmed the deeply collaborative nature of these fieldwork projects. The project was funded with a course development grant from Penn’s Center for Community Partnerships, with assistance from Associate Director, Winnie Smart-Mapp.