Charrise Barron

2023 Crossroads Arts Fellow


Charrise Barron is a scholar of black popular music and African American Christian history and culture, as well as a speaker and artist. Dr. Barron is Assistant Professor of Music at Harvard University, as well as a 2022-2023 Donald D. Harrington Faculty Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music. She has also taught at Brown University, Yale University, and Colorado College. Dr. Barron holds a PhD in African and African American Studies, with a secondary field of study in ethnomusicology from Harvard University, and a Master of Divinity summa cum laude from Yale Divinity School. She is a Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) Doctoral Fellowship alumna, and a member of the Harvard University Society of Horizons Scholars.

While her research, writing, and presentations have explored a range of topics in African American music, religion, and culture, Charrise Barron’s current book project, The Platinum Age of Gospel, centers on contemporary gospel music and illuminates the marked shifts away from previous eras of gospel performance and culture which have defined the last thirty years of the genre. She is an experienced gospel keyboardist and singer who has served in music ministry at churches throughout the United States and abroad, including at several churches in Houston and at Willesden New Testament Church of God in London, England. She has composed for Brown University’s famed Rites and Reason Theatre, one of the oldest continuously producing Black theatres in the nation. Most recently, she composed the music for the play The Lawsons: A Civil Rights Love Story, which premiered at the Houston Ensemble Theatre, Houston’s oldest black theatre.


Crossroads Arts Fellows Project

What Platinum-age Gospel Taught Me

This artistic project of original music will demonstrate music forms and theological threads that dominated gospel music during the period that Charrise Barron has named “the platinum age of gospel”(1993-2013). During the platinum age,not only did the gospel industry experience a boom in sales, but also the industry experienced a shift in focus from supporting worship services in churches to engaging popular music audiences in entertainment venues apart from churches. As the new millennium approached, gospel went from the choir loft to the club. Some new sounds emerged; some old sounds and sung theologies took a back seat. Through prose and song, this musical work will reflect on the continuity and major disconnections from previous eras of gospel music and their ecclesial as well as social implications.