Press contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public contact: Robert Saladini (202) 707-2692

July 2, 2007

Kay Kaufman Shelemay Appointed To Chair of Modern Culture in the John W. Kluge Center

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has appointed Kay Kaufman Shelemay, an ethnomusicologist from Harvard University, to the Chair of Modern Culture in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.

While in residence at the Kluge Center, Shelemay will pursue research for a book on Ethiopian music and musicians in the United States.

At Harvard University, Shelemay is the G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music, the former chair of the Department of Music and a professor in the African and African American Studies Department. Shelemay specializes in the music of Africa, the Middle East and the urban United States. She received her Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Michigan.

The author of numerous articles and reviews, Shelemay’s book "Music, Ritual and Falasha History" (1986) won both the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in 1987 and the Prize of the International Musicological Society in 1988. Other major publications include "A Song of Longing: An Ethiopian Journey" (1991); "Ethiopian Christian Chant: An Anthology" (1993-1997), co-authored with Peter Jeffery; and "Let Jasmine Rain Down: Song and Remembrance Among Syrian Jews," a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. She edited the seven-volume "Arland Library of Readings in Ethnomusicology" and "Studies in Jewish Musical Traditions," and co-edited "Pain and Its Transformations: The Interface of Biology and Culture" with Sarah Coakley, which is forthcoming from Harvard University Press in fall 2007. The second edition of her textbook "Soundscapes: Exploring Music in a Changing World" was published by W.W. Norton in 2006.

Shelemay was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and has been awarded a number of major postdoctoral fellowships, including grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Radcliffe Institute. She is past-president of the Society for Ethnomusicology and is a congressional appointee and former chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Shelemay was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000 and was named a Walter Channing Cabot Fellow for 2001-2002 at Harvard.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate, energize and distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policy-makers in Washington. For more information on fellowships, grants and programs, visit

# # #

PR 07-144
ISSN 0731-3527

Back to top