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  • NYS Writers Institute

Video interview: Professor Kyra Gaunt

Paul Grondahl interviews UAlbany professor and ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt, whose recent article "The Magic of Black Girls’ Play: Game-songs created and passed down by Black girls are full of sophistication, power and cultural meaning" generated considerable buzz as an Editors Pick in the New York Times.

Gaunt's research focuses on the critical study and hidden musicianship in black girls' musical play at the intersections of race, gender, and the body in the age of hip-hop. Her current research focuses on the unintended consequences of gender, race, and technology from YouTube to Wikipedia.

Her book The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop (New York University Press, 2006) won the 2007 Alan Merriam Book Prize for most outstanding English-speaking monograph awarded by the Society for Ethnomusicology. She was named one of 50 inaugural fellows at the 2009 Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Conference. Her online talk "How the jump rope got its rhythm." has received close to 500,000 views.

The Games Black Girls Play contributed to the emergence of black girlhood studies and hip-hop feminism and also inspired the choreographic work BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play by Camille A Brown and Dancers, which was nominated for a 2016 Bessie Award for Outstanding Production and was staged at Jacob's Pillow and The Kennedy Center. 

In graduate school, Kyra initially pursued a doctorate in classical voice and went on to earn a Ph.D. in musicology at the University of Michigan. She joined UAlbany's Department of Music and Theatre in 2017 following appointments at the University of Virginia, NYU, and Baruch and Hunter Colleges at CUNY.

While occasionally singing classical music, Kyra continues to perform as an R&B singer-songwriter and a jazz improvisational vocalist in New York City and in the Capital Region. 

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