Kaufman Shelemay 

Harvard University
Dalck and Rose Feith Family Fellowship 

Research Topic

Connecting Musical Worlds: Crossroads in Jewish and African Studies  


Kay Kaufman Shelemay is the G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music and professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University. Her work in ethnomusicology spans topics including liturgical studies, historical ethnomusicology, music and memory, migration and diaspora, and theory and method of musical ethnography. She is currently writing about the process of crossing boundaries between Jewish and African studies and the manner in which comparative exploration and boundary-crossing enhance the research process.  Shelemay received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, and has taught at Columbia University, New York University, and Wesleyan University. At Harvard, she established the Program in Ethnomusicology and has chaired the Department of Music. She has also served as president of the Society for Ethnomusicology and chair of the Board of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. 

Selected publications

Sing and Sing On: Sentinel Musicians and the Making of the Ethiopian-American Diaspora (University of Chicago Press, 2022).  

A Song of Longing. An Ethiopian Journey. (University of Illinois Press, 1991. Translated into Japanese, 2009.  



This year is devoted to the study of sound and music as a part of Jewish life, and we are delighted to announce the cohort of scholars who will join us for a year of research, conversation, and engagement with the Penn community and with the public.