VCU Libraries Black History Month Lecture featuring the Smithsonian's expert on black music Dwandalyn Reece, Ph.D


Music is the great equalizer around the world. No matter where it originates or what form it takes, it has played a crucial role in shaping the human experience and preserving the history of that experience for centuries. 

African American music originated out of a heritage shaped by the Transatlantic Slave Trade and forced enslavement. The music born out of this shared identity was a means of survival, a treatise on the struggle for freedom, and an agent of social change; it generated a vast array of musical styles and performance traditions that have defined American music.

Dwandalyn Reece, the visionary museum curator behind the Musical Crossroads exhibit and musical programs at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, brings the story of Black music to VCU as VCU Libraries 2023 Black History Month Lecturer. Registration for in-person and Zoom attendance will open soon. 

“Every year, due to the support of The Francis M. Foster African-American History Endowment Fund, we are able to bring speakers who encompass our mission and values of embracing diversity and inclusion to foster excellence, an open exchange of ideas, and to celebrate the richness of an environment shaped by many voices. Dr. Reece exemplifies these values, and we are delighted to be welcoming her as the 22nd annual VCU Libraries Black History Month lecturer,” said Irene Herold, dean of libraries and university librarian.

Reece’s remarks will be drawn in part from her 2023 book that explores the meaning underlying the objects on display at the Smithsonian. She will explain how these objects expand our understanding of the culture of African American music-making and the foundation it has built in the United States and around the world.

About the Speaker 

Dwandalyn R. Reece Ph.D. is a musician, scholar and museum professional who has spent her  career working at the intersection of history, culture and the arts. She was responsible for the acquisition, research, and interpretation of the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s music and performing arts collection, one of 12 permanent exhibits at the museum, which opened in 2016.  

Today, she is the Museum’s Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs Chair at the National Museum of African American History and Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs. Reece assumed her current post after serving thirteen years as the museum’s first Curator of Music and Performing Arts. In that role she built a collection of more than 4,000 objects, curated the museum’s inaugural permanent music exhibition, Musical Crossroads, co-curated the museum’s grand opening music festival, Freedom Sounds: A Community Celebration and the 2019 Smithsonian Year of Music initiative and served as chair of the Smithsonian Music Executive Committee, a position she still holds today. 

Recent projects include co-hosting the award-winning Sirius/XM podcast series, All Music is Black Music and serving as contributing producer on Folkways’ Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap (2021). In 2022 Reece received the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Judith McCulloh public sector award. She currently serves on the boards of her alma mater, Scripps College, and the Society for Ethnomusicology.   

Before joining the Smithsonian, Reece was a senior program officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities and worked in several museums including the Louis Armstrong House and Archives, the Brooklyn Historical Society, the New Jersey State Museum, and the Motown Historical Museum. 

Reece studied American Studies and Music at Scripps College, American Culture and Museum Practice at the University of Michigan, and Performance Studies at New York University.    

Register for in-person and Zoom attendance.