Skip to Content

College of Arts and Sciences


Birgitta Johnson

Title: Assistant Professor
Department: School of Music and African American Studies Program
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-8370
Fax: 803-777-7248
Office: School of Music Room 322
Resources: CV
Brigitta on Academia


Dr. Birgitta J. Johnson teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in world music, African American music, African music, and ethnomusicology. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Music from Agnes Scott College where she played piano (major), violin (principal second), Ghanaian drums and sang in Joyful Noise (gospel choir). Johnson received her Masters and Doctorate degrees in Ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles where she worked with Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, Cheryl L. Keyes, and Francisco Aguabella in African American and African music and Afro-Cuban music, drumming, and dance. She has served as a lecturer at the University of California, Pomona College, Pitzer College, and Scripps College and as a postdoctoral fellow in ethnomusicology at Syracuse University teaching courses African American sacred music, African music, the blues, hip-hop, and world music. Her research and teaching areas of interests include African American and African music; music and worship in African American churches; musical change and identity in Black popular music; music in African American megachurches, sacred music in the African diaspora, and community archiving. A multi-instrumentalist and singer, she has performed professionally and/or recorded with artists and ensembles from a variety of genres including the African American Philharmonic of Atlanta, the Southeast Symphony Orchestra of Metropolitan Los Angeles, the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA The Tampa Experience and GMWA Live in Kansas City 2004), Faithful Central Bible Church Mass Choir (Live from Faithful Central Zion Rejoice!), Francisco Aguabella’s AfroCuban Folkloric Group, CJ Emmons, and the ESPY Awards with Justin Timberlake, The O’Jays, Yolanda Adams, Talib Kweli, and BeBe Winans. She also serves as a faculty member in the USC African American Studies Program, the School of Music’s first joint-appointment faculty member with the program.


Dr. Johnson’s research interest include: Ethnomusicology; world music; African American and African music; music and worship in African American churches; musical change and identity in Black popular music; music in African American megachurches; sacred music in the African diaspora, and community archiving. Specific genres: gospel music, praise and worship, blues, hip-hop, rhythm and blues, soul, and neo-soul.


Dr. Johnson teaches world music and ethnomusicology courses for the School of Music as well as the African American Studies Program. In addition to MUS 555 “World Music Survey” and AFAM 398H “The Cultural History of Rap,” she will also teach “Blues Routes, Culture, American Society,” “African American Sacred Music Survey,” and “Music of Africa.”

Selected Publications

“Outkasted Conversations #24: Birgitta Johnson.” Invited video interview for an episode of the series Outkasted Conversations hosted by Dr. Regina Bradley (Kennesaw State University) for Red Clay Scholar TV. (23:06 minutes)  June 29, 2014.

“Summer Sessions: Birgitta Johnson and Musiqology” for Dr. Guy Presents Musiqology: Where Music’s Past & Present Collide blog and curriculum interface of Dr. Guthrie Ramsey (University of Pennsylvania). Contributing writer. August 9, 2013.

"Gospel Archiving in Los Angeles: A Case of Proactive Archiving and Empowering Collaborations" in Ethnomusicology Forum 21:2 (August 2012), 221-242. 

“Back to the Heart of Worship: Praise and Worship Music in One African American Megachurch in Los Angeles” in Black Music Research Journal 31:1 (Spring 2011),105-129.

Review of Higher Ground: Voices of Contemporary Gospel (Chatsworth, California: New Day Multimedia, 2004, film documentary). In Ethnomusicology Review 12. 2006.

Publications in Progress

Dr. Johnson is currently writing a book manuscript based on her dissertation “‘Oh, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing’: Music and Worship in African American Megachurches of Los Angeles, California.” Her book chapter, “’This is Not the Warm-up Act!’: How Praise and Worship Reflects Expanding Musical Traditions and Theology in a Bapticostal Charismatic African American Megachurch” in The Spirit of Praise: Music and Worship in Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity (Penn State University Press) and her article “Old School Worship”: Celebrating Traditional Music Through Re-enactment” in a published collection of works by Music Research Institute Press are both set for release in 2013. She has also written six new entries for The Grove Dictionary of American Music, Second Edition by Oxford University Press.

Professional Organizations

Society for Ethnomusicology

Society for American Music

College Music Society

Gospel Music Workshop of America

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.