University At Albany
Music Department Faculty
Kyra Gaunt


Kyra GauntAssistant Professor Kyra Gaunt, Ph.D., who is an ethnomusicologist and a social media researcher, joined UAlbany after being on faculty in the Departments of Sociology, Anthropology, Black and Latino Studies, and the Performing Arts at Baruch College-CUNY; in the Department of Africana, Puerto Rican, and Latino Studies at Hunter College-CUNY; in the Department of Music at New York University;  and in the Music Department at the University of Virginia. She has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in these departments leading to a multi-disciplinary approach to black music studies that incorporates sociology, anthropology, political sociology, race/racism studies, gender and feminist studies, digital humanities, and new media studies.

In 2007, her radical counter-history The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop published by New York University Press won the Alan Merriam Book Prize for most outstanding English-speaking monograph awarded by the Society for Ethnomusicology. Among other significant publications, her peer-reviewed articles appear in Musical Quarterly, Parcours anthropologiques, and The Journal for Popular Music Studies.

One of the earliest professors to teach hip-hop who also helped define the emerging field of girlhood and black girlhood studies, Dr. Gaunt's scholarship has been funded by the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Ford Foundation. Her 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 involves the critical study of the unintended consequences of race, gender, and technology from YouTube to Wikipedia.  

Dr. Gaunt is also a federally-certified expert witness on social media. She testifies in federal and state cases offering her expertise to prosecutors, defense attorneys, their clients, and the jury when the costs of being on Facebook land you in criminal court.

A maverick of teaching innovation, Dr. Gaunt uses song, scholarship, and social media to help emerging adults develop the deliberate practice and intellectual fitness needed to succeed beyond academic study in the 21st century. New media and collaborative undergraduate research are essential components of her strategy.

Trained in classical music for 12 years with chops in jazz scat and improvisation as well as R&B songwriting, Kyra, the artist, writes poetry and performs her own original songs. Her self-produced album titled Be the True Revolution, named after a Nikki Giovanni poem, is available on iTunes and CDBaby. The album was co-written with lead guitarist Tomás Doncker and the remarkable Gregoire Maret, Grammy award winning jazz harmonica player who was recognized as ‘Player of the Year’ by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Her remarkable success in scholarship, performance, and her involvement in social justice activism led the TED (Technology, Education, and Design) community to honor Dr. Gaunt as one of its 40 inaugural TED Fellows in 2009. TED, and its renowned TED Talks and TEDx brand, provides an international platform for world-changers whose ideas are worth spreading. Since then, she appeared as a TEDx Speaker in her former home of New York City and in China and Moldova (see "How to Twerk" from TEDxEast).

Dr. Gaunt earned her Ph.D. in musicology (with a specialization in ethnomusicology) from the prestigious School of Music at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where she studied voice with Grammy Award winning tenor George Shirley. She holds additional degrees in voice from SUNY Binghamton and The American University. From meager beginnings--with teenage dreams of being like Chaka Khan or Minnie Riperton and studying classical voice at a community college in her hometown of Rockville, Maryland because that's all music departments used to teach, she is proud to teach from classical music to hip-hop, to be a member of the UAlbany family, and to bring the art of living in Brooklyn, NY to the Capital Region.

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