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Danielle Maggio

Danielle Maggio is a second year PhD student in ethnomusicology and a Teaching Fellow at The University of Pittsburgh. Her research examines soul music as a lived cultural practice, an artistic genre, a marketable commodity, and an important historical site for the articulation of gender, race, and class in American popular culture. She has taught for the MGR Foundation; Pittsburgh Montessori Schools; Westminster Choir College; and Recreational Arts, Inc.

“Gospel Mime: Cultivating Voice of Praise Through Embodied Service”
The popular art form of Gospel Mime is a unique, hybrid performance practice in the Black church community, which combines popular gospel music with the theatrical medium of miming. One of the most recent and popular forms of praise to emerge in Black congregations nation-wide, the practice was formally introduced into Black worship services in the early 1990s by twin brothers Karl and Keith Edmonds, commonly known as K&K Mime Ministry. Showcased by such pop gospel luminaries as Dr. Bobby Jones, Kirk Franklin, and Donnie McClurkin, they are now identified as the “Godfathers of Gospel Mime.” Practitioners of this art form wear all black, white gloves, and paint their faces in the white makeup that has defined the secular, Eurocentric tradition of miming. While the aesthetics of Gospel Mime are of the secular tradition, its personified performance within the Black church community, and the emotional reaction it incites from the congregation, is anything but. This inquiry investigates the embodiment and materiality of the Gospel Mime “voice” as a site for spiritual praise and ecstasy. Utilizing ethnographic work with the New Image Mime troupe of Bethlehem Baptist in McKeesport, PA (along with a “rogue” Gospel Mime who no longer performs in church), this paper is interested in the social and physical processes that cultivates such emotional reaction, and how the art form of Gospel Mime acts as a non-traditional “voice,” or circuit, within popular Black musical expression. This paper is the beginning of a project that seeks to map the art form of Gospel Mime onto the cartography of scholarly work on gospel, voice, embodiment, spirituality, and Black popular culture, due to its complete absence within academic research, and the overwhelming lack of knowledge about its existence from those outside of the Black church community.

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