Sibley Library Offers Guide to Music of the African Diaspora

Rick McRae of the Sibley Music Library

Rick McRae of the Sibley Music Library, creator of Music by People from the African Diaspora


By David Raymond

Among their many online services, major international libraries provide library guides on particular topics targeted to scholars and musicians. In the case of Eastman’s Sibley Music Library, the specialized topics are of course musical: musicology, film music, individual instruments, and many more.

These guides were recently joined by a new one devoted to Music by People from the African Diaspora. It has been created and maintained by Rick McRae, a Sibley Cataloging and Reference Librarian, and has been available on the Sibley website since July.

The topic was suggested by Jean Pedersen. Co-Chair (with Lee Koonce) of the Eastman Action Commission for Racial Justice, and the idea, in his words, “dovetailed well” with Eastman and University goals in general towards diversifying campus life.

Rick compiled a large group of bibliographic and online resources relating to music traditions originating from Africa and musicians of African descent: bibliographies, musical scores, discographies, journals, audio and video resources, and more. “There are a lot of resources,” says Rick of the guide, “not just Sibley Library’s.”

The African Diaspora refers to people originally from Africa who were dispersed throughout the world over a number of centuries. Particularly in the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America, their musical cultures profoundly influenced those in the New World. The headings and resources in the guide include not only prominent composers and performers of color, but also such African-influenced musical styles as spirituals, gospel blues, jazz, and numerous Latin American genres.

One aim of the library guide is “to diversify and widen repertoire with musicians of color in the Western Classical music tradition.” To that end, students and faculty members planning recitals or writing research papers can find music and musicians relating to them by using the guide as a starting point or a browsing tool.

(A similar philosophy, devoted to female composers and musicians, is behind the Sibley Library’s Women in Music Guide, created by Jim Farrington, the library’s Head of Public Services; click the link to see that site.)

Rick says that the new guide is one of many resources that make the Sibley Library (the largest North American music library) valuable. “It is another way of encouraging the Eastman community to use the Sibley Library,” he explains. “Sibley serves everyone at Eastman.”

Rick encourages everyone not only to visit the site, but also to comment on it and make suggestions for additional resources; email him at