Alumna brings African-American art songs to light

Dr. Christine Jobson Dr. Christine Jobson
Dr. Christine Jobson, D.M.A. '19

By Nastasia Boulos

Dr. Christine Jobson, D.M.A. ’19, loves—and knows—music.

She’s performed around the world as a concert singer and taught at various local colleges and universities. She sings gospel music and classical music, often bridging the two. She enjoys jazz and Caribbean rhythms, perhaps because of her Jamaican heritage. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music education, a master’s in vocal performance, and a doctorate in vocal pedagogy and performance. And she’s recorded two full-length albums.

“I've always been told that if you're looking for the thing that you're going to do for the rest of your life,” she says, “you should seek after the thing that you would do for free anyway. And for me, singing was that thing that I could do all day long, even if I only got paid two cents, because I just love to sing that much.

But there’s one aspect of music that gets more of her attention. As a singer, music professor, and student, Jobson has made it her mission to preserve and share a segment of music literature that has been largely overlooked: classical music by African American composers, including art songs.

“It’s been my goal to bring them to light,” she says. “Until it’s no longer a separate genre in a corner, but something appreciated by all classical music educators and performers.”

Because music, Jobson knows, is not just about music. It’s a means of expression and a way to spread joy, but it’s also a window into a culture. “When you hear an African American art song,” she explains, “when you study the text, you get a more personal look at the story and history of black people and of some of the struggles of our people.”

She devoted her first recital as a doctoral student in vocal pedagogy and performance at the Frost School of Music to African American arts songs and Negro spirituals.

Her second recital, and ultimately her dissertation, focused on Florence Price, the first black woman to have one of her compositions played by a major American orchestra. Jobson picked 12 songs from a stack of music manuscripts that had recently been found, accidentally, during a house renovation in Illinois and been turned over to the University of Arkansas Special Collections.

She studied the songs, which feature the poetry of female poets, meticulously, providing musical analysis and a discussion of the poets, shedding light on the life of Florence Price, and adding to the body of literature about African American art songs. In her most recent album, "Nearly Lost: Art Songs by Florence Price," Jobson provides her interpretation of the music.

Her work has not gone unnoticed. 

At the 2019 American Prize competition, a national competition focused on classical music, Jobson received a special judges’ citation for “championing African American composers of art song.” In May, she won first place in the Young Artist category of the George Shirley vocal competition, named after the first black tenor to have a lead role at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Jobson credits her professors at the Frost School for sharing their experiences, supporting her in her efforts to study African American arts songs, and allowing her to create her own experiences and shape the program into something that benefits her career beyond Frost.

She recently moved to New York City, where she is performing in the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera production of "Porgy and Bess," which premiered on September 23rd. She is also teaching at Western Connecticut State University.

“My advice might sound cliché,” she says, “but it's so important to be yourself, to really just accept who you are, no matter what style of music you sing or play or perform, find what really speaks to you, and walk in that direction.”

To learn more about Jobson and her music, please visit: