About Maya Cunningham
Maya Cunningham is an ethnomusicologist, an Africanist and African Americanist scholar, a decolonial theorist, a Black music practitioner (jazz vocals) and a cultural activist. She is completing a PhD at the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in African American studies with a concentration in ethnomusicology. Cunningham received an MA in ethnomusicology from the University of Maryland, College Park, an MA in jazz performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College and a Bachelor of Music in jazz studies from Howard University. Her research focus is on culturally responsive music education for African American students, African American cultural identity and intersections between African/African American identities and traditional African and African American musics. She is an expert in African American expressive culture, African American history and jazz history.
In 2017 she received a Fulbright fellowship to research how traditional music is used to teach national identity to primary school students in Botswana. Cunningham is also a two-time award recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar fellowship to study African American Gullah culture, as well as African American culture and blues traditions in the Mississippi Delta. In 2016 she received a Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms fellowship and a Fund for Teachers fellowship to research traditional music in Ghana and India. She has presented her research and writing at conferences nationally and internationally. These include the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Association for the Study of African American Life and Culture (ASALH), the National Council for Black Studies (NCBS), the University of Nottingham, the University of Albany and New York University.
She launched the Ethnomusicology In Action in 2017 with funding from the University of Maryland that uses research in Black music and culture to empower Afro-descendant children through learning opportunities about their history, culture and traditional music.
Cunningham has eighteen years of experience in music education and directing community based arts programs for African American and Latino children, including the Little Lights Children’s Arts Workshop, the Hephzibah Program for Girls and the Summer Success program. She is former Program Director of the Roberta Flack School of Music and Creative Arts Director at the Salvation Army in Astoria, New York. She has in depth experience in teaching music and writing culturally responsive music education curriculum for public schools, charter schools and non-profit organizations.
Maya Cunningham has traveled all over the world conducting research and learning traditional music.