Clifton Boyd

Clifton Boyd's picture
Clifton Boyd (2016) is a Ph.D. candidate in music theory. Originally from West Bloomfield, MI, he holds an M.M. in music theory from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University and a B.M. in viola performance and music theory from the University of Michigan. His dissertation, “The Role of Vernacular Music Theory in the American Barbershop Community,” examines the role of music theory in the sociopolitical culture of American vernacular musical communities, with a focus on racial and gender discrimination. Drawing upon the history of the Barbershop Harmony Society from its founding in 1938 to its contemporary “Everyone in Harmony” diversity initiative, his research explores how institutions instrumentalize theories of musical style in order to achieve deep-rooted goals of musical and demographic “purity.” This research has been supported by fellowships and awards from the American Musicological SocietySociety for American Music, and the Music Library Association. Other research interests include minimalism, form in nineteenth-century chamber music, musical meter, and Italian popular music. He has presented at the annual meetings of the Society for Music Theory, the American Musicological Society, and the Society for American Music. His work is forthcoming in Music Theory and Analysis, Theory and Practice, and the Oxford Handbook for Public Music Theory.
In addition to his research pursuits, Clifton is a staunch advocate for diversity in music academia: he is the founder of Project Spectrum, a graduate student-led coalition supported by affiliate members (faculty members, independent scholars, and non-academic music professionals), committed to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in music academia. As chair (2017–19), he oversaw the organization of the 2018 national symposium Diversifying Music Academia: Strengthening the Pipeline.” In July 2020, he delivered a paper as part of Project Spectrum’s keynote address at the Music Theory Society for New York State annual meeting. On behalf of Project Spectrum, he is twice a recipient of the Sphinx Organization’s MPower Artist Grant.
At Yale, he led the founding of the Grant Hagan Society, a graduate student-led affinity group that supports people of color in the Department of Music; and was a fellow for the Office for Graduate Student Development and Diversity (2018–20)He has written about his experience of “Being a Black Ph.D. Student Following George Floyd’s Murder” for Inside Higher Ed (2020).
In his free time, Clifton enjoys working on his Italian and listening to comedy podcasts.
Program Type: 
Music Theory