Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type

Doctoral Essay

Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Studio Music and Jazz (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Rachel L. Lebon

Second Committee Member

Martin Bejerano

Third Committee Member

Donald Coffman

Fourth Committee Member

Reynaldo Sanchez


Since the mid 1950s, musicians have mixed religious text and music with the tradition of jazz. The result, called Sacred Jazz, is inextricably linked to the historical context around which it was produced. This paper aims to specifically define Sacred Jazz as well as discuss the lives and efforts of many Sacred Jazz pioneers, including Mary Lou Williams, Duke Ellington, and John Coltrane. It will also cover contemporary Sacred Jazz artists (Deanna Witkowski and Ike Sturm among others) and current trends which have inevitably resulted. To achieve this, several chapters will be included. First, an in-depth look at the term ‘Sacred Jazz’ arriving at the musical and social characteristics that define it. Second, historical and biographical sections which detail the lives and music of the plethora of Sacred Jazz artists whose efforts have resulted in the movement. The project will conclude with an analysis of an original Sacred Jazz suite written by the author, entitled “God’s Character: A Sacred Jazz Homage.” This project is intended to provide a scholarly survey of the idiom with the objective of acknowledging the historical and musical contributions in the field of Sacred Jazz.


Angelo; Versace; Sacred; Jazz; Ellington; Coltrane