Maya Cunningham

Jazz Vocalist/Ethnomusicologist


Maya Cunningham is an Africanist/African Americanist ethnomusicologist, an Africana studies scholar, a jazz vocalist, and a cultural activist. She is completing a PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Afro American studies with a concentration in ethnomusicology. Cunningham received a MA in ethnomusicology from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2019, a MA in jazz performance from Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College and a Bachelor of Music in jazz studies from Howard University. As a jazz vocalist, Cunningham has performed the Freedom Now Suite at Jazz At Lincoln Center, and has appeared with drummer Ali Jackson, Billy Hart, Wycliffe Gordon, Anthony Wonsey and Stephon Harris. Cunningham’s research focus is on intersections between African/African American identities and traditional Black musics, like jazz, as well as ethnomusicological approaches to culturally responsive music education for African descendant students. In 2017, Cunningham received a Fulbright fellowship to research traditional music and national identity in Botswana. She also received two National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar fellowships to study African American Gullah music, and Black culture and blues traditions in the Mississippi Delta. She has presented her research at conferences nationally and internationally. In 2017, Cunningham launched Ethnomusicology In Action, a project of Themba Arts and Culture, Inc., that uses educational programs, professional development for teachers, music and broadcast media to advance heritage education about Afro descendant expressive cultures, music, and other arts. More information about Cunningham’s work is available at