Stephen Newby, DMA, Announced as Inaugural Prichard Chair in the Study of Black Worship

July 20, 2023
Stephen Newby headshot edited 2023

By Derek Smith, Baylor University Marketing & Communications

WACO, Texas (July 20, 2023) – Baylor University announced today the appointment of Stephen Newby, DMA, as the inaugural holder of the Lev H. Prichard III Chair in the Study of Black Worship. Newby brings a background in music, scholarship and ministry to the new position, which provides interdisciplinary leadership, research and scholarship efforts associated with the growth of Baylor’s Black Gospel Music Preservation Project, housed within University Libraries. Newby will serve in the Baylor University School of Music.

“This is a dream job, and words cannot express my gratitude to the Prichard family for establishing this position,” Newby said. “Gospel music and Black worship is an integral part of the American fabric. The opportunity to serve and collaborate with others to preserve and share this music is amazing. I think this can provide a foundation to help us present the incredible treasure of this music that we have before us.”

Newby’s multifaceted musical background and renowned academic will further intertwine in the Prichard Chair role. A member of the Seattle Pacific University faculty since 2004, his most recent positions include Professor of Music, Director of Composition and Director of the Center for Worship. Additionally, has served on the faculties of the University of Michigan and Trevecca Nazarene University. While serving as a full-time faculty member, Newby has built a parallel career as renowned composer, fusing elements of Black gospel and jazz in churches, symphony halls, musical theatre stages and more.

“The School of Music, at Baylor University, is delighted to welcome Dr. Stephen Newby as the first Lev H. Prichard Chair in the Study of Black Worship. Professor Newby brings a wealth of experience and expertise as he joins our faculty,” Gary Mortensen, DMA Dean of the Baylor University School of Music, said. “His training has brought forth a rich variety of important works in both secular and sacred genres. Dr. Newby displays an impressive wealth of knowledge highlighting his research, and it will be a pleasure to watch and listen to Dr. Newby in this new position.”

Scholarship, Music and Ministry

Before joining the Seattle Pacific faculty, Newby served as a minister of music at Antioch Bible Church in Seattle, Washington. The ministry call has maintained a grip on his life in a variety of settings, including a recent appointment as minister of worship at Peachtree Church in Atlanta. As a child of ministers—Newby’s father was a Missionary Baptist preacher and his mother a minister of music—Newby says a career involving music and ministry was “in my genes. The education piece is attributed to curiosity.”

After earning a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Music Education from Madonna University in Michigan, Newby received his Master’s of Music in Jazz Composition and Arranging from the University of Massachusetts and a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Composition from the University of Michigan School of Music. While on faculty at Seattle Pacific University, he attained an additional Master’s of Arts degree in Theology. That training led him to full-time jobs in higher education and ministry, while continuously composing and publishing pieces in a variety of genres—most notably at the fusion of classical, gospel and jazz. While at Seattle Pacific, he earned a National Endowment for the Arts grant and has contributed numerous journal articles, chapters and published pieces to music scholarship.

“These various lanes have always been pathways to discovery for me, whether leading worship, lecturing, writing books composing music or teaching orchestration,” Newby said. “The Prichard Chair will allow me to lean into these different areas of interest. More importantly, it’s going to allow me to pass these this on to the next generation.”

A composer of classical, gospel, jazz and chamber music, Newby’s versatility has taken his music to numerous stages and concert halls. His most recent commissions were performed by the Seattle Symphony and in Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater, and he has served as a worship leader with Maranatha Music and Promise Keepers, with multiple published recordings to his credit.

Baylor Ties

Before joining the Baylor faculty, Newby’s association with the University goes back nearly ten years to his initial visit to the Pruit Memorial Symposium. In 2013, the Symposium began a partnership with the Black Gospel Music Preservation Project to explore the cultural heritage of Black gospel music; Newby first attended in 2014.

As he brings leadership to the Black Gospel Music Preservation Project and Pruit Symposium through the chair position, he assumes the mantle from a friend, collaborator and mentor. Bob Darden, Master Teacher and Emeritus Professor of Journalism, who retired in May after years of teaching and the 2005 founding of the Black Gospel Music Preservation Project. Newby is currently at work with Darden on an upcoming biography of the late Andrae Crouch, the influential Christian music performer and writer, entitled Soon & Very Soon: The Triumphant Music and Ministry of Andrae Crouch, The Light Years.

“Because of the Pruit Symposium, I’ve always had my eyes on Baylor. I’ve had a great appreciation for the collegiality and excellent scholarship produced at those gatherings. That was a wonderful draw for me. And when I look at all this—the Project and archives, the symposium and the investment through the Prichard’s generosity—where else in the United States is anything like this going on?”

Visionary Philanthropy

The Lev H. Prichard III Chair in the Study of Black Worship was established in 2021 through a visionary gift by the Prichard Family Foundation and Ella Wall Prichard, BA ’63, established in memory of Ella’s late husband, Lev H. Prichard III. Newby now assumes the role, which was created to further the research and work of the Black Gospel Music Preservation Project, related scholarship, and coordination of collaboration with stakeholders.

Mr. Prichard was an Alumnus Honoris Causa of Baylor University. He served twice on the Baylor Bear Foundation board of directors and was an honorary life member of the Lettermen's Association. Mr. Prichard was president of Prichard Oil Co. and Apco Minerals and partner in Storm-Prichard Co. In 2018, Ella Wall Prichard added published author to a list of achievements that has centered on a life of service and volunteering. Lev and Ella cared deeply for the welfare of their adopted hometown of Corpus Christi and quietly but generously supported a multitude of cultural, educational, human welfare and religious organizations in the area, a legacy Ella and her children and grandchildren carry on to this day.

Ella Prichard said that her husband would be proud of his family’s work to preserve something he loved so dearly for future generations.

“He would be thrilled about the work the Black Gospel Music Preservation Project has done,” she said. “He never wanted any recognition or publicity, and he wasn’t a scholar, so he would also find some humor that there is an academic chair named after him. He would also be very proud that we’ve been able to make a difference.”