Smith, Ronald Richard, 1938-

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Ronald Richard Smith was a member of the Folklore faculty at Indiana University from 1978-1997. His research centered around traditional music, festivals, movement and dance, and religion within the African Diaspora, with a focus on Caribbean peoples. In addition to his teaching responsibilities at IU, Smith also served as associate dean of the Office of Research and University Graduate School from 1988-1996, headed the IU Ethnomusicology Program, and spent one year as director of the Archives of Traditional Music.

From the description of Ronald Richard Smith papers, 1973-1996, bulk 1978-1985. (Indiana University). WorldCat record id: 41401289

Ronald Richard Smith was born in New York on October 29, 1938. He was one of five children (four boys and one girl) born to Arthur Smith and Lucille Locket Smith. He attended New York’s Music and Art High School before going on to study ethnomusicology at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He graduated from Hunter cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in music in 1960. From there he went on to teach music, math, and general science courses in the New York Public School system for ten years. During his time with the New York Public Schools he served as an assistant school principal, conducted two choruses and directed a creative arts program for disadvantaged youth.

Smith also continued his education during this time. He attended classes at Hunter College, Brooklyn College, and the Mannes College of Music, studying music and ethnomusicology. In 1970, he received an IU fellowship to study ethnomusicology under folklorist George H. List, and in 1971 Smith earned his master’s degree. Two Ford Fountain fellowships and a year in Panama and Columbia on a Fulbright-Hayes fellowship allowed Smith to continue on towards his doctorate, which he earned from IU in 1976.

After teaching music at Middlebury College and Bowdoin College, Smith joined the IU faculty in 1978. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he served as associate dean of the IU Office of Research and University Graduate School from 1988-1996. He also directed the Archives of Traditional Music from 1981-1982 and the Ethnomusicology Program from 1979-1981, 1983-1984 and 1987-1988. Additionally, Smith was a member of the program faculties of Latin American and Caribbean Studies and African Studies.

Smith was a member of several of the fellowship programs at IU. He directed the Committee for Institutional Cooperation Minorities Fellowship Program (IU Archives Collection C144) and served as a member and chairperson of the Ford Foundation Fellowship Selection Panels in the areas of music, art, communication, folklore, and ethnomusicology.

One of Smith’s noteworthy accomplishments during his time at IU includes the development of several computer databases that were used in cataloging extensive collections of data in various IU archives. These databases were a product of his work teaching students and faculty how to apply computer-assisted analysis to the study of folk music, literature, and material culture.

Smith’s research centered on traditional music, festivals, movement and dance, and religion within the African Diaspora; he was especially interested in Caribbean peoples. His research took him outside of the United stated to Panama, Columbia, Spain, Ghana and Malawi. His research projects included the Festival of the Black Christ in Panama, and the history and development of religious brotherhoods for free and slave blacks in Spain. His research was published in various book chapters, articles and reviews.

Smith was a member of the American Musical Instrument Society, the American Folklore Society, the National Council for Black Studies, the American Association for State and Local History, the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Association of African and Afro-American Folklorists, and the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Prof. Smith passed away in Bloomington on June 18, 1997.

From the guide to the Ronald Richard Smith papers, 1973-1996, bulk 1978-1985, (Indiana University Office of University Archives and Records Management

Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country


Birth 1938

Death 1997



Ark ID: w63b66m1

SNAC ID: 41003931