For more than 20 years, Dr. James E. Mumford built an esteemed career as director of the African American Choral Ensemble and the IU Soul Revue at Indiana University. These ensembles, which are part of the African American Arts Institute (AAAI) and administered by IU’s Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA), firmly established Mumford as an icon on the Bloomington campus and brought prominence to the university through the performances of his students. Throughout his career, Mumford received many awards recognizing his groundbreaking work, including the OVPDEMA Distinguished Inclusive Excellence Award. Moreover, through his work and contributions, Mumford became well known as a mentor to students and faculty alike.
Born in Kinston, North Carolina, Mumford was an academic prodigy. Along with his twin brother, Mumford was babysat by his aunt, a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse outside of town. During that time, he absorbed the lessons and instruction provided. By the time Mumford entered school in Kinston, he was so far ahead of his peers that he skipped ahead several grades, eventually attending college at Virginia State University at the age of 15.
Mumford began his teaching career at a small high school in Centreville, Maryland, where some of his students surpassed him in terms of age. From there, Mumford taught in Camden, New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. His choir at Camden High School would receive widespread recognition under Mumford’s leadership.
A classmate from Virginia State who went on to teach at IU—Dr. Michael Gordon, a retired professor at IU’s Jacobs School of Music, Dean of Students, and the first director of the African American Choral Ensemble—suggested that Mumford pursue his Ph.D. at IU Bloomington. Mumford followed that advice and later graduated from the IU Jacobs School of Music with a Ph.D. in music education and minors in voice and ethnomusicology.
Mumford’s work with the African American Arts Institute began in 1976 when he served as vocal coach for the IU Soul Revue under director Portia K. Maultsby. In 1980, Mumford took over as director of the IU Soul Revue. In 1983, while completing his final year as Soul Revue director, he became director of the African American Choral Ensemble and continued in that role until his retirement in 2006. During his tenure as director, the choral ensemble premiered Mumford’s compositions, “Let My People Go” and S.T. - Sojourner Truth: Choral Portraits.
Recognized as a “Master Teacher,” Mumford was named a recipient of IU’s prestigious Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching (FACET) Award in 1993. Other notable distinctions include the Bloomington Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Award in 2006 and the 2006 Groups Scholars Program Lifetime Achievement Award. Mumford is a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.