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Abbington, James


Born in Gary, West Virginia, Abbington received his musical education at Morehouse College (BA) and the University of Michigan (MMus, DMA). He is currently Associate Professor of Church Music and Worship at Candler School of Theology, Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and adjunct professor of Church Music at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He was recently reappointed National Director of Music for the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. and has been the Executive Editor of the African American Church Music Series published by GIA Publications (Chicago) for over 20 years. Abbington is a member of the Historic Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta where he serves as the Director of Music Ministries and Church Organist.


Abbington was Chair of the Core Committee for the historic One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism: An African American Ecumenical Hymnal released in 2018 which consisted of music directors from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Church of God in Christ, Black Episcopalian Church, United Church of Christ (Congregational), Disciples of Christ (Christian Church), and Seventh-day Adventists. He is the author of numerous articles and publications, including Let the Church Sing On! Reflections on Black Sacred Music (2009); Readings in African American Church Music and Worship, Volume 1 (2001); Volume 2 (2014); and King of Kings: Organ Music of Black Composers, Past and Present, Volume 1 (2008), Volume 2 (2009), and Volume 3 (2017). 


In 2015 Abbington was honored by The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada (The HSUSC) by being named a Fellow of The Hymn Society. This award, the highest honor given by the organization, was conferred because of Abbington’s work as a scholar, editor, and practitioner of church music with a particular emphasis on African-American congregational song. He is the second Black musician to receive this honor; the first was Harry T. Burleigh, pioneer of the arranged and concert Negro spiritual in 1944.  Speaking of his friend and colleague, Robert Batastini (retired vice president and senior editor of GIA Publications), remarked, “In the very DNA of [Abbington] . . . one would find a compelling devotion for the music of the church, and a compelling passion for being an instrument of that song; endless praise for our God.”


Dr. Abbington is in constant demand as an organist, lecturer, clinician, choral conductor, consultant, and scholar.