George L. Starks, Jr., Professor of Music and Director of the Jazz Orchestra, Jazzet, and Saxtet at Drexel University, is an ethnomusicologist with a specialty in New World Musics of African origin. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in music from North Carolina A&T State University and the University of Illinois respectively, and the Ph.D.in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University.
Scholar/musician, he has conducted ethnomusicological field research in Barbados, Jamaica, the Bahamas, the South Carolina Sea Islands, and Anderson County, South Carolina. His publications are on sacred and secular musics, rural and urban musics, traditional and contemporary musics. Dr. Starks served as associate editor of the International Jazz Archives Journal, as contributing editor to The Black Perspective in Music, the pioneering scholarly journal on African derived musics, and as a member of Call and Response, a think tank on African American music. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts.
Dr. Starks has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was commissioned to compose and perform the music for the soundtrack of Trading Church Street: Pride, Prejudice, and a Parking Lot, a documentary on what was once a thriving African American business district in Anderson, South Carolina. He also appears in BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, an internationally acclaimed documentary on the life and work of author, activist, and Philadelphia's first Poet Laureate, Sonia Sanchez.
Dr. Starks wrote the Program Note for Opera Philadelphia's 2015 world premier of the opera Charlie Parker's Yardbird, and for the 2017 presentation of the opera by the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In connection with the world premiere, he presented lectures on Charlie Parker for a select audience of Opera Philadelphia patrons.
He has lectured and/or performed at Harvard University, Yale University, Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, St. Joseph's University, Georgia Regents University Augusta, University of Delaware, University of Massachusetts, University of South Carolina, and Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, among other colleges and universities'
A critically acclaimed saxophonist, he has performed with musicians ranging from Ghanaian master drummer Kobena Adzenyah to avant-garde trumpeter Clifford Thornton to vocalist Roy Hamilton to the Charlottesville Symphony Orchestra.