Temara Cross, the vice president of UB Gospel Choir, says she believes gospel music is not exclusive to a specific race.
And she doesn’t think it’s exclusive to a set of skills or someone’s faith, either.
When recruiting for the choir, Cross, a junior public health major and pre-med student, is more focused on students’ willingness to help grow the group.
The UB Gospel Choir is a student-run organization, which has performed on and off-campus at various colleges, churches and weddings. The choir, formed in 1972, currently consists of roughly 10 members and is involved with other ministries like praise team and praise dance. It prides itself on its inclusive and family-like environment, and is open to all students, regardless of race or denomination. Recently, the choir has been preparing for its Nov. 10 concert. The concert’s theme is “God’s Plan” based on the Drake song of the same name, and the bible verse Jeremiah 29:11.
“UB is so diverse, so there would be no sense in closing UB Gospel Choir off to primarily black people,” Cross said, “There are multiple cultures that are Christian, so it doesn’t necessarily mean gospel music is for [one group].”
The group begins practice by joining hands and bowing their heads in prayer. Their focus: to join in spirituality and prepare to share their message, God’s message.
Toyosi Oladepo, the president of the choir and a senior computer science and media studies major, says that the group is open to all students despite performing Christian songs.
“We are a gospel choir, we are a ministry, we are a group that does things like sing Christian songs, but everyone is welcome,” Oladepo said.
The group, which practices two times a week for two hours each session, hopes to expand its members and Oladepo hopes the stereotype of gospel choirs doesn’t deter new members from joining.
“We are inclusive, but people don’t know that, I would say, because when we think about gospel, you think about African-American people,” Oladepo said.
Members of the choir say the welcoming environment has allowed them to develop their music skills. Charles Sanders, a junior psychology major said being involved in UB Gospel Choir has allowed him to step outside of his comfort zone.
“I used to tell everybody, ‘I’m not singing in front of anybody.’ Like this thing is for the bathroom only, like when I’m in the shower. But when [Toyosi] asked me [to join] I was like, ‘I’ll take a chance, why not?’” Sanders said, “I slowly started to become more comfortable with it, even though I don’t know any technical music jargon.”
To prepare for its concert, the choir has been practicing several songs, including “Perfect Praise” and “Love Theory.”
Members of the choir are excited to perform the latter. Andrea Botchway, a sophomore intended nursing major in the choir, remembers screaming when the song was announced.
“You should have seen my reactions. So, ‘Love Theory’ is my favorite song,” Botchway said. “I’m so excited to perform that song.”
Oladepo hopes that students who are unfamiliar with the choir will come to its concert and that UB Gospel Choir will have more opportunities to participate in big events.
“We always like to have our concert as our big event, and even at that we don’t usually have as many people as we want to come to the event,” Oladepo said. “I think our goal is to have other big events around the semester and just have new events that people can come to, so we can reach people more and also collaborate with other clubs.”
Oladepo hopes students will be encouraged to step out of their comfort zones and join the choir.
“Just come and check us out. I feel like any people who want to grow musically can actually grow through the gospel choir, because personally, I have,” Oladepo said. “We’re really open, nice people. Just come through and check us out. It’s a fun place to be.”
Julianna Tracey is the senior arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com and @JTraceySpec.
Julianna Tracey is a freshman music theater and history double major. She’s excited to explore all that the Buffalo arts scene has to offer.