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African American Gospel Music Festival Features Six Choirs


Five guest choirs will raise their voices in praise with the SUNY Cortland Gospel Choir during the 24th African American Gospel Music Festival on Sunday, Nov. 1, at the College.

Presented by the College’s Africana Studies Department, the festival begins at 4 p.m. in Old Main Brown Auditorium. The event is open to the public. Tickets are $2 for students, $4 for faculty, staff and senior citizens and $5 for general admission. Proceeds support the Gospel Choir Scholarship, the Programming Fund and the 2010 Northeastern Spring Tour.

Noelle Paley, SUNY Cortland interim director of the Multicultural Life Office, will extend the welcome on behalf of the College. Pastor Rita Wright will present the invocation.

Guest choirs this year are Binghamton University Gospel Choir, directed by Denise Livermore, Cherick Skinner and Nickecia Alder; Ithaca College’s Amani Gospel Singers, directed by Leah Young and David Cruz; the SUNY Oneonta Gospel Choir; the SUNY Oswego Gospel Choir with Hamal Strayhorn directing; and Syracuse University’s Black Celestial Choral Ensemble, directed by Byron F. Canada.

The SUNY Cortland Gospel Choir will open the event. Each choir has been asked to present two songs, one gospel and one a cappella. A mass choir, featuring all the choirs together, will serve as the finale.

SUNY Cortland’s opening selections will include “How Much We Can Bear,” by Hezekiah Walker; “Bless His Holy Name,” by Lawrence Matthews, and “This Is Who I Am.” Accompanying the choir will be Yazmin McZorn-Hines as soloist, Jamie Yaman on saxophone and Robert Brown on trombone.

Selections for SUNY Cortland during the second half of the festival will be “I’m Covered,” by John P. Kee, “Make Me Over,” by Tonex, with soloist Dasheen Ellis and instrumental selection, “Hosanna,” with Jamie Yaman, saxophone, Robert Brown, trombone, Andy Rudy, keyboard, Reggie Seigler, bass guitar, and Benjamin Terry on percussion.

The mass choir selections are “Faithful Is Our God” by Hezekiah Walker and “Oh Happy Day” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers.

Directing Cortland’s Gospel Choir will be Robert Brown, a SUNY Cortland adjunct instructor in Africana studies. Brown is also a music teacher at Blodgett Elementary School in Syracuse, N.Y., and serves as music director of the New Life Community Church in Syracuse. Choir musicians, from Syracuse, are: Andy Rudy on keyboard, Benjamin Terry on percussion and Reginald Siegler on bass guitar; and, from Cortland, Jamie Yaman on alto saxophone.

Officers for the 2009-10 school year are: Leah Horning, president, a junior health science major from Clifton Park, N.Y.; Cassandra Crisitella, vice president, a junior early childhood and childhood education major from Vestal, N.Y.; Dasheen Ellis, co-treasurer, a freshman English major from Tomkins Cove, N.Y.; Paula Gooding, co-treasurer, a senior biomedical sciences major from Queens Village, N.Y.; Khalia Brown, secretary, a freshman pre-major from Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Alaina Latella, tour manager, a senior childhood and early childhood education and mathematics dual major from Burlington Flats, N.Y. Dot Thomas ’77 of Cortland, N.Y., continues to serve as alumni officer.

The SUNY Cortland Gospel Choir, which is comprised of college, high school and community members, has been recognized for its outstanding performances at the National Collegiate Gospel Competition in New York City. This past April, the Gospel Choir toured Germany, giving concerts in Aachen, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt. The choir spent four nights in the Netherlands and also visited Belgium. Previously, the choir toured internationally in England in 2007 and Canada in 2008. In addition to a diverse group of students from SUNY Cortland including international students, the choir also includes members of the community, alumni and SUNY Cortland faculty.

SUNY Cortland’s African American Gospel Music Festival began in 1985 with the Cortland County Council of Churches, the Interfaith Center and the SUNY Cortland Black Student Union as sponsors. Over the years, students from England, Africa, South America, Germany, Austria and Japan have participated. This year, the choir has members from Japan, Haiti and Jamaica.

Part of the College’s Africana Studies Department, the choir is supported by the Center for Gender and Intercultural Studies, the Alumni Affairs Office, the Cortland College Foundation, the Division of Student Affairs, the Offices of the President, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the student activity fee.

For more information, contact Distinguished Service Professor Samuel L. Kelley at (607) 753-4104 or Distinguished Teaching Professor Seth Asumah at (607) 753-2064.