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Female Gospel Ensemble Raises Voices


When SUNY Cortland junior Karlene Anderson first wanted to start a small chorale derived from the SUNY Cortland Gospel Choir, only females were interested.

As a result, Anderson and the ensemble chose a name, Proverbs 31, to reflect a Bible verse considered to be an ode to Christian women.

Directed by Anderson, the choral ensemble is made up of Jocenelle Alcime, Crissana Christie, Lisa Hamilton, Margarita Harper-Ottey, Stephanie Hector, Laura Marte and Jennifer Pharnord. In addition to these core eight Gospel Choir members, the ensemble also features Carlos McArthur.

“Proverbs 31 is a platform for us to embrace our musical culture,” said member Christie, a senior biomedical sciences major from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Anderson, a junior childhood education major from Cambria Heights, N.Y., said she always has loved to sing. A part of the SUNY Cortland Gospel Choir since her first year at the College, in Fall 2014 her desire to direct a choir led her to form Proverbs 31.

“Proverbs 31 is the example that we are supposed to be to other young women,” Anderson said. “We try to stay strong in our faith and encourage our neighbors.”

More than a singing group of humble young women, Proverbs 31 is a family, she said.

“It’s like gaining a bunch of siblings,” Anderson said. “We have a bond for life.”

The chorale connects in a spiritual bond of fellowship outside of rehearsal, for example, by making meals together.

“One night we were having a dinner and making toasts and after I spoke all of us embraced each other,” said Hector, a childhood/early childhood education major from North Baldwin, N.Y. “I felt a part of the group and a true member. I knew they honestly loved me and cared about me.”

After Anderson graduates this May, the legacy of Proverbs 31 will shift into Hector’s hands.

“Our message behind Proverbs 31 will continue to stay true,” Hector said. “We will inspire you and push you forward.”

With a songbook similar to that of the SUNY Cortland Gospel Choir, Proverbs 31 members practice to harmonize on a higher level than the Gospel Choir. Students wishing to join the group are encouraged to join Gospel Choir first before they audition to be a part of the small group.

Rehearsals take place at 7 p.m. Sundays in the Dowd Fine Arts Center, Room 111. The Gospel Choir practices at 7 p.m. Wednesdays in the same location.

The Gospel Choir 2016 concert will feature both groups at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 17, in Old Main Brown Auditorium.

The Gospel Choir and Proverbs 31 are supported by Alumni Engagement; Cortland College Foundation; Division of Student Affairs; President’s Office; Educational Opportunity Program (EOP); Multicultural Life and Diversity Office; departments of communication studies and political science; and Student Government Association.

For more information on the Gospel Choir and Proverbs 31 performances, contact Seth Asumah, SUNY Cortland distinguished teaching professor and chair of political science, at 607-753-20644; Deyquan Bowens; or Deborah Dintino.

Prepared by public relations intern Bethany Lunden