Bulletin News

African American Gospel Music Festival Celebrates 25 Years


Six choirs, including the SUNY Cortland Gospel Choir and Cortland A Cappella, will raise their voices in celebration at the 25th SUNY Cortland African American Gospel Music Festival on Sunday, Nov. 7, 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 $3 for students, $4 for senior citizens and $5 for general admission. Proceeds support the Gospel Choir 2012 international tour.

SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum will extend the welcome on behalf of the College.

Guest choirs are three choirs that participated in the very first festival, Syracuse University Black Celestial Choral Ensemble, Ithaca College Amani Gospel Singers and SUNY Oswego Gospel Choir. Also participating will be SUNY Binghamton Gospel Choir.

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 Gospel Choir selections will include several new songs: “Alpha And Omega,” “Storm Is Over,” with Jason Carriero and Melody Byron as soloists, and “The Presence,” Jason Carriero, soloist. Returning will be the popular “Oh Happy Day,” with Khalia Brown as soloist. Cortland A Cappella will present two selections. Noelle Paley, interim director of the Multicultural Life Office and lecturer in the Philosophy and Africana Studies Departments, directs this group.

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 are Andy Rudy, keyboard, Benjamin Terry, percussion, and Reginald Siegler, bass guitar, all of Syracuse, and on alto saxophone, Jamie Yaman of Cortland.

Officers for the 2010-11 school year are Farrah Predestin, president, a senior elementary education major from New York City; Brittany Mazurkiewicz, vice president, a sophomore speech and hearing science major from Batavia, N.Y.; Khalia Brown, treasurer, a sophomore speech and hearing science major from Brooklyn, N.Y.; Jason Carriero, secretary, a sophomore English education major from Hartsdale, N.Y.; Jessica Downer, Publicity, a senior English major from Haverstraw, N.Y., and Melody Byron, a sophomore childhood/early childhood education major from Bay Shore, N.Y.; and Dennis Class, tour manager, a senior adolescence education major from Bronx, 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.

SUNY Cortland’s first 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.

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.