Gospel Choir Raises Voices, Lifts Spirits, Wins Awards
July 17, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Marissa Nunez
|The Soul Lifters Gospel Choir has been sharing fellowship, and the word of God, through song since 1971. This year's group, seen above before a performance at Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville, was recently recognized as the best large division school choir by the National Baptist Student Unions. —Photo by Brian Blalock|
In the fall of 1971, several students living in the Smith-Kirkley Hall at Sam Houston State University came together to form a group dedicated to worshipping God and uplifting and unifying the student body, as well as the surrounding Huntsville community, through the power of music and song.
They called themselves the Soul Lifters Gospel Choir.
For the past 40 years, choir members have lived for their namesake, and in March, raising their voices earned them a crown of their own, when they were recognized as the No. 1 group in the large division at the National Baptist Student Union Retreat.
“This organization has attained an amazing achievement, and Soul Lifters reflects the quality of students that SHSU produces,” said Victoria White, off-campus adviser for Soul Lifters and NBSUR advisory council member.
The retreat was created to help bring together Baptist Student Unions from across the nation for a time of regrouping and to prepare students for recruiting new members into their local BSU’s through the teachings of fundamental biblical principles.
The winners were selected based on the overall quality of the performance, stage presence, and ability to engage the audience, attire, presentation, and evangelism.
“This was our first time winning first (place) in the last 10 years, so knowing how hard we had worked and how much closer we had gotten in the process made the win that much sweeter,” said Soul Lifters director Bethany Davis.
In preparation for the retreat, Davis and the 45 student members put in countless hours of rehearsal on top of the groups weekly practice.
Because members come from all across campus, former students from SHSU’s College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication helped train the group to ensure optimal pronunciation and vocal clarity during the performance.
Soul Men...and Women
“Words can’t describe how it feels to see all of the hard work, long hours, and prayers manifest themselves,” junior criminal justice major and alto Janise Taylor said. “We were able to minister and come out as winners; we serve a faithful God.”
The organization has a rich history on the SHSU campus, and in Texas, as the oldest collegiate choir group in the state. They have routinely participated in various events with one goal in mind, according to Davis.
They have performed at events such as the annual Tree of Light Ceremony; the annual Thanksgiving dinner, hosted by the Theta Ro chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.; the Second Annual Pan-Hellenic Legacy Gala; Raven’s Call Memorial Service; and even the investiture of SHSU President Dana Gibson.
In 2011, the group won the Outstanding Religious Organization award and the overall Outstanding Student Organization award at SHSU’s official university award ceremony the Sammy’s.
“We want to show this community and our peers a relative approach to Christian worship through the gift of music, performed by a group of young adults who love God and want others to come to know and love him,” Davis said.
However, for Soul Lifters members both past and present, the awards and recognitions are just an added bonus on top of the valuable lessons they learn, the everlasting friendships they form, and the ability to spread the word of God.
Taylor said the organization has helped her to learn the importance of trust and faith.
“I have learned that the more one trusts God and walk by faith which is blind and not by the sight of the situation, that he will turn things around for your victory,” she said.
Former assistant choir director Roland Hendricks said that during his time with the group in the late 70s, through praying, fasting, and reading the Bible he became more spiritually enriched. He continues to apply this to his life today.
His daughter, senior English major Ashlyn Hendricks, who carries on the family tradition of Soul Lifters participation by singing with the choir as a tenor, has seen the importance of leadership, working with others to achieve a common goal, and family.
“I have learned that for a ministry to be effective everyone has to be on one accord, staying focused is key and that being a leader will take you out of your comfort zone but it is only going to make you better,” she said.
“Soul Lifters has also taught me about the importance of family, and over the past two years, they have become my family,” Hendricks said. “We have grown so close to each other, it is simply amazing getting to grow together in Christ as a family.
“Knowing that you can talk, joke, laugh, cry, sing, and pray together is something I am forever grateful for."
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