Early in the semester, Gospel Choir Director David Coleman announced to his students that Gospel Choir was officially not invited to sing at the Homecoming Alumni Banquet this year, an annual tradition. The reason cited: “Quality control.”
As a guitarist in Gospel Choir, I can speak plainly by saying the choir was heartbroken and, quite honestly, offended by this news.
Let me preface, I understand the reasoning behind the decision by those in charge of the banquet. The Gospel Choir’s performance last year simply did not meet the standards of the Music Department, so at face value, it’s logical not to invite us back. A major point of the banquet is to encourage ENC’s alumni to financially support the school, and some might believe that a subpar performance might discourage them from giving as generously.
While I understand the reasoning, I still cannot agree with the decision. As a student of ENC who strongly supports the school, I find it to be my right and responsibility to voice my objections and express concern about this decision I find to be unjust.
The fact that Gospel Choir was uninvited to return due to “quality control” does not indicate that the Gospel Choir has an inherent lack of “quality.” It simply reveals a lack of perspective on the decision maker’s side.
Allow me to provide said perspective. In Sept. 2014, the Gospel Choir saw a time of immense transition. The founding director Michael Payne stepped down, and the Music Department hired Priscilla Ozodo to take his place. After the switch in leadership, the choir saw a drastic decrease in membership, plummeting from over 70 members to less than 20, with the remaining group consisting almost entirely of newcomers. Quite literally, we started a new Gospel Choir.
By the time the choir established a stable roster, we had less than three weeks to prepare for our first performance together, the Alumni Banquet. As a professional musician, I find it important to note that no musical group, regardless of style, is prepared to perform after only three or four practices. Regardless, that was the expectation, and our debut was slated to be in front of the largest, most intimidating crowd we could encounter. As it happened, this initial performance would be our least satisfactory.
Though we struggled, it would be shortsighted to assume that the choir wouldn’t develop and improve throughout the academic year. Under Ozodo’s guidance, we worked hard to improve on the foundation we had built; the choir grew stronger.
We improved, but quite ironically, our two next major mishaps occurred on ENC’s campus: our performance in the RCA and our worship night in Wollaston Church. Both were due to a lack of proper amplification for the new smaller, quieter choir. I wonder if these instances inspired a belief on campus that Gospel Choir had never improved from day one.
Regardless, our choir had matured and gained confidence, which carried over into the current academic year. We saw yet another transition as Coleman assumed directing responsibilities, but this time the roster remained much more consistent. Coleman is building on the eagerness and fearlessness Ozodo established in us, and has taken the Gospel Choir to a whole new level.
Last year, we were unprepared to sing at the Alumni Banquet for our first appearance. This year, however, we were ready. Had the heads of the banquet followed up with the choir and given us even the slightest chance to prove ourselves, I guarantee we would have changed their minds. But, they didn’t. They falsely presumed that we remained the same feeble choir we were early last year; a mistake rooted in assumption.
As a member of the Gospel Choir, A Cappella Choir, and the ENC community as a whole, my final request is this: We, as a school, need to pay more attention to progress, and give each other a chance. Assumptions lead to misunderstandings, and a lack of context and reaching out evidently results in poor decisions that ostracize students.