Mississippi State University’s Black Voices Gospel Choir will host its 50th concert and celebration 4 p.m. Saturday, April 30, in the Colvard Student Union Foster Ballroom.
With the choir performing its first concert in April 1971, the group will be celebrating and honoring the legacy of the performers that came before them.
The group stressed it is not just a campus organization but also a ministry. The group's motto is, "To praise and not to perform, to exalt and not to entertain, for service and not for show; this is why we sing, to the glory of his name."
Natalie Fields, a senior culinology student, is the president of Black Voices. She said her hopes for the event are that people are touched by their performance.
"My hopes for the event are that if we touch at least one person, then we did an effective job," she said. "I want to win more souls for Christ, because if we’re the only Jesus that somebody sees, I want them to see him in the purest form which is freedom and love."
This year, the group will be bringing Grammy-nominated gospel singer Ricky Dillard to MSU. Hosting an artist is a new experience many group members have not had the opportunity to have. Dillard is also hosting a gospel workshop with the students the day before the concert to help them prepare and teach them new techniques.
Peyton Brown, a senior educational psychology student, is the vice president of the group. He said he was excited to have Dillard sing with them.
"I’m super excited for the workshop," he said. "I’ve been singing all my life, but I’ve never had the opportunity to have a hands-on workshop with a person well known like Ricky Dillard. I’m excited to learn and excited to see his view and his presence of God."
Black Voices is a student-led organization, meaning all of the directors and musicians are students. So having a trained artist come to work with the group is something they greatly appreciate, members said.
Fields also expressed the gratitude she feels about Dillard coming to work with the group.
"I think it will be an interesting change to get direction from somebody, not that we don’t know what we’re doing," Fields said, "but from somebody who knows what they’re doing. It will be nice to see how our dynamic and sound can change with him."
Just as with any other group or campus ministry, students leave every day. Since both Brown and Fields are seniors, they have seen many of their group members come and go. But one thing that holds constant with the group is their understanding of their purpose and their love for God, even if their sound may change with the changing of members.
Brown said the group does not see members leaving as a sad occurrence but as a positive learning opportunity.
"There has been changes in voices, changes in singing, and I feel like some people can look at it as maybe a bad change or some people will look at it as we don’t sound the same. But I look at it as a we’re just in a season of change," Brown said. "Anytime someone is in a season of change, that means things are working for the better. And I think that is the epitome of Black Voices right now. We’re just in a changing season with things getting better. It’s only up from here."
Le’Roy Davenport, assistant director of outreach for Holmes Cultural Diversity Center and adviser for Black Voices, said he wants the MSU and Starkville community to see how much work the group has put into the performance.
"I want everyone to see the hard work the students have put in, to support the MSU students who have put in a lot of hard work. And secondly, it’s not every day people get a chance to see a Grammy award winning artist for free," Davenport said. "I also just hope that God be praised. We want to make sure that we can allow the Starkville and campus community to enjoy the concert."