In the 1980s, the student organization that is now Sankofa, the Black Student Union, formed a Gospel choir, "Natural Sounds" mostly comprised of campus members but with some collaboration with the Geneva community.
"There was a great deal of talent on campus then, as I'm sure there is now," says Blue, who explains the audition process will be not so much to exclude people from the choir as to really find the proper placement for each person in it. "I don't believe I've ever excluded anyone from a choir. Our goal is to give people a chance to get their hands on a mic and try something in a supportive environment where people want you to succeed."
Among the first to express interest in joining the choir is Darnell Pierce, assistant director of residential education and club sports. "I love gospel music and think that there are so many other Gospel music enthusiasts on our campus," he says. "When Patti shared her idea with me, I told her I'd love to join, but that I could not sing. Patti assured that she could help improve my voice and that was all I needed to hear!"
Blue has worked with diverse community groups and people of all ages in leading and training choirs. According to her, Gospel music provides the opportunity for strong vocalists, novice singers and the inexperienced alike.
"The execution of the singing in this form is not necessarily complex - it can be, but it isn't necessarily. It is something that can be learned quickly without a lot of training yet gives creative license to soloists looking to demonstrate their abilities," she explains.
Ideally, she would like to see the choir singing in the chapel at least once a month for a service and hopes to premier the choir at a holiday-season celebration. "I'd like us to be ready for the Mr. Hobart competition, but I'm sure we can be ready to debut sometime in the holiday season," she says.
Ultimately, Blue would like to collaborate with the music department to broaden the scope of the Gospel choir, and even perform internationally. "It's all going to depend on what the singers and musicians ultimately want to do, where they want to take it," she notes. "I would like as much input from them as possible to realize the choir, including what they would like to name it. They may want to revive the tradition of Natural Sounds or may want to come up with something new. I'd like it to be guided by them."
At the first meeting, she hopes to gauge interest in the Gospel choir among the campus community, meet singers and musicians and hold auditions, and begin to feel out best days and times for future meetings and rehearsals.
"The Gospel choir is a way of reaching out and uplifting people while giving them a way to utilize their gifts and talents. Gospel music is powerful, joyful and just touches you. It ministers to your spirit."
The Gospel choir's first meeting and auditions will take place in the chapel at 8 p.m. For more information, contact Blue at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patty Blue hosts the weekly radio show "The Gospel Outreach" each Sunday from 7a.m. to 9a.m. on WEOS 89.5 and 90.3 fm.