A free concert on Friday, May 30 is the culmination of a new School of Music class in gospel music. Phyllis Byrdwell, who earned her master’s from the school in 1995, taught the class and will be leading the performance.
“It isn’t the first time there’s been a gospel class at the University,” Byrdwell said. “A graduate student taught one for a couple of years, but the School of Music didn’t know it existed.”
This year’s class was the result of student demand, Byrdwell said. A teacher at Lakeside School and the director of music at Mount Zion Baptist Church, she was asked to be the teacher.
About 50 students registered for the class, with another four or five sitting in. And although gospel music originated in the African American community, the students run the gamut of ethnicities.
Byrdwell said she wanted the class to have an understanding of the music they were singing, so they were given a number of readings, which were discussed in class. “It’s important to me that people not sing in a vacuum,” Byrdwell said. “I want them to have an understanding of the music’s origin, why it came to be and how it evolved.”
She said the hardest thing for students who hadn’t sung gospel before was to learn to sing, move and clap all at the same time, but she’s happy with how well they’ve learned.
The concert will consist of 10 pieces — some of them traditional “call and response” gospel and some more contemporary. The program includes Siyahamba, a South African processional; The Power Belongs to God, Hosanna, and Total Praise. The concert is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Ethnic Cultural Center.