Montclair State’s Gospel Choir Continues to Spread a Steadfast Love

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Published April 18, 2021
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The Montclarion
Praise dancer dances to “Better” by Jessica Ready at the Night of Worship event. Lynise Olivacce | The Montclarion

Montclair State University’s gospel choir, Voices of Unity (VOU), spreads the everlasting love of the Lord through music and dance and proves that their relationships are stronger than the obstacles they face.

VOU, founded in 2015 by Elijah Griffiths, a Montclair State alumnus, is a class-two organization from the Student Government Association (SGA) and is directed by Jamel Thomas, who was invited by the choir in 2019.

Since her freshman year, Shakayla Greene, a senior business major, loved hearing the choir sing and has been a member of VOU ever since. Now as the club’s president, she continues to guide them and come up with songs for the choir, while making it a fun experience for the choir members and people who are thinking about joining.

“Our purpose is to unite the campus community and to spread the gospel,” Greene said. “You could be a dance major, a business major — anyone is welcome that’s a part of Montclair State.”

Some of Voices of Unity’s choir members and Director Jamel Thomas practicing on a Wednesday evening in a Zoom call. Photo courtesy of Voices of Unity

Some of Voices of Unity’s choir members and Director Jamel Thomas practicing on a Wednesday evening in a Zoom call.
Photo courtesy of Voices of Unity

VOU hosts events at Montclair State and participates in outside events with other universities including Kean University, New York University, Delaware State University and more.

“For a couple of years, we have participated in Palm Sunday College Extravaganza,” Greene said. “And most recently [performed at] the ‘How U Nite’ event [at Heart of Worship Church].”

Voices of Unity is not limited to music. They also worship through Bible studies and dance. VOU’s event coordinator, Morgan Minatee, a junior theatre studies major, leads Bible studies by discussing books from the Bible over Zoom.

Shardae Peccoo, a junior mathematics major and praise dance coordinator, was captivated by the songs the choir was singing at the “Night of Worship” event her freshman year. Since then, Peccoo has developed VOU through dance.

“We didn’t have a praise dance team before,” Peccoo said. “It was just the choir. Someone suggested for me to do a praise dance item for the gospel choir and people loved it.”

President Shakayla Greene poses for a photo. Photo courtesy of Shakayla Greene

Shakayla Greene is the president of Voices of Unity at Montclair State.
Photo courtesy of Shakayla Greene

Peccoo continues to choreograph for VOU’s concerts and sings soprano when she is not dancing.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, VOU has made many accommodations. They continue to praise and worship using their gifts virtually. Their energy was contagious through the Zoom screen as they were practicing for their upcoming concert.

“We welcome everyone and if we’re not singing, we’re just laughing and cracking jokes and having a great time,” Greene said. “Even if you are a part of a different faith, we still welcome you.”

Some of Voices of Unity’s choir members and Director Jamel Thomas practicing the song, “This is the Sound of Victory” by Vincent Bohanan on a Wednesday evening. Photo courtesy of Voices of Unity

Some of Voices of Unity’s choir members and Director Jamel Thomas practicing the song, “This is the Sound of Victory” by Vincent Bohanan on a Wednesday evening.
Photo courtesy of Voices of Unity

Since COVID-19 conditions are becoming more manageable, the choir is preparing to meet in person.

“[In my] freshman year, we were practicing in the Student Center — people would walk past and hear us [which] drew a lot of people,” Greene said. “But now with [COVID-19], we are on Zoom for the most part… [but with] some capacities changing, we’re gonna start trying to rehearse biweekly in person.”

The choir recently performed their first concert this semester in the Student Center. “So Amazing,” by Ricky Dillard, “This is the Sound of Victory,” by Vincent Bohanan and Greene’s favorite, “You Deserve the Highest,” by Trey Mclaughlin are a few of the songs the choir currently sings.

Morgan Minatee sings “For Your Glory” by Tasha Cobbs at the Night of Worship event. Lynise Olivacce | The Montclarion

Morgan Minatee sings “For Your Glory” by Tasha Cobbs at the Night of Worship event.
Lynise Olivacce | The Montclarion

Cymphony Wallace-Ferguson, a junior alto and information technology major and secretary for VOU, has been part of the choir since her sophomore year. Despite Wallace-Ferguson recently joining, she loves the friendships she has made and claims it has boosted her confidence.

“I like the sense of community and the strong friendships I’ve built,” Wallace-Ferguson said. “You always have people that you come back to and [VOU helped] me to put myself out there.”

Being away from home, Peccoo says her favorite thing about VOU is finding people her age who believe in the abundant love of God in an informal way. Walking past the Student Center her freshman year, Peccoo loved the energy the choir brought when they were singing together and remembers wanting that experience for herself.

“We truly are a family,” Peccoo said. “With school and life, it gets hard, so finding like-minded people around my age who love praising the Lord through music and dance without judging anyone is a blessing and a beautiful thing.”

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