This interview took place on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014.
Erin Wade: Tell me a little bit about the Gospel Workshop.
Xavier Mckinzie: The Gospel Workshop brings people together. We provide food and, over the span of two days, we have three-hour rehearsals, from 6 to 9 [p.m.] on one day and the next day from 9 [a.m.] to 1 [p.m.], and then we have a performance to show the songs that we practiced — to perform them.
The Gospel Workshop was originally intended to motivate people to join the Gospel Choir. So, we started out with a sign-in list in order to get people to sign up. [Participants] didn’t have to join Gospel Choir, but it definitely motivated people to sing in public and to invite all their friends.
It’s a really big social event, and it helps to promote the identity of the choir.
To join Gospel Choir, you don’t have to be of any faith — we have an atheist in Gospel Choir — you just have to want to sing the music. There are no try-outs — you don’t have to be a specific level of singer to join the group.
Erin: So you’re really involved in the Gospel Choir?
Xavier: Yes. It’s my favorite club on campus.
Erin: What’s your voice part?
Xavier: I’m a bass. [Laughs.]
Erin: [Laughs.] Yeah, that’s not surprising. So, why do you like the Gospel Choir so much?
Xavier: It’s just — I can’t speak for any of the other clubs on campus, but when I’m in Gospel [Choir], it feels totally disconnected from school or from work.
It’s just a peaceful environment, and everyone’s just able to sing. No one’s hidden from a solo; anyone can be selected.
And a lot of people don’t have faith in their own voice.
And gospel, no matter what song you’re singing, as long as you feel it personally or it touches something that you can relate to, you get this certain groove that’s just like, “Just go with it.” And you sing.
It’s something you feel, rather than something you have to do in a club.
Erin: That’s really cool. How did you feel that the workshop itself went?
Xavier: Well, at first, our performance started at 3 [p.m.] and no one showed up — it was only the choir and a few faculty members — so I was a little nervous that no one was going to show up to the concert.
But we really had a good turnout.
One thing you learn about the workshop is no matter who shows up or how many people we sing to, as long as we know we had a good time, we can celebrate. Even if it’s [with] the choir itself.
Erin: What songs did you sing?
Xavier: One of our songs was “Strong Finish,” and we actually got a guest member to come sing for that. I think that was really one of my favorite songs. I don’t know how to describe it to you. It’s just something you have to be there for.
Erin: Isn’t that kind of the beauty of gospel music in general?
Xavier: Yeah, it’s just really hard to define. But, you know, once you’re there in the moment, it’s something you can’t forget.