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The Road to the Grammys: Wilberforce Waits for the Nod

(Wilberforce, Ohio) When the Grammy nominations are announced on November 10th, there’s an encouraging possibility that Wilberforce University voices and music will be included.

The 153 member Wilberforce Hounds of Sound Marching Band and the university’s choirs are featured on a newly produced gospel album, “The Now Testament”, a compilation of contemporary gospel music, with student musicians, alumni, and directors, who combined, are called The HBCU Symphony.

Wilberforce is one of 10 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) featured on the massive musical collaboration that is in line to be nominated for a Grammy, the prestigious award that recognizes the music industry’s outstanding achievements.

Jasmyn Cooper is the director of Wilberforce University’s vocal music and ensembles, a group that she has resurrected from the university’s once thriving music performance history. She leaned on her friendship with multi-disciplinary contemporary artist/songwriter, Sir the Baptist, to create a space in the album’s lineup for the Wilberforce student choir and the marching band, the Hounds of Sound, led by Dr. Virgil Goodwine. Baptist is very familiar with the Grammy community. As a producer and writer, he has won two of the golden gramophone trophies.

“At this point, it’s not about shining big bands, it’s about which band has a unique sound that can contribute to the project, and Wilberforce did.” – Sir the Baptist

Wilberforce student musicians are featured on the album’s song, Kingdom Party, with powerful lead vocals from Grammy winning gospel singer, Dorinda Clark, a member of the family vocal group, the Clark Sisters. What could appear to be a departure from the album’s gospel direction, vocals on Kingdom Party also include funk-R&B musician Bootsie Collins.  But the classically trained Cooper says the album is filled with top names from a mixed bag of music that includes gospel, opera, talkbox, R&B, funk, rap, runway, house, and spoken word.

According to Jasmyn Cooper, “It’s not just putting out albums and recording music, that’s the practicum. It’s teaching them how to be performing musicianwithin the industry while they are still in school.” She continued, “The HBCU Symphony really is an HBCU hub for musicians. We want to  make sure we create placements for grad school and professional musicians’ opportunities.”

Sophomore Joshua Smith’s tenor voice is heard on Kingdom Party. “As a school, we are all so excited to be in the possible Grammy lineup. We put in the effort for this,” he said. “The sky’s the limit.  I’ve been in a lot of choirs and coming here I didn’t know what I would find. I found a great group of talented people.”

Right now, the Wilberforce University community is inhaling and holding, waiting on the November 10th Grammy nomination announcements. That could be the musical nod of a lifetime for this small, rural institution of higher learning in Greene County, Ohio.

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