Grammy Award-Winning Gospel Group Brings Energy and Spirit to Colgate Campus


Senior Jazmyn McKoy brings talent to the Colgate stage, impressing the entire audience.

Keara Greene

“Do we sit down now … or no … ?” my friend turns and asks, as if I am any less lost than she is. I just shrug, and mumble some vague form of “I don’t know.” After all, I have never been to an event like GospelFest before.

The night starts out like a typical event, with an introduction and thanks by  the Associate University Chaplain and Protestant Campus Minister, Corey MacPherson. Senior Jazmyn McKoy opens by singing a beautiful rendition of “Keep the Dream Alive,” and Colgate’s own Sojourners Gospel Choir follows with two songs. But it is when co-presidents, junior Erica Nathan and sophomore Paul Jackson, welcome onto the stage Walt Whitman, his wife and the Soul Children of Chicago that things begin to pick up. Whitman repeatedly urges us to stand, to sing, to be involved – ultimately to participate. This is not a passive concert where you just sit and listen. This is a concert where by the end, people are dancing in the aisles with the choir to a rendition of “We are Family.”

GospelFest is hosted each year by University Church, and it brings in popular gospel groups and singers for a night. The popularity of Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago in 2016 prompted their return this year. The group has run for over thirty years, performing across the country and the globe, as well as for both U.S. presidents Bush and Obama. They have won both a Grammy and Stellar Award, among many other accolades, and have made an appearance in the Emmy-nominated show “Empire.” Their goal is “to utilize music as the motivator and catalyst to inspire young people throughout the world to have faith in themselves, each other and God,”a goal they pass with flying colors.

The Soul Children of Chicago’s unparalled energy makes the group truly stand out. They sing each new song with more fervor and zeal than the last, while Walt Whitman glides across the stage, encouraging the choir and the audience. They bring in sounds from gospel to African to rock and to Beethoven, executing each with their own twist and spirit.

A lot of work went into GospelFest, but it was well worth it. 

As sophomore Michael Rodriguez said, “To everyone and anyone who was either involved in or helped make GospelFest a reality, THAT WAS AMAZING!” 

This was indeed the general consensus as the end of the night rolled around, with Walt Whitman inviting Sojourners Gospel Choir and members of the audience onto the stage. All the choirs flooded into the aisles, with the audience dancing and singing along, right up until the end, with the choir still belting songs with just as much energy as they had in the beginning.