Voices of Praise members uplift each other through worship

Voices of Praise members uplift each other through worship

Voices of Praise members uplift each other through worship
October 23
12:00 2018

Monday nights are rarely the most exciting day of the week, but that is not the case for on-campus organization Voices of Praise.

The power of about 30 voices singing all at once fuels them as they gather at Denton Wesley Foundation for their weekly choir rehearsal and Bible study. Founded in the fall of 1976, Voices of Praise is a gospel choir and worship group for UNT students.

Biochemistry senior Annika Tidwell has been a member since March 2017, and was named president of the organization in May after previously holding the secretary position. As president, Tidwell focuses on the more behind-the-curtain aspects of the organization to assure that things run smoothly. Tidwell attended her first Voices of Praise rehearsal after seeing the group perform at a Black History Month event hosted by University Program Council, but gospel music has been a long-term part of her life and influenced who she is.

“It sounds corny but [it has been] all my life in terms of being interested in gospel music,” Tidwell said. “I was raised in the church. But as far as singing and really singing for Christ, probably since I was about 10 or 12 years old. That’s when I really just kind of got invested in terms of my spiritual life and really singing and having meaning behind the words.”

The choir begins their rehearsals promptly at 7:15 p.m. on Mondays, but before that they host a Bible study at 6:30 p.m. that is open to anyone.

“It’s not mandatory in order to be the choir, but we do have a lot of people that go — even people who aren’t in the choir come to Bible study,” Tidwell said. “[It] is very heartwarming because I don’t want people to think that they have to be in the choir to come to Bible study. Usually, if we have events coming up we’ll have a rehearsal during the week. So say we have an event on a Friday, we’ll have a dress rehearsal on a Thursday.”

Bible study is an integral event for the members because it acts as both an exercise in faith and a chance to build friendships.

“We all try to come to Bible study,” Tidwell said. “That’s something that we all do together — it’s something that really helps bond us together. We constantly pray all the time, each and every one of us. Any time something is going on, we try to reach out to one another and pray. Especially being college students, it can be really hard trying to find like-minded people. Just going and being consistent are the biggest things that really helps me throughout my college experience, as well as other people.”

A lot of attention goes to Gospel Fest, the concert hosted by the organization at the end of every spring semester, where multiple colleges come together to worship. The event allows Voices of Praise to congregate and interact with the various other choirs they invite.

“What the students see is the concert part, but what they don’t see is the day of Gospel Fest [where] we do events with the other choirs as a bonding thing,” Tidwell said. “We will do techniques [and] we also have a worship session. We’ll have a little Bible study just so we can all connect and be like-minded before going into the concert in the evening. It’s just a wonderful experience to be around other college students that like to worship as well.”

Entrepreneurship junior MaKayla Washington, who serves as the vice president of the group, said she enjoys being able to network with other choirs and have a reliable support system in everyone she has met in the organization.

“If we need advice, if we need prayer, if we need help with anything we just contact each other,” Washington said. “It is like a small family on campus.”

Political science and criminal justice senior Tayler Hampton has had a similar experience during her time in Voices of Praise. She also joined her freshman year in 2016. She heard the group singing at Mean Green fling and instantly wanted to connect to them. Since then, Hampton said she has come out of her shell and gained leadership within the organization.

“I was kind of quiet and introverted coming into college, and having to sing with them in front of people was great for me,” Hampton said. “Then, my sophomore year, they voted me to be chaplain which means I had to do all the Bible studies every week. I was talking in front of people and I kind of found myself through that — having to be the one that people called on if they needed anything, if they needed prayer or just someone to talk to. It was really fulfilling doing that.”

Hampton plans to become a teacher after graduation and said that directing the members has given her the tools she thinks will help her in that field.

“It helped me a lot with time management and planning and teaching as a whole,” Hampton said. “It helped me learn how to teach people in different ways. If they didn’t understand one way, I had to learn how to teach them in a different way to meet every person where they are and help them. A lot of people that come to [Voices of Praise] start out saying ‘I can’t sing, I’ve never sung before’ and then they end up leaving better. They feel like because they don’t have certain skills that they can’t sing. That’s really not the case, so it’s really fulfilling for me to be able to help people to do what they love.”

UNT Voices of Praise members in a prayer circle after their first rehearsal of the semester. Voices of Praise will hold a fall concert as well as a Gospel Fest in the spring semester. Ashley Gallegos

Featured Image: Voices of Praise’s first rehearsal taking place at the Denton Wesley Foundation. All Voices of Praise members were encouraged to stand up and participate in warmups at the start of the rehearsal. Ashley Gallegos

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Nikki Johnson-Bolden

Nikki Johnson-Bolden

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