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Singing to transform

Gospel Choir is a high-energy, community-driven worship experience. Students have named it the highlight of the music department.

The Gospel Choir director, Nate Glasper, has loved gospel music since he was a kid. Now he passes that love on to students through mentorship and experiential learning.

Why is Gospel Choir an important part of Calvin?

Calvin’s mission talks about being agents of renewal. Gospel music is transformative. I teach my students that we can see that transformation by living a lifestyle of worship. We don’t just sing these gospel lyrics—we live them.

Calvin’s Gospel Choir is not just a choir but a worship experience. We want to create environments where people can experience God. If you talk about ice cream for a long time, you’re going to want it. It’s the same with worship and with gospel music. If you keep talking and singing about God, you’ll want to experience God as well.

How does Gospel Choir connect people?

We strive to create environments where everyone can come together and just worship God. When I took the job here, I wanted to challenge myself to teach students about building bridges in multicultural worship. I want to expose them to the value of gospel music and how gospel music touches so many other genres. Gospel music touches R&B. It touches jazz. It touches blues. But it can also build a bridge to classical and some other styles.

Where does Gospel Choir perform outside of Calvin?

We’ve performed at a lot of local churches. Recently, we led worship at Grace for the Nations Church and Hillside Community Church. We also just went to the Handlon Correctional Facility for the Calvin Prison Initiative. And we’re planning to go to South Korea in January for our interim tour.

What does student involvement look like?

It’s a mixture of music majors and minors; some of them have nothing to do with studying music, but they’re usually very musically inclined. We had 67 members last semester.

How do students learn songs in Gospel Choir?

One of my favorite parts of leading Gospel Choir is teaching my students music by rote. Learning music by rote means you hear it and then repeat it. I teach them harmonies and everything by rote. No sheet music. I put the lyrics on the screen, and they learn it.

What makes gospel music special?

One thing that’s great about gospel music is that, although there is a corporate sound that we release as a group, everyone still gets to be an individual. As you sing, we can see your individual heart and spirit while you’re part of a group. We can sing the same song while in different phases of our lives. That’s part of how gospel is transformative: as you sing it, it becomes your story.

What sets Calvin’s music department apart?

There is a level of respect and discipline this department has as it relates to all things music. I appreciate how there’s a respect and also a welcoming environment. The music department is classically focused, but there’s also an openness to all styles. And yet, each individual style has a standard. You can see that in student groups like Annex Voices, Knightingals, and Gospel Choir. We teach our students to appreciate other styles.

What’s the best part about leading Gospel Choir?

I love teaching them the music and about the culture. My favorite part about leading is watching the students’ enlightenment and excitement once they really get it.

The hardest part is at the end of the semester: I don’t want it to end.


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