Story by Salena Featherstone
The Takoma Academy (TA) chorale and camerata is a vocal group consisting of 85 students ranging from grades 9–12. They seek to achieve excellence in all aspects of music—from performance, literacy and technical skill to music history and music in worship and ministry.
In addition to medaling at the 2018 World Choir games in South Africa, the choir has performed at the White House for former First Lady Michelle Obama; the Miss World competition at the U.S. Capitol; and have shared the stage with notable Christian artists such as CeCe Winans, Take 6 and Wintley Phipps. The choir has performed internationally in Canada, Bermuda, Jamaica, the Czech Republic and the Bahamas.
Earlier this year, TA’s chorale worked with one of their inspirations, Stacey Gibbs. He took time from his busy job in Detroit, where he serves as a clinician for university, high school, professional and church organizations, to visit the academy. Gibbs is a highly sought-after composer and arranger of spirituals. He wrote several choral pieces in the choir’s repertoire, including “Great God A’mighty,” “Ezekiel” and “Rock’a My Soul.”
Gibbs discovered his passion for music when he was in eighth grade. It wasn’t until his second year of college at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, however, that he began to understand the beauty of arranging harmony and melody.
Gibbs observed TA’s chorale at last year’s music festival, hosted in Indianapolis. He reveals, “I always admire conductors doing great work with their students, especially young singers, and I said to myself, ‘I think I need to get to know her and her chorale a little better.’”
The chorale enjoyed his teaching, especially when he added funk to his arrangements. When Gibbs interacts with youth in this industry, he keeps three important goals in mind: to enlighten, to educate and to give another perspective. He advises anyone who has a passion in composing to “hone in your craft and really begin to develop your personality, not the personality of another composer. We already have them. Individuality, uniqueness and creativeness, with good voicing, is important.”
Lulu Mupfumbu, TA’s choir director, emphasizes, “It was a great honor to have such a highly-accomplished musician working with us. He reminded the kids to always give their best and to never be mediocre.” Gibbs concludes, “There is nothing without God.”
Gibbs constantly reminds himself of his favorite scripture: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20, NKJV).