By Carlota Ponds
Good news is coming to Hesston, and anyone can take part. One definition of the word “gospel” is “good news,” and efforts are underway to launch a community wide gospel choir in Hesston.
The choir – which will be open to any community member interested in joining – is an experiment of the Hesston College Inclusion and Diversity Council (IDC), a group tasked with increasing the accessibility of the campus – to people of different ethnicities, those from other states or countries and those within the Hesston community who don’t have any other affiliation with the campus.
When a student serving on the Council expressed an interest in hearing the types of music she was missing from her home congregation, the gospel project was born. Wichita native and sophomore Makayla Ladwig says campus activities keep her so busy she doesn’t get home as often as she’d like. She sees the choir as a way to keep a little bit of home with her on campus.
Artist in residence and Internal Diversity Consultant Tony Brown serves on the same IDC subcommittee as Ladwig and her question got his creative juices flowing.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the community, students, faculty and staff at Hesston College,” Brown said. “All of us who are involved will be energized and invigorated as our spirits are lifted up by song.”
Steven Espinoza, minister of music at New Day Christian Church in Wichita, will direct and accompany the choir, along with his son, Emmanuel. Espinoza’s musical interest sparked in the early 1980s when he attended third-Sunday night musicals with his cousin, Norma Lee Murry, who still plays enthusiastically even now in her 80s. He feels blessed to be able to share her love of gospel with his children and others.
When asked what to expect from the first rehearsal, Espinoza said, “You will find joy and excitement. My prayer is that God will lead you into His spiritual dimension concerning gospel music. Your spirit will truly be filled!”
One thing Espinoza wishes people understood about gospel is, “It’s a state of mind. It’s sort of like ice cream. Soooo... many different flavors. [When I play] I reflect on all of God’s greatness and how marvelous, magnificent, awesome, He is!”
It’s interesting how one simple project can help achieve so many of the goals of the IDC.
“This campus has been part of life in Hesston for more than 100 years,” said Yvonne Sieber, vice-president of Advancement who serves on the IDC subcommittee with Brown and Ladwig. “The choir can be a way for Hesstonians to become a bigger part of life on campus.”
The 2014 Hesston Homecoming, “Each Other’s Light: A Multicultural Celebration” has been earmarked for the choir’s debut performance. The weekend will highlight the rich multicultural history of Hesston College, so a gospel performance fits right in. Fortunately Ladwig is enrolled in the three-year nursing track, so she will be here to participate and to see her idea come to fruition.
Project coordinators plan for the choir to rehearse twice monthly through the end of the school year, then weekly when the Fall semester begins in August and leading up to Homecoming Sept. 25 through 28. More information about Homecoming can be found at www.Hesston.edu beginning in April.
Even with all the buzz whirling around campus about this project, there may still be those who are reluctant to come out. Espinoza says there’s no reason why anyone who enjoys music should not at least give the choir a try.
“If you don’t read music you will definitely fit right in because neither do I!” he said. “It will be an experience!”
The choir’s first rehearsal will be at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 18, in Northlawn Room 111 on the Hesston College campus. There is no cost to participate and all ages are welcome. Call the Alumni and Church Relations office at 620-327-8109 for more information.