Alumni of the A Cappella Choir of Wiley College hosted a musical tribute to the choir's artistic director, Stephen L Hayes, during Wiley's 144th Founders Observance. On Friday night of Founders week earlier this month, choir alumni from the classes of 2005-2014 performed a concert featuring negro melodies as well as gospel and inspirational pieces that they have performed under Hayes' direction over the years.
Negro melodies performed during the concert included "You must have that true religion," and "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray." Gospel and inspirational songs performed included "He's Able," "God Chaser," and "Total Praise." During the negro melodies portion of the concert, the alumni welcomed current choir members to the stage to join them in a stirring rendition of one of the choir's signature pieces, "Lord, If I got my ticket, can I ride?" The audience of students, faculty, staff, alumni, board trustees, gave the choir a standing ovation at the end of the piece, and throughout the evening's concert.**
Hayes, who this year marks 31 years as an educator, took to the stage with his family at the end of the concert to thank the choir in heartfelt and moving remarks. "You didn't have to do this," he told the cheering students who affectionately call him "Pops."
"Just knowing that we have a connection and a bond has been more important to me than anything else, but I am honored by this experience," he said. "As God has blessed my life, I have tried very hard to share that blessing with others."
Under Hayes' leadership, the A Cappella Choir of Wiley College has shared its music ministry with broad, diverse audiences around the nation and the world. The choir's most recent accomplishments under Hayes' baton including recording music for actor Nate Parker's directorial debut film" The Birth of a Nation," and the movie's soundtrack,as well as singing at the movie's Hollywood premiere in September.
Other major recent accomplishments of the A Cappella Choir under Hayes' leadership include performing in concert at the White House in 2011 and 2013, traveling to Japan in 2014 to perform at the International Association of Methodist-related Schools, Colleges, and Universities conference in Hiroshima; performing in concert with Grammy-winning artist Rita Coolidge in 2011; and contributing music to the soundtrack for the film "The Great Debaters" in 2007. The choir has also recently received offers to sing in Africa, Brazil, and Australia. And just last month, the choir gave an hour-long concert in the Texas Capitol Rotunda in Austin, Texas.
Prior to coming to Wiley, other historically black colleges and universities were blessed to have him leading their choirs, including Philander Smith College and Tuskegee University. His Philander Smith College choir sang the anthem at the Fifty-Second Presidential Inaugural of Bill Clinton. Later, he led his Tuskegee University Choir to win national choral festivals and, ultimately, to sing in the East Room of the White House. His choirs have also performed at Carnegie Hall, the John F. Kennedy Center, Madison Square Garden and for the National Prayer Breakfast.
Says Hayes of his impressive resume, " I work because God gave me a gift to do something… I see it as something to do until your day is done."
Hayes' "work" as he calls it, is seen by many as "good works." Wiley's choir students commended and praised Hayes during the tribute for his leadership and the role he has played in helping them develop and refine their musical talents as well as become well-rounded students who have achieved goals and overcome obstacles and challenges in their academic and career endeavors.
In thanking Hayes, the choir has established a scholarship in his honor, with the $5 admission to the concert going to that effort.Among the first major donors to the fund are Hayes, himself, and Dr. Haywood L. Strickland, Wiley's President and CEO, who brought Hayes to Wiley under his administration.
In top photo, alumni and current members of the A Cappella Choir of Wiley College perform "Lord, If I Got My Ticket Can I Ride?" during an evening concert honoring the choir's artistic director Stephen L. Hayes. In second photo, is Stephen L. Hayes, Artistic Director of the A Cappella Choir of Wiley College.
**To hear the alumni and current choir members of the A Cappella Choir sing at the tribute to Stephen L. Hayes, follow this link to the Wiley College Facebook page: