A Convocation story: Choir’s perspective

By Alaya Boykin

The combined Hampton University choirs sing at annual ceremonies like Convocation, Founders’ Day, and Commencement. The university choir, gospel choir, and concert choir members sit through tedious combined rehearsals one week before the ceremony to learn new music with complex arrangements. “A lot work goes into producing a stellar performance,” said Royzell Dillard, director of university choirs.

 “The most important part of singing at Convocation is looking like you know what you’re doing and that you’ve been doing it for years,” said Yaniel Sargeant, a senior public relations major from Montclair, N.J. “There’s not a lot of time to practice, so you have to be committed. I think it’s our dedication that makes us sound good on the actual day.”

Convocation is really important because it sets the tone for graduating seniors. “Having our cap and gown on for the first time is that much more of a reality check that it’s our time. We’re also setting an example for underclassmen. It’s making a statement to just be there and it’s another to be a graduating senior in choir,” said Sargeant.

Today, Sept. 26, is Convocation Sunday. 

Chiara Murray, a senior psychology major from Newark,

N.J., says that the choir is the live entertainment at the Convocation ceremony. Murray has personally felt the effect the choir has on an audience: “I’ve heard people say that they come to hear us sing.”

“There’s a certain standard and choir legacy that has already been set, so we work hard to live up to it at ceremonies like Convocation,” said Sargeant. At Convocation, it’s the choir’s main goal to inspire, especially the graduating seniors. This year, one of the selections is the African- American spiritual “Hold On” by Uzze Brown.

“I think Mr. Dillard makes selections purposefully,” said Murray. “He keeps in mind that it’s still Sunday morning and even if there’s not a spoken spiritual word, there’s still room for spiritual influence through song.”

Both Sargeant and Murray reminisce on years past when they were in choir watching the seniors sit on the front row on stage, and they couldn’t wait until it was their turn.

“It’s always been funny to watch the seniors in the audience and on stage get their ‘church shout’ on whenever someone mentions their class on the mic,” Murray said. “I can’t believe that’s going to be now.”

“The significance of being a graduating senior in choir at Convocation is that you feel like you’ve paid your dues and you’ve finally arrived,” said Sargeant. “You’re sitting amongst everyone and it gives you a legitimate status in choir. Just by sitting there you’re setting an example,”

Murray describes the choir experience as being part of a very close-knit family: “It’s going to be so great to have them clapping for me now. I feel like I’ve made it now and I’m telling them, ‘you can too.’”        

The writer is a junior at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.