Concert choir opens doors to new voices

The Florida A&M University Concert Choir started the year with the fall concert “United Africa – A tribute to Bob Marley” beginning the new year with their “Home Alone” themed winter concert in January.

As the winter months drifted along, the choir was back at it again, performing in a unity concert with Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College, under the direction of Andre J. Thomas, a black history concert that featured various organizations in the music department, the Martin Luther King Jr. convocation, The Artist in Bloom Festival, as well as an in-state tour during spring break. The tour included Miami, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando, Naples, and Fort Meyers.

A week before spring break the choir traveled to Daytona to perform at Bethune-Cookman College.

“We were their special guest for recruitment weekend. Although it wasn’t at our school, we got lots of good publicity for the choir,” said Charlie Toomer, director of choral activities.

According to the concert choir’s president, Antonio Witherspoon, 22, the choir rehearses quite often because of special scheduled appearances and performance.

“Time management is definitely something I’ve learned while being in the choir. Rehearsing everyday from 3:30-5 p.m., going on tour, night rehearsals, and balancing my schoolwork, my personal life, my spiritual life and my music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, wouldn’t come very easy without it,” Witherspoon, a third-year business student from Hastings, said.

One unique requirement that Toomer deems necessary, is knowing more than just lyrics and notes.

“I always make it a point to teach them to know what they are singing, its purpose, composers, and historical background on the period it was written,” Toomer said.

Often organizations like the concert choir would be more appealing to music majors, but surprisingly many of the members are not. The choir presents an eclectic group of students, from music majors to business majors, including the choir’s very own president who came in as an architecture student.

“I had to do a history project with a friend who was in the choir and we decided to meet up in the music suite. I ended up meeting up with an old high school friend who suggested I join and from then on I was in the choir,” Witherspoon said.

“I just have such a passion for music. I was in the choir in high school and it’s the only thing that got me through,” said Karis Chandler, 18, a first year pharmacy student from Orlando.

“You don’t have to be a music major, we have an open door policy, open to all majors. The only downfall is working with students who don’t know how to read or aren’t familiar with music, but if they want to learn they will do what’s necessary,” Toomer said.

Michael Johnson, 19, was a bit challenged initially, but values his experience with the choir. “When I first joined the choir, I was about two or three weeks late and I couldn’t read music, but now I (have) realized that its another language in itself and have learned so much from being in the choir,” said the first year business student and Miami native.

As far as future plans, the concert choir is having their spring concert April 23 at 7 p.m. in Lee Hall, where they will be performing a mix of arranged music, despite consistent stereotypes.

“We’re a choir that is not limited to one genre of music. Even though we are a predominately black choir. If you were to close your eyes and listen to us sing, you wouldn’t know what race we were, you’d just know one thing, and that’s the music,” Witherspoon said.

“God places all creeds and nationalities, I want to be able to reach everyone of them, educate them and be capable of moving them on a universal scope,” Toomer said.

“I look forward to the choir being a household name and not just expected to do Gospel,” said Chandler.

The concert choir will be performing at commencement April 30 and is in the process of making preparations to go overseas.

Any dedicated students who enjoy singing, traveling, the art of learning music and are interested in being part of the concert choir, should call (850) 599-3079 for more information.

Contact Yewande Addie at