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MSU students, faculty collaborate with multiple universities for ‘Thank You, Lord’ video

Morehead State University has many talented faculty and students in the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance. Those talents were put on full display for an online audience thanks to a music video performance of the Walter Hawkins gospel song “Thank You, Lord” featuring a collaboration with multiple universities from across the country.  

This project started as a conversation among three colleagues: Drs. Roosevelt Escalante Jr., associate professor of music and director of MSU’s Black Gospel Ensemble; Stephen Futrell, associate professor of music at Elon University; and Greg Gentry, director of choral studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. They discussed the challenge of providing a meaningful musical and educational experience for their students while staying connected through song during the pandemic. To develop compassion, empathy and understanding in such a diverse environment, they had an idea.  

“This collaboration speaks to the transcendent power of music. Music has the power to heal divides culturally, racially and politically,” Escalante said. “It also is a reminder that we are more similar than we are different.”   

The performance of “Thank You, Lord” edited and animated by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker David Sherman (PBS - “The Big Adventures of Little Ioda”), included sound editing and sound mixing by Elon University faculty Futrell and Todd Coleman, respectively. It brought together students and faculty from MSU, University of Colorado-Boulder, Elon University and the University of Colorado-Anschutz.   

Along with the vocal offerings of MSU’s Jazz Vocal Ensemble and Black Gospel Ensemble, MSU sophomore Elijah Miller from Cattlettsburg played guitar, MSU music professor Ryan McGillicuddy recorded bass; and Escalante created the arrangement as well as recorded all keyboard parts. The video also features a vocal soloist Zach Day, a former MSU student who was recently featured on season 18 of NBC’s “The Voice.”  

“All of the directors hope this project promotes compassion, understanding, community, and kindness during this difficult time,” Escalante said. “We hope it brings as much meaning and joy to our audience as it did for us and our singers.”  

To learn more about music programs at MSU, email mtd@moreheadstate.edu, 606-783-2473 or visit www.moreheadstate.edu/music