Tag Archives: New Direction Choir

TSU Gospel Group Called “Best” in the Nation, Wins National College Choir Explosion

New Direction Choir Director Justin Butler, left, primary advisor Deborah Chisom, and choir president Kendric Dartis receive the $15,000 first-place prize as the Nation’s Best Gospel Choir, at the National College Choir Explosion.

. (TSU News Service) –

Hands-down, the Tennessee State University New Direction Choir is the best college gospel group in the country.

The group has proven this time and again, and Saturday, March 7, was no different when they took their final bow at the National College Choir Explosion in Louisville, Kentucky.

Competing as one of eight finalists from among several college gospel choirs, the TSU New Direction Choir came out on top winning the coveted title as the Nation’s Best Gospel Choir, with a $15,000 prize.

 The group also won the People’s Choice Award as the audience’s favorite group, which earned them another $1,000 prize. 

“It was an overwhelming experience knowing that we were national champions not just because the judges voted us number one, but because the audience also felt we were the best,” said tenor Kendric Dartis, a senior Healthcare Administration and Planning major, who is president of the choir. “Seeing the joy and jubilation on everyone’s face, especially the freshman members who had never experienced something like this before, was just very heartwarming.”

This was the group’s third straight finish as champions and runners-up in national competitions in the last four years. In 2011 they won first place in the Fourth Annual National Black Collegiate Alumni Hall of Fame Gospel Choir Competition in Atlanta, competing against four HBCU choirs. Two years later in 2013, the group came slightly short in the final round, winning Regional Runner-Up title in the Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound Gospel Choir Competition, also in Atlanta.

“Winning the National College Choir Explosion was especially exciting, because we wanted to come out and redeem ourselves after falling short the year before,” Dartis said.

Primary group advisor Deborah Chisom, a TSU alum and director of Graduate Admissions, said, “It was overwhelming to see students come out and work so hard. Even though I was not on stage with them, seeing them so excited was just very fulfilling. “

In addition to vocal presentation, participating choirs were judged on diction, intonation, tone quality, appearance, stage presence and audience appeal.

Judges included four-time Grammy Award-winning singer and musician Martha Munizzi; President and CEO of Bridgeman Foods Inc., Ulysses L. Bridgeman Jr.; talk show host and motivational speaker Carla Young; and gospel recording artist Byron Cage.

A large group of TSU alumni, students, staff and friends were in attendance to cheer on the New Direction Choir as they took the stage as finalists at the National College Choir Explosion in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 7.

According to group members, the New Direction Choir, under the direction of TSU graduate Justin Butler, owes it success to the “overwhelming” support from TSU alumni, students, administrators and friends. During every competition, they said, a “dedicated” group of alumni, traveling on what they call the “Blue Bus,” follows and cheers them on wherever they are performing.

“Alumni support made a big difference,” said Tammy Taylor, group advisor and grants specialist in the Title III office, who also handles photo and videography for the group. “Our students had a level of support that was not visible with the other groups during the competition. I think that made a big difference with our group, and it lifted the extra burden of knowing they had an audience that was squarely behind them.”

Team support, with the new addition of the Reverend Frank Stevenson, assistant dean for Off-Campus Services in the Division of Student Activities, as an advisor to the New Direction Choir, is also a major factor in the group’s success, they said.

“President (Glenda) Glover has been very supportive; we could not have made it this far without her support and that of Executive Vice President Jane Jackson,” said Chisom. “Special thanks to the Student Government Association and Dr. Michael Freeman (vice president for Student Affairs) for not just their moral support, but also their financial support to the group.”

New Direction Choir has participated in concerts across the country. They have also appeared on the nationally televised Bobby Jones Gospel as featured guests. Additionally, the more than 45-member group has traveled many places taking what they have learned in vocal techniques and from Tennessee State University to share with others across the nation.

Other finalists that competed against New Direction were choirs from the University of Louisville, Middle Tennessee State University, Kentucky State University, North Carolina Central University, Virginia State University, the University of Kentucky and Mississippi State University.

University Choir Belts it Out in Singing Competition

The New Direction performs at the How Sweet the Sound Verizon Experience, a regional competition as part of nationwide search for the best gospel choir. The group from TSU was the first HBCU choir to ever take part in the competition, and only the third university choir selected in the competition’s six years. (courtesy photo)
The New Direction performs at the How Sweet the Sound Verizon Experience, a regional competition as part of nationwide search for the best gospel choir. The group from TSU was the first HBCU choir to ever take part in the competition, and only the third university choir selected in the competition’s six years. (courtesy photo)


New Direction Choir takes on community and church choirs in regional competition 


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The New Direction Choir from Tennessee State University took center stage Oct. 8 in Atlanta to compete against five other choirs to see who would walk away with bragging rights as the best gospel troupe in the region.

TSU’s choir took part in “How Sweet the Sound,” a nationwide search for the best gospel choir in the country. The New Direction Choir was the first HBCU choir to ever take part in the competition, and only the third university choir selected in the competition’s six years.

Competing against larger church and community choirs, New Direction captured the 1st Runner-Up award in the regional division.

“Hundreds of choirs applied for the competition, but only the very best were selected to take part,” said Deborah Chisom, director of Graduate Admission and the choir’s primary advisor. “The students were literally jumping for joy when they heard the good news. This was an opportunity to take our performance to another level.”

The choir submitted a video performance to the selection committee in early summer and found out in August that they were one of six choirs picked for the regionals in Atlanta. The choir had only a month to prepare, and, according to Chisom, the choir was given a list of approved songs that were cleared for the competition. They then had to select five songs from the list to sing, with the competition committee selecting the song they would eventually perform.

“It was very intense preparing for the competition,” added Chisom. “The other choirs we were competing against were larger and had more singing time together.”

None of that mattered when the choir took to the stage. Under the direction of TSU alumnus, Justin Butler, the 35-member choir belted out a creative rendition of the late Olanda Draper’s “My Soul Does Magnify The Lord.”  The choir was judged on the creativity of the arrangement, their uniform, diction, choreography and audience participation.

Out of the six choirs performing, TSU captured the second spot and a $5,000 award. They also won the right to compete in the finale in Los Angeles if the winning choir is unable to make it or drops out.

“It is competitions like this that put TSU and the New Direction Choir on the map,” said Chisom. “We had numerous alumni from the Atlanta area watch the performance and they told us they had no idea that the University had such a wonderful and talented choir.”

“How Sweet the Sound,” which is sponsored by Verizon, is now in its sixth year of traversing the country for its best gospel choirs. This year’s competition launched in New Orleans Sept. 27, with stops in Dallas, Baltimore, New York, Chicago, and Detroit. Following the Atlanta show, the contest culminates with the finals in Los Angeles Nov. 2 where winners from each city compete for a $25,000 grand prize and a chance to record with eOne Music.


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About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university and is a comprehensive, urban, coeducational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top Universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912 Tennessee State University celebrates 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu