Tag Archives: Justin Butler

TSU’s New Direction Choir kicks off busy year with sight on winning top gospel competition

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Tennessee State University New Direction Gospel Choir is gearing up for another exciting and eventful itinerary filled with performances and competitions. With a reputation as one of the world’s leading gospel choirs, the group is already in high spirits and eagerly preparing for the challenges and opportunities ahead. 

State Rep. Torrey Harris (D-District 19), left, reads a proclamation from the Tennessee General Assembly to New Direction in recognition of the group’s outstanding contribution to the arts. Receiving the proclamation are New Direction President Kendrick Noel, right, and Director Justin Butler. (Photo by John Cooper)

Last week, the award-winning choir capped off an eventful April with its Annual Spring Concert at the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville. Gospel great Kevin Davidson, of the contemporary gospel choir Kevin Davidson and the Voices, was the host of the packed evening of fellowship, singing, and entertainment. It featured the sensational Josh Bracy and Power Anointed.

On April 5, New Direction kicked off the month with an appearance at the Mr. Crimson Pageant on campus, sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta, where the choir sang its version of “My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord.” That event followed the group’s participation in the Good Friday Service on April 7 at Bridgestone Arena, featuring Christian music star Chris Tomlin.

Kevin Davidson, of the contemporary gospel choir Kevin Davidson and the Voices, was the guest host for the evening. (Photo by John Cooper)

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Justin Butler, director of New Direction, about the series of events and performances leading up to this year’s How Sweet the Sound Choir Competition in Atlanta on June 3, where the group hopes to take the top prize since its first runner-up appearance in 2013.

“We are super, super excited about being there and representing Tennessee State University,” says Butler. “Hopefully, we can walk away with the first-place prize. We believe we are going to win. This year we are looking to do one better and come home with that prize.”

Tenor Reginald McCollum, a senior who has been with the choir since his sophomore year, is just as optimistic about TSU’s chances at the competition. “It is very exciting to know we are actually going to be competing in How Sweet the Sound,” says the psychology major from New York. “To be able to go against so many wonderful choirs is a challenge we are ready for because we put in the time, we are very dedicated to our work and to our craft and what we sing.”

The sensational Josh Bracy and Power Anointed was the featured choir at the concert. (Photo by JohnCooper)

Considered as one of America’s top gospel choir competitions, How Sweet the Sound features large and small choirs, solo performances, spoken word, and dance. TSU will go against some big-name groups in the large choir category, including Anthony Sutton and Fresh Wind from Raleigh, North Carolina, and Nashville Community Gospel Choir. Featured guests will include Hezekiah Walker, J.J. Hairston, Tamela Mann, and Donald Lawrence.

Now in its 26th year, New Direction Gospel Choir is comprised mainly of TSU students and university staff as advisers, serving as a platform for students from all disciplines who are interested in improving their choral and musical talent. The group has been distinguished as an “outstanding group among gospel choirs” around the country and the world, with awards and other recognitions.

In 2011, the group won first place in the Fourth Annual National Black Collegiate Alumni Hall of Fame Gospel Choir Competition in Atlanta. Four years later, in 2015, New Direction was voted the “Nation’s Best Gospel Choir” at the National College Choir Explosion in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2018, they spent 31 days touring and performing in different cities across Europe, including an appearance in the Vatican, where they met and performed for the Pope. The following year, the choir was featured on BET’s hit show “Sunday Best,” a reality television gospel music singing competition series.

Terrance Izzard, an adviser with the group and TSU’s Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success, describes the New Direction Gospel Choir as a phenomenal group of performers who serve as university ambassadors. 

“Through their talent and dedication, they help us recruit and retain the best and brightest students from across the country,” says Izzard.  “They deserve all the accolades and recognitions. They work very hard, put in the time, and are always striving to be the best. This year, I have no doubt that they could walk away with the top prize at How Sweet the Sound.”

“To be a part of this group is still like a dream, and I cherish every moment I have been a part of them,” adds McCollum, who graduates this May. “People know you everywhere, no matter where you go, they know who you are and how you sound. I love this choir because it is such a unique group. I will miss them.”

For those interested in learning more about New Direction or how to become a member, inquiries can be sent to [email protected].

Tennessee State University’s World-Renowned New Direction Choir to Be Featured Guest on BET’s ‘Sunday Best’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – They have performed for the Pope, and have been called the best college choir in the nation, but if you think you have seen the best of the TSU New Direction Choir, think again.

New Direction Choir Director Justin Butler, right, leads the group during taping of of their upcoming appearance on BET’s Sunday Best. (Submitted Photo)

The world-renowned choir has been selected to appear as featured performer on BET’s hit show “Sunday Best,” a reality television gospel music singing competition series.

The choir will appear in an episode of the show which airs this fall. They will perform gospel hits selected by the show’s producers. On May 9, the group spent the day taping their upcoming performance in the Tyler Perry Studio in Atlanta.

“We are just excited and grateful,” said Justin Butler, director of New Direction, who called the invitation a “total surprise and a wild moment.”

He said one of the producers of Sunday Best (Torrance Glenn) “called us out of the blue” and said he had been following New Direction for a long time, and when he needed a choir to perform behind the contestants, the TSU group “instantly” came to mind.

The choir performs at one of its many concerts during the European tour. (submitted Photo)

“It was a wild moment. We didn’t know we had impacted someone all the way in New York,” Butler said. “He just said, ‘I need you all as guest performers for this episode and I need you here’ by this time. He said he felt we would be the best to perform on the show behind the contestants.”

Kedrick Noel, a junior music education major from Memphis, is president of New Direction Choir. He said he got the call from Butler about the opportunity to appear on BET.

“It is just amazing. We are beyond grateful and blessed to have this opportunity to perform on BET Sunday Best,” Noel said. “It was just a blessing how everything worked out. The school was one hundred percent behind us, the choir was one hundred percent behind us.”

Last winter, New Direction spent 31 days touring and performing in different cities across Europe. The group held 24 concerts, including an appearance in the Vatican, where they met and performed for the Pope.

Concert goers cheer on the TSU New Direction Choir during a performance on the group’s recent European tour. (Submitted Photo)

“That was another wild moment,” said Butler. “The people were so excited to see us. They treated us like we were rock stars. The red carpet was laid out for us everywhere we went.”

In 2015, New Direction was voted the “Nation’s Best Gospel Choir ” with a $15,000 prize, when they took their final bow at the National College Choir Explosion in Louisville, Kentucky.

“It was overwhelming to see our students come out and work so hard,” primary group advisor Deborah Chisom, said at the time. “Even though I was not on stage with them, seeing them so excited was just very fulfilling.”

For more information on the TSU New Direction Gospel Choir, go to http://tnstatenewsroom.com/archives/tag/new-direction-choir

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About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.