LOS ANGELES (AP) – Hezekiah Walker became a student at Virginia Union University two years ago, but the Grammy-winning gospel singer took his college experience to the next level by opening a gospel music center on campus .
He will direct the Hezekiah Walker Center of Gospel Music at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. It’s dubbed the first gospel music-focused academic center at a historically black college or university where students can learn about the cultural and business aspects of the genre and the industry.
Walker said the center – which will open in the spring of 2022 – would provide a tremendous outlet to “host our music.”
âI thought this was a great opportunity to invite people to come to Virginia Union to listen to gospel music and so they can learn more about our heritage,â said Walker, two-time award winner. a Grammy. He wants to make Virginia Union a premier destination for gospel music in hopes of inspiring a younger generation’s enthusiasm for the genre’s culture.
With the help of the school administration, Walker will organize the center’s program for aspiring songwriters, instrumentalists, singers, producers, managers and publicists in the field of gospel music. He said the school would primarily teach gospel music to students, unlike any other college.
Classes will be available to all Virginia Union students. Certification courses related to work in industry will also be offered to the general public.
âWhen we send our kids to their schools, they kind of learn their music,â said the singer, who runs a church in New York City. âThey are learning their own way of giving the gospel. When these children come back to our churches and come back to our culture, they say, âWe don’t want this. We are losing our children every day.
Two years ago Walker decided to go back to school. He spent some time researching at universities known for their theological seminary schools and found that Virginia Union, a black private university, had one of the best in the country.
After enrolling, Walker was accepted to the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union, where he is currently a sophomore. But when the famous gospel singer first entered campus, he was mostly incognito, wearing his hat upside down with sunglasses.
But Walker’s moment of darkness lasted a few months until he met Union President of Virginia Hakim J. Lucas. The gospel singer said Lucas didn’t know he was a student until a faculty member informed him.
Initially, the conversation was about Walker playing in a concert. But the two had the great idea of ââstarting a gospel music school and converting one of the campus buildings into a center, which will bear Walker’s full name.
âThe gospel is part of the legacy and travel history of black spirituality, black social justice, and black religion,â said Lucas. “If we are to be serious as an institution, to engage in empowering black people, you have to create a way to study all of these institutions.”
Lucas said the university felt compelled to embrace gospel because “we understand the academic roots of music.”
âYou have other universities teaching people that gospel music is not Christian music and that it builds something else,â Lucas said. âWe are here to stand up and say ‘No, gospel music is not just part of the black experience, it is essential to the black and African American religious experience.’ But it is also part of our continued struggle for social justice.
Walker is known for his gospel songs such as âSouled Outâ, âEvery Praiseâ and âBetterâ Grammy nominated.
He believes his center can help young people who are willing to take pride in uplifting the genre, which he thinks is out of touch with other areas of the music industry. He said exploring the history and milestones of the genre – like the first time a gospel artist won a Grammy or received a big royalty check – is important in helping students appreciate those who opened the door to them. way.
âWe have to teach our people so that they can understand it,â he said. âThen they will be able to appreciate where we are today and where we are going by looking at where we came from. “
As Walker prepares for the opening of the gospel center and continues as a student, he is also working on a new album, which he plans to release in October. He worked with Teddy Riley to create a song with a New Jack Swing vibe mixed with inspirational messages.
âI am ready to minister to another group of people,â he said. âI’m ready to sing for another band. I think the church has been saturated with all kinds of artists, for which I am grateful. I’m part of. But I’m ready for a new group of people to which I bring some inspiration.