During these unprecedented times, the UNC Charlotte Voices of Eden Gospel Choir has chosen to lift up their voices in song—remotely—to support Niner Nation.
A group of more than 60 current Voices of Eden student members and alumni joined together to create a virtual choir video to uplift and inspire.
“The COVID-19 pandemic cut our season short by about a month and a half,” said Zacch Estrada-Petersen ’05, who founded the Voices of Eden Gospel Choir in 2005 when he was a senior on campus. He currently serves as the group's musical and executive director. “We ended up having to cancel our spring 2020 tour the day prior to getting on the bus. So needless to say, we had a lot of pent-up creative energy and this seemed like the best way to tap into that.”
“Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, was chosen for multiple reasons—the most important being that it vocalizes the difficult times that many are facing.
“Now is definitely a time when people should come together and support each other to get through,” said Estrada-Petersen. “And, from a music sense, it was an easy song that everyone could do remotely without the benefit of an in-person rehearsal. Third, Bill Withers was a legend. What better way to pay tribute to him?”
The choir hopes that those moved by their video will join them in supporting the Student Emergency Fund. The fund helps current students by providing financial support for unexpected, unforeseen and unavoidable emergency expenses, including pandemics.
“The Student Emergency Fund was a fitting choice for us to help given the timeliness and urgency of the situation,” said Estrada-Petersen, who serves as a member of the UNC Charlotte Alumni Board of Directors.
He knows that the Student Emergency Fund will have an important impact on many UNC Charlotte students, just like the Voices of Eden Gospel Choir has had on him and his fellow choir members.
Gifts to the Student Emergency Fund from Niner Nation have enabled UNC Charlotte to award more than $376,100 to 1,055 students during the past six weeks. In the next week, the University will award another $75,000 of much needed support. However, there are still hundreds of students on the waitlist for funding and that number grows every day.
“I absolutely loved being a part of the Voices of Eden Gospel Choir,” said Stevanni Melton ’19, who served as an alto section leader and e-board member while in the choir. “It’s truly like a family, and I’m super grateful to be able to say that I was, and still am, a part of Voices of Eden.”
Melton graduated with an art degree, specializing in photography, from UNC Charlotte and helped co-produce and edit the choir video.
No audition is required to join Voices of Eden and all are welcome, regardless of previous experience. All that is needed to join the choir is the desire to have a closer relationship with God.
“I really do miss Voices of Eden, so I still try and sing with them whenever I can,” said Melton. “There’s just something about singing in a choir that I love! And I was blessed to meet a lot of amazing people so saying goodbye to them wasn’t easy.”
To see more Voices of Eden videos, visit youtube.com/VOEVault, which features over 260 videos on YouTube and has a total of more than 1.3 million combined views.