May 24, 2024

JSU student vocalists perform with award-winning artist Lillian Lilly

Special to Darkhorse Press

Jackson State University Students perform with award-winning artist Lillian Lilly.

(JACKSON, Miss.) – Jackson State University students joined Stellar Award nominee and certified platinum gospel artist Lillian Lilly on Sunday, April 28, for the live taping of her solo debut music video “At the Center of Grace,” her latest single.

Since its January 2024 release, the song has achieved up to 13,000 streams on Spotify, radio airplay, and music chart placements throughout the U.S. and abroad.

“It’s so beautiful that people recognize that the department is like a center of culture. I’m so proud. To have a nationally recognized composer, producer, and musician who wants to include our students in this monumental video shoot, what else could you ask for? I’m really proud of the students and proud to be a part of that legacy,” said Lisa Beckley-Roberts, Ph.D., chair of the JSU Department of Music.

The nine JSU student participants included vocalists Makenzie Greer, Julia Johnson, Vivian Harrington, Genesis Sutton, April Whitney, Eric Alipoe, Jeremy Bew, James Fuller, and Kyelah Risper as the choir director. Many are music majors and members of the university choir and chorale, while others study criminal justice, special education, and elementary education.

“It was really nice getting to help them articulate and bring forth the energy, emotion, and expressiveness when singing such an amazing song. I was able to really capture everyone’s experience and how they felt, and they even drew on to me a little. It was just an amazing experience,” said Risper, a senior studying music education with an emphasis on vocal performance.

On April 26, Lilly visited the student performers for rehearsal in JSU’s Department of Music. She then asked the students to sing the song live for the taping.

“She was very moved by what we presented and, here’s the thing, we learned that song in one day because it is such an easy song. They told us that it was a music video, but they also wanted it to be authentic to where we actually had service in the church,” said Fuller, a senior music education student. “We had a church service where you had a preacher come to pray, and somebody does scripture. Most of the time, some of us forgot that there was a camera going around because the spirit was so high, and God really moved through that song ‘At the Center of Grace.'”

Fuller has been a member of the Mississippi Mass Choir since 2022 and sees Lilly as an aunt. He says the highlight of his experience was seeing the joy of his peers and participants feeling the “spirit” of God while filming the video.

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