Stacey V Gibbs
Finding Your Voice…with Stacey V Gibbs
In this second installment of Modern Measures, meet a composer whose music is more well-known than his humble beginnings might suggest. With a big laugh, positive nature and a passion for music, he opened the door for a glimpse into his world.
When Mr. Stacey Gibbs first agreed to a conversation with Sechrist Travel, work began to find out enough background information to make
the interview meaningful. A cursory online search came up with very few results, revealing only basic composition history on music publishing websites. Social media only served to pique interest as it revealed a love of everything from comic-book heroes to the Detroit Lions. When it was communicated with him that he was a difficult man to search online, he laughed and shared a bit of his history. Born in Tennessee, he attended middle and high school in Flint, MI. From there, he received a scholarship to Kentucky State University and now lives again in Flint, Michigan where he works in the Retail Industry. Just how does a professional, published composer, conductor and clinician work in any field other than music? After fourteen years of successful, published compositions he believes it just might be time to really focus on this music thing…
“You know,” he reminisced, “I was talking to Dr. Jo-Michael Scheibe about that one day, and he told me there would come a time when I would have to decide which road to take. I am just now at that point where I might have to decide, soon.”
Perhaps a bit selfishly, because his music is so well sought-after, most of his colleagues would agree with this assessment. Ms. D’Walla Simmons Burke, Director of Choral and Vocal Studies at Winston-Salem State University, is an exception to that and shared her experience with Stacey.
“I was adjudicating at a negro spiritual festival in Detroit and kept hearing pieces from local choirs either arranged or composed by this ‘Stacey Gibbs.’ Well, finally I had to know more and I stopped one of the performers to ask just who this was. She had me turn around and there was this man with a bright smile who gave a little wave. He was there in person to listen all these choirs give life to his work.From that moment on, I knew I just had to perform these songs. And people would stop me after a performance to ask if they could purchase them, and I couldn’t always say yes because many of them were written down, but not yet published. My choir became an instrument for Stacey’s writing. It was always so fresh and new and the students just fell in love with his work. He continuously expressed gratitude whenever he heard we were doing one of his pieces.I have always been amazed to hear that he worked outside the music world for a living. However, maybe what we get from Stacey is because he is out there experiencing life and then putting pen to paper.”
Dr. Eugene Rogers, Associate Director of Choirs & Associate Professor of Conducting at the University of Michigan, told of how he heard music composed by Stacey and reached out to him to finally get his music published. He continued to work with him and follow his career. He related the following:
“Stacey writes like running water- his seemingly effortless works are sonorous and melodic… It is easy to recognize his raw talent when you hear his work. He carries on the tradition of the Spiritual in the sense that he maintains the integrity of what that music was originally used for by those in slavery. It must not only contain rhythmic elements for synchronized manual labor, but also utilizes a melodic core that servers as a means of communication. There is always a message conveyed with the Spiritual.”
The majority of his music I found online falls in the genre of Spirituals. He loves this music for its rhythmic drive, vitality, tonality, and what he calls moral pulse. He was quick, however, to point out that the future holds more than just Spirituals. He wants to incorporate jazz, classical and even pop influences into choral arrangements.
“I want to do everything from Mozart to Ed Sheeran. I feel that is how we will reach the next generation and we need to teach them to find their voice while they are young!”
Not only does he want to introduce new, non-traditional music to his arrangements, he also encourages conductors to take liberties with
his work. He calls them “artists” in their own right.
“Look, I can drive down I-75 and get to where I am going in a straight line, or I can go explore the side roads and get to the same spot in my own way.”
Dr. Gary Packwood, President of the Southern Division- ACDA and Director of Choral Activities at Mississippi State University, describes his interaction with Stacey as a clinician for his choir:
“He was energetic, fun, and knowledgeable. But the quality of personality that stood out to me was that he was collaborative! He encouraged ideas
beyond the page and was so engaging with our students.”
According to Stacey, when the choir and conductor add their flavor, it resonates with the listener to create something special. Stacey has been a collaborator from his days in high school until today. Just this past year, he joined in writing a piece with fellow composer, Richard Burchard, to create a truly unique work for Bruce Rogers, director of the Mt. San Antonio College Chamber Singers. The piece debuted at the National American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) convention in 2017. In listening to “Song of Eternal Hope”, one can hear both artists contributions. It is a unique piece, to say the least.
Mr. Bruce Rogers spoke highly of the caliber of music Stacey puts out.
“Once I discovered Stacey’s music early on in his career, I knew this was someone special. In many ways, I felt he was the next Moses Hogan. I was struck by his humility and his gratitude for performing his works. Since then, I have used his music in competitions and performances all of the world. To be presented with the opportunity to perform this particular collaboration between Stacey and Richard was an honor after working so long with him.”
Input from friends and colleagues of Stacey could fill this blog and many more. He obviously holds a special place in modern choral music as he continues to help others to find their voice. Today he remains an avid composer and arranger. He can also be found conducting at local and national venues including Carnegie
Hall, where he debuted two new works in 2017. His works have been performed by the St. Olaf Choir, the Stellenbosch Choir of Africa, and many of the finest university choirs in the United States. His work has also been featured in Presidential Barack Obama’s Inaugural Service, the World Choir Symposium in
Barcelona and in multiple regional and national conventions of the ACDA.
Stacey’s works can currently be found at:
Thank you, Mr. Gibbs, for allowing us this special opportunity to get to know an up-and-coming composer. We look forward to many more years of hearing your message!
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