The Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir
The Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir (formerly the Genesis Gospel Choir), comprised of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is uniquely different from most LDS choirs in that the music that they sing is authentic gospel soul music.
Debra Bonner is the talented and energetic director of the group and is serious about her responsibilities. In an interview with KUTV.com, she stated, “If I’m the director, then I’m the leader, and they have to be one with me. I’m directing you. You have to throw out you, and you have to be one with me.”
The Genesis Group, an auxiliary of The Church of Jesus Christ, was started in 1971 as a support group for African Americans. Don Harwell, former President of the Genesis Group, commented, “We like to think of ourselves as missionaries when people come for the first time. We are trying to provide them hope that the LDS church is as inviting as it should be.” The Genesis Group also provides assistance to mission presidents, stake presidents, and bishops.
The current presidency of The Genesis Group was set apart by Elder David T. Warner, an Area Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday, 7 January 2018. The group sustained Davis Stovall, 40, a LDS Church security engineering manager from South Jordan, as its fourth president. Jamal Willis, a school district administrator from Saratoga Springs, will serve as first counselor. Joseph Kaluba, a systems analyst and native of Zambia who now lives in West Jordan, is the second counselor. Elder Warner also announced that the group will now be hosted by the Draper Utah Mountain Point Stake.
The gospel choir has only been around for a few years. The talented and energetic leader of the choir, Debra Bonner, grew up in Flint, Michigan, in a Baptist home, singing in gospel choirs from an early age. She has been a professional voice coach for 45 years, and at one time was the lead in a show in Laughlin, Nevada, called “Hot New Orleans Nights.” Thirty of the 45 years have been spent been spent training and working with the two top vocal pedagogues of the 20th century as their close associate. In 1996 she was a guest soloist with the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which she describes as the “most spiritual experience I have ever had in my life.” As a professional soloist, Debra has performed all over the world and has developed her own vocal technique, Debratone®. Speaking about the choir, in an interview with KUTV.com, she stated, “This gives [a spiritual experience for] African Americans and others who want to really feel the music and come to know the Savior by singing this music.”
Medium.com reports that the mission of the choir is “to help heal souls through gospel music.” The members of the dynamic choir believe “Christ’s teachings — shared through the joy of gospel music — invite us all to come together in unity because we’re all children of our Father in Heaven.” The choir not only provides extraordinary music for firesides, but choir members are also blessed with the unique opportunity to be able to be touched and inspired by their music. Choir member, Tekulve Jackson-Van, remarked, “I come to the choir. It renews my spirit. I’m here with my choir family, and we are able to uplift each other.” And choir member, Sebrina Myers explained, “He walks us through the hard times and that’s what the songs do for us. They keep us strong through the hard times.” In addition to performing in various locations, the choir performs the first Sunday of every month when The Genesis Group meets. The choir is also featured in music videos with James Curran (a.k.a. Jamesthemormon) and Alex Boyé.
Members of the Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir recently blended their voices with members of Saints Unified Voices and members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, under the direction of Grammy award-winning recording artist, Gladys Knight, for a special celebration originating from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, and broadcast globally by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titled, “Be One”.
On 18 May 2018, the Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir was featured at a luncheon sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held during the annual meeting of the National Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held in Salt Lake City, Utah. The leaders of the NAACP were highly impressed by the choir’s inspired and energizing gospel music. Following the performance, the choir was officially invited to perform at the NAACP 109th annual convention at the Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, on 14 and 15 July 2018. Medium.com reports that the opportunity for the Choir to perform at the annual convention is a continuation of the work begun by Johnson and Nelson.
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This author was born and raised as a Baptist, and part of his upbringing included listening to some good down-home, hand clapping, foot tapping, gospel music. Even now, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly referred to as the...
The Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir (formerly the Genesis Gospel Choir), is a multicultural group comprised of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their unique style of music sets them apart from traditional LDS choirs in that the group...