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Tuesday, December 5, 2023
December 5 , 2023

The Soul Soirée: UM highlights Black excellence with elegance

Pictured (left to right): Nikita Wilkins, Amilyah Robinson and Nina Ally.
Pictured (left to right): Nikita Wilkins, Amilyah Robinson and Nina Ally. Photo credit: Autumn Sinegal

Dozens of students and campus organizations filled the ballroom of the Shalala Student Center on Nov. 5 for a candlelit evening full of polished performances, cultural food and stunning formal attire.

The event, dubbed “The Soul Soirée,” is the first fundraising event for the Black Musicians Caucus (BMC) since it was founded last December. BMC collaborated with the Tau Rho chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, which was chartered in 2004 and reactivated Spring 2023.

“The Black Musicians Caucus was started to create a safe space for black musicians,” said Amilyah Robinson, BMC president and percussionist at the Frost School of Music.

“Our main focus is uplifting Black students and Black artists on campus, both in Frost and outside of Frost,” Robinson said. “We focus on community service, programming and hosting events with guest performers and artists who can spread some wisdom to us. This fundraiser is helping us go towards those initiatives.”

In the days leading up to the Soirée and throughout the night, attendees could donate and enter their name in the running to win an electric scooter.

Junior music industry major Zanaiah Billups is a member of BCM and the treasurer and arts and letters chair of Delta Sigma Theta. She was also a featured vocalist of the night.

“It makes sense for us to build that bridge with Delta,” Billups said. “I know some of the Black students at Frost were feeling a lack of community because we are a very small fragment of the school’s population. I thought it would make a great connection and make for a great event.”

The night was decorated with a colorful range of performances. Sydney Myers, a sophomore studying business technology and marketing, gave a stunning vocal performance and senior music composition major Brandon Mirvil played a trombone solo.

Joint performances from Billups and vocal performance professor Jeanette Thompson. Graduate music industry student Sydney “SYENNA” Scott also performed a duet with Caleb Caché, a senior majoring in pre-physical therapy with a psychology minor.

Ensemble performances included the Florida band Falling Iguanas, the Hammond Butler Gospel Choir and the Stamps Jazz Quintet. Performances highlighted a variety of genres, from classical opera to Afro-Cuban jazz to gospel and to contemporary classics.

Donations will be split between Delta Sigma Theta and BMC, with proceeds going to aid in the mission and outreach of each organization.

“It was everything, having their support,” Robinson said. “Their main mission is service and leadership, and we kind of have similar missions as far as outreach and uplifting the Black community so we really wanted to come together. It was a big help since the Deltas have a larger platform on campus, so it was great to have this collaboration to put us on the map as well.”

Kiera Barton, a sophomore psychology major, shared her thoughts on the stunning evening.

“From the beautiful voices and tunes of the performers to the flavorful, good ‘ol soul food, this event was too good,” Barton said. “As a minority student attending a PWI (Predominantly White Institution), I can honestly say this made me feel surrounded by people who were all there to do one thing — celebrate Black excellence.”

The Soul Soirée was a remarkable celebration that highlighted the inclusivity, diversity and talent on campus. It left the audience with memories of a fantastic night and a strong sense of connection and appreciation for the diverse UM community.

Rachel Petrovich contributed to the reporting of this article.

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