Music Alumnus Helps Gospel Choir Spread the UAB Sound
By Glenny Brock
Clinton Green sees the combination of music and technology as a natural symbiosis.
For Clinton Green, there is no clear line between the digital and the spiritual. The 2008 UAB graduate has found sweet harmony between music technology and old-time gospel music, transforming his college experience into a series of rhythmic adventures.
“Music has always been my first love,” says Green. It’s also his constant companion. By day, he serves as minister of music at New Life Interfaith Ministries, Inc. in Bessemer. At nights he is the primary keyboardist for the world-renowned UAB Gospel Choir. In both positions, Green says he uses the lessons he learned while earning his degree in UAB’s music technology program.
“Music technology was a simple choice for me, because technology and music go hand in hand,” Green says. “Every time you hear music, even in many live performances, some type of technology was involved to create it, record it, manipulate it, or even to play it so that you can hear it.”
Green moved to Birmingham in 2004 when he accepted the position as minister of music at New Life church. Motivated by a desire to further his knowledge in music, he enrolled at UAB the following year. As a music major, he had a performance-ensemble requirement to complete, and he was immediately drawn to the UAB Gospel Choir because he had grown up listening to and performing a similar style of praise and worship music at his home church in Yulee, Florida.
(Story continues below the video)
The UAB Gospel Choir recently celebrated the national release of its new CD, Mirrors. Click on the image to learn more about the project.
After meeting with director Kevin Turner, Green says he was sure he made the right choice. “At the first rehearsal, everyone was very welcoming,” he recalls. “I’ve made lifelong friends in the choir.” He also has had several life-altering experiences.
When Green was a student, the choir made a brief tour of the Midwest, performing in St. Louis, Chicago, Springfield, and Peoria before returning to Alabama for concerts in Huntsville and Birmingham. That tour and the dozens of local concerts the Gospel Choir gave in Birmingham helped Green hone his performing skills. He also found an audience for his own original compositions: The choir’s 2008 CD, Go Dominate, took its title from Green’s song “Dominion.”
The inspiration for “Dominion” came to Green, not surprisingly, in church. “My pastor, George M. Matthews II, was teaching a series on ‘Understanding the Believer’s Right to Dominate,’” Green says. “That message really made a mark on me. While he was teaching, I was writing the song.”
Home and Away
The UAB Gospel Choir will be performing its spring concert, "Let's Dance," on Monday, April 25, 2011, at UAB's Alys Stephens Center. Tickets are $6; call 205-934-8001.
The ensemble continues to field invitations to perform around the world. In May 2011, a small group from the choir will travel to London, England, to tour and share American gospel music.
Although the phrase “go dominate” originated in Green’s song, it was popularized by Stephen D. Wilson, the lead vocalist when the Gospel Choir recorded the track. “He got excited during the song and jumped and shouted, ‘Go dominate!’” Green says. “The choir picked it up, and it became a popular tag in the Gospel Choir community.” (See the Gospel Choir perform "Dominion" in this video.)
The Show on the Road
Although Green graduated in 2008, his success with the Gospel Choir was far from over. Turner asked him to stay on as the group’s primary keyboardist, and their gigs included an “exciting” visit to Yulee to perform Green’s compositions in his home church. Then, in 2009, Turner selected Green and a few other choir alumni for a more far-flung adventure: a performing slot at the International Choral Biennale in the Dutch city of Haarlem, Netherlands.
The 2009 trip was such a success that Turner asked Green to return to the Netherlands in September 2010 for the Gospel Festival Amsterdam. Along with Birmingham-based soprano Bonita Conley, Green led classes and music clinics.
Green's music has taken him all the way to the Netherlands, where he performed in front of nearly 5,000 people at Amsterdam's Heineken Music Hall.
“Most of the individuals we worked with were professional singers, ministers of music, and choir directors,” Green says. “They knew a lot of the technical side; we focused on mixing those technical skills with practical skills. After one of the sessions, a few people said they could ‘feel it’ when we presented the music, so much so that they were in tears.”
Green and Conley concluded their participation in the four-day event by performing in front of nearly 5,000 people at Amsterdam’s Heineken Music Hall. That experience was a far cry from the 100-seat church where he started out playing gospel music, but Green says the massive crowd wasn’t intimidating. “I find performing in front of large crowds much easier on the nerves than being in smaller spaces where you may have people standing over your shoulder, watching your every move,” he says with a smile.
Although gospel music has taken him places, Green also has begun to specialize in a different genre here at home: advertising jingles. His compositions have been used in announcements for the Jefferson County Department of Health and the American Heart Association. He also composed the alma mater for New Life Christian School of Excellence, a private school in Bessemer, and has contributed an instrumental track for a Gospel Choir recording.
Ministry is always the first priority, Green says, but his ongoing role in the Gospel Choir is a perfect complement to his day job. “I’ve adopted many of the techniques and sayings I’ve picked up from Mr. Turner for use with my music department at church,” he says. “Being the youngest member of the department, it took some adjustment for me to get used to standing in front of people wiser and more seasoned than I am and to lead them. What I have learned at UAB is helping to prepare me for greater things.”