Baylor symposium celebrates black worship music with Grammy award winning vocalist

Igor Stepczynski | Broadcast Reporter

Baylor University hosted the Pruit Memorial Symposium on February 4th, which is meant to bring the perspective of the Christian intellectual tradition to contemporary issues of common concern. It has been focusing on the tradition of American black sacred music in honor of the Black Gospel Music Restoration project since 2013. That’s why Dr. Cedric Dent was a perfect guest for the occasion.

Dr. Cedric Dent is currently a professor at Middle Tennessee State University. He was also a member of the grammy award winning and multiplatinum jazz vocal sextet called “Take6”. The group is famous for being what Quincy Jones called “the baddest vocal cats on the planet”. In 2013, Dr. Dent was awarded the Heritage Music Award by the National Association of Negro Musicians.

The first event took place in the meditation foyer of Armstrong Browning Library, where Dr. Dent explained the uniqueness of “Take6” and their inspiration of black worship music and jazz. He analyzed the vocal dynamics that made “Take 6” unique, especially in regards to their breakout song “David and Goliath”. Little do people know, this successful vocalist was raised in a household where gospel music was not favored.

“My folks didn’t like gospel music,” he said. “I got curious, and you like how kids are man, the thing you aren’t supposed to touch is the thing you really want the most.”

The second half of the symposium was at Tolliver Missionary Baptist Church. Dr. Dent gave a history lesson of black spirituals with his own musical talents by singing and playing the piano. Needless to say, that’s where the power of worship music really hit the audience. The audience enthusiastically participated in singing along to famous hymns such as “God is Great” and “Amazing Grace”.

In our interview Dr. Dent shared how he was mainly absorbed into the sound of the music in the beginning of his career, as he always adored the tight vocal harmonies of jazz music. However, he also professed how much that has changed with age.

“There’s something about becoming closer,” he spoke, “realizing at a real gut level the sacrifice that Christ made me…means so much more to me now than when I was younger.”

This wonderful event and guest would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Dr. Robert Darden, Baylor’s associate professor in the department of journalism.