Voice, the Divine Instrument

By Dominique McIndoe

SOUTH ORANGE – The melodic sounds of an evening choir class echo through the top floor of Corrigan Hall at Seton Hall University, the voices reverberating off of the walls and creating effective acoustics all the way into office room 73B3, belonging to professor Gloria Thurmond.

Thurmond, who is the senior faculty associate of music in the College of Communication and the Arts, and has performed in the likes of the Metropolitan Opera House and the New York City Opera, has always loved singing. As she sits behind her neatly made desk in her inner sanctum, tucked so cozily away from most of the classrooms, warmth and happiness cover her features when asked about her longtime career of vocal music – especially opera singing – and music education.

“The teaching of music and the performing, to me – it’s two different sides of the same coin,” Thurmond said. “Just the privilege of being in music and being able to make my living as a vocal and musical artist is something pretty special and very incredible. I am so aware and so grateful to make my living at something that I love to do.”

The office walls, clad with her accomplished degrees and musical references from her passions over the past 40 years, also give a deeper meaning as to how music and the sharing of music with others has impacted her life. Thurmond’s posters and framed pictures show her fondness for Italy, the home of the opera, where she has traveled every year for the past 16 years to direct and take part in the Assisi Music Festival of Assisi Performing Arts.

Her office room decorations feature her Masters in Theological Studies and Doctorate in Ministry, a portrait of an angel, the Cross of Jesus Christ, prayers, and a small, hand sized, three-dimensional statue of Mary and Jesus as a Child in her arms.

“It is all so integrated and it is all so infused,” Thurmond said, when asked about how her education in music and ministry overlap. “Singing is the connector with the Originator of life. Whatever I need to express to God comes through music. Some of my deepest musical experiences in terms of communication comes out of church.”

In addition to teaching voice lessons and music, she also teaches Journey of Transformation and Christianity & Culture in Dialogue, two core university classes.

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, when rock and roll, Gospel, and country were some of the major genres, Thurmond said her favorite artists were Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson, and Luciano Pavarotti, among others.

“Having spent most of my life as an opera singer, I like singers from old genres,” Thurmond said. “These singers, I can feel spiritually, whatever it is that they may be singing. They’re authentic and they really sing from their hearts. For me, if I don’t feel what you’re singing then you’re not communicating. It’s like having all the words you need in order to write a book and not telling the story. If you’re not communicating something to me then it’s like we’re wasting time. We want something that transforms us. And that’s what music – and anything in life – should do.”

Thurmond pointed to the upper-back wall of her office where a brown, square poster hung. It read: “VOICE, N. 1. THE ONLY MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MADE BY GOD.”

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