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First Mentoring Session presented by JSU Gospel Choir


The Music Department’s Gospel Choir on Thursday, March 20th welcomed Emily Studdard, mother of American Idol star Ruben Studdard, to its first ever mentoring session. The event was held in the TMB auditorium.

The main focus of the mentoring session was youth involvement in chorale groups. Choir singer Rachel White said that the session was “created to encourage the youth towards excellence.”

Before introducing Studdard, Gospel Choir member Camila Dean introduced the other members of the choir in attendance. 

In line with the theme of youth involvement, the session’s opening performance consisted of praise dancers, ages seven to 19, dressed in angelic white robes. 

The performer that followed the dancers—Jackie Young—made clear with the passion in her voice that she loves the gospel, and she loves what she does.

Young is a former servicewoman currently taking online classes at JSU. She thinks people shouldn’t underestimate her. “I am glad to be 42 years old, because it was only a miracle that I stand here today, because I was lucky to have been discharged from the military two months before 9/11,” she said.

Later, Studdard told the audience at the mentoring session that Young was clearly “in the right place at the right time.” She said that was the same thing she told Ruben when he was selected to move to the next level on “American Idol.” 

After Young’s performance, the youth continued their musical selections. Dr. Myrtice Collins, Director of the JSU Gospel Choir, then handed the floor over to the session’s special guest.

Emily Studdard is from Birmingham, Alabama. She’s a graduate of Alabama A&M and the University of Montevallo. She is a retired educator and now directs the Ruben Studdard Foundation for Advancement of Children in Music and Arts. 

She has received awards for her involvement in various organizations, which has brought her in contact with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. She’s been seated two rows away from President Bush. However, her main topic was her foundation and the influence it has on the people it touches. 

The program accepts children ages 12 to 19 “because those are the ages that their voices change the most,” says Studdard. 

She goes on to say that she has “people come in from the industry to the camp to teach the children the different aspects the program has to offer. It is truly a great opportunity for children.” 

Even though Studdard is the director of foundation, she believes that achieving dreams takes time and real effort. She said it helped her son Ruben to set goals that he felt he could achieve. 

Before opening the floor to questions, Studdard said, “preparation determines your destination”—great words of inspiration, not just for the young, but for people of any age. 

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