Patrick McGinnis gets the choir’s attention and, with the movements of his hands, brings the music to life. The twenty-one-year-old IUP Management major from Pittsburgh directs the smooth, gospel sounds of the campus-based Voices of Joy choir.
McGinnis discovered he liked directing when he was fifteen. Then a shy teen-ager, he was asked to direct a song for the adult Praise and Worship Choir at the Morningside Church of God in Christ in Pittsburgh. The song was a tribute to his grandmother, Delores McKinney, a choir member who had recently passed away.
Though he had resisted his grandmother’s efforts to persuade him to sing in the youth choir, the desire to honor her memory compelled him to try directing—and he liked it.
“When I first did it, I was scared,” he said. “I was always shy and behind-the-scenes. I started learning how to be a leader. Now, I love doing it. I couldn’t stop now.”
Six years since that first opportunity, he’s still directing his late grandmother’s choir, rehearsing and leading them at the worship service every third weekend. He juggles the church choir’s schedule with that of Voices of Joy, which gives ten to twelve concerts a semester.
Voices of Joy member Melanie Brown from Philadelphia was a soloist one Sunday in December
The Voices of Joy choir sings mostly at churches, both in the Indiana community and in other cities and states. The group has sometimes traveled far to spread its musical message, from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to New York and Michigan.
“It’s ministry every time we sing,” McGinnis said. “By your singing, you can bring someone through something. Many people, hearing the choir, will come to God. Usually at every concert He shows his power. You’ll see people crying, because it touches their hearts.”
Along with serving as the Voices of Joy’s student director, McGinnis, an IUP senior, leads the group as its president. His strong volunteer commitment to the group was one of the main reasons he was one of two IUP students chosen to receive the Foundation for IUP Community Volunteer Service Award last fall. The other student recipient was Brianna Lindenberg, a senior Dietetics major from Penn Run, Pa.
As president of the Voices of Joy, McGinnis is responsible for scheduling the choir’s appearances, coordinating fund-raisers, and arranging for transportation and sometimes for overnight housing. He also helps to coordinate the music.
Anyone in Voices of Joy can suggest a song. Most are learned by listening to them on compact discs. McGinnis, who sings tenor, gives credit both to the instrumentalists that accompany the choir and to a few choir members who break the music down into instrumental and vocal parts.
Another responsibility McGinnis has as the choir’s president is to serve as an intermediary between the members and the group’s advisor, Melvin Jenkins, an educational counselor at the IUP Learning Center and pastor of Victory Christian Assembly in Indiana. Jenkins has been impressed with McGinnis’s leadership.
“He’s an all-round, really dependable student,” Jenkins said. “A lot of students grow into roles, but he came here as a freshman with that maturity.”
Jenkins started Voices of Joy in 1988. The choir usually has about forty members, about two-thirds of them women. Although Jenkins has had two other students serve as directors for a short time, McGinnis has held the role the longest.
“He seems to be able to manage the students, manage the music, and manage the responsibilities,” Jenkins said. “He has the respect of his peers, and that makes a difference.”
Along with Voices of Joy, McGinnis leads an IUP-student-based mime group called Silent Prayer. The group, which performs at local churches about twice each month, interprets gospel songs through movements.
In addition to life as a student and musical director, McGinnis also represents the Disney College Internship Program and helps to recruit students for work and learning opportunities at Walt Disney World. He worked for Disney during the spring semester of his freshman year. He also holds a part-time job as a teller at S&T Bank in Indiana and works in the Stapleton Library administration office at IUP.
Although he resisted singing in the youth choir as a teen, he always enjoyed gospel music and rhythm and blues. Now those feelings have grown stronger, thanks to directing.
“I’ve always loved music,” he said. “Now, it’s my life. It’s a joyful thing. It makes me happy.”