Mikel Mays

View more

A life rooted in song “I started singing when I was 5 or 6 at Spirit of Love Missionary Baptist Church in Gary, Indiana. That was the culture—everybody was pretty much a part of the choir—and I’ve been singing ever since. I also played drums in the church and was classically trained on the tuba starting in sixth grade. I got into R&B and jazz a little more once I got into high school.”

Beyond the music “I revived the Voices of Praise gospel choir in 2018 during my freshman year at [North Central College]. It had been on a five-year hiatus prior to that after originally starting back in the 1990s, and I wanted to be the person to bring it back so that everyone could enjoy it. The choir has developed into kind of a multicultural social group—we have people of all different races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, and majors. And a lot of people have turned back toward God and their faith after being part of the choir, which shows that this isn’t just about singing—it’s about building those relationships and strengthening our faith.”  

Carrying on a tradition “I’m honored to be able to lead the choir for the Gospel Extravaganza. It’s been great to hear from alumni and some of the founding members and make those connections. On a personal level, it also allows me to pursue my dream and calling of being able to help people get better access to music. So it’s kind of helping to prepare me for my future while honoring the past at the same time, which is pretty amazing.” 

Photography by Linh phu