LOCAL FOLKS: Choir director finds hope in music

TUPELO – Stephanie Stubbs doesn’t just sing music, she feels it.
She doesn’t just find hope in it, she uses that hope to inspire others.
It’s what she’s done her entire life.
Stubbs, a lifelong music lover, is the director of the Tupelo-Lee County Diversity Choir, a choir that welcomes singers of all races and denominations. It’s through the choir that she does what she says she was born to do: inspire others.
Stubbs was the first person Robert Hall thought to contact when he came up with the idea of a diversity choir for Tupelo and the surrounding area.
He longed for a group that would bring all races and denominations together.
“If you’re going to be one in the body of Christ, you can’t be divided,” he said. “We may look different, we may sound different, but in the body of Christ we are all the same.”
Hall called on Stubbs, who called on her fellow musician friend Geno Jones, and the Tupelo-Lee County Diversity Mass Choir was born in October.
The choir now has about 100 members, of all races and beliefs, Hall said, and it’s open to everyone, regardless of talent.
“We’re trying to benefit the community, and worship and praise,” Stubbs said. “We have so much talent here.”
The group has performed at churches and celebrations, most recently at the Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival’s gospel show. Kay Bain, a choir member, sang a few solos at that performance, as well as Stubbs, and the choir received a standing ovation.
Members of the choir say the group has a different feel to it than other choirs.
“It’s called the Anointing,” Stubbs said. “It’s the Holy Ghost. There are so many different religions and races and denominations, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Members of the choir take pictures and video of performances and events, so they can make a documentary about the choir’s formation and work. Stubbs and members of the choir are writing a song about Tupelo that they hope to debut – along with the documentary – on New Year’s Eve at an event at the Link Centre.
The choir is on the lookout for more singers, musicians and songwriters, of as many different races, denominations and cultural backgrounds as possible, “because it’s got to represent everybody,” Stubbs said.
Stubbs has been practicing for her work with the Diversity Choir her entire life.
A native of Columbus, Stubbs, 39, sang in church and in choirs as a child.
“I was not a very open and out child, and to find something like that was a comfort for me,” she said. “It wasn’t something I could buy, it wasn’t something somebody could give me. It was something of mine, and something I could use to help people.”
She continued her love for gospel as a student at Mississippi State University, where she was a member of Black Voices.
“My heart is in, as my grandmama would say, spirituals,” she said.
Stubbs’ day job is at the Lee County Department of Human Services, but music bleeds into her work.
“Half the time I’m singing something,” she said, laughing. “I have elderly ladies call me and say, ‘Baby, if you’ll just sing for me.’”
Stubbs also teaches voice lessons.
“That’s the apple of my eye,” she said.
Her biggest fans are her husband, Bryant Stubbs, and their son, Bryant Stubbs Jr., 7. Being a positive role model for her son, and all children, is one of her highest goals.
“The youth is our future. The hope they see in us is what’s going to be in them,” she said.
She hopes to blend her passions for singing and for children by creating a diversity choir for children.
She sang a few lines of a song she’s sang since childhood: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.”
“It’s a beautiful song,” she said, “because it’s true.”
Contact Sheena Barnett at (662) 678-5180 or sheena.barnett@djournal.com.

Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal