The University of Michigan-Dearborn was graced with the presence of Stellar Award- winning gospel artist Lisa Page Brooks, who was the special guest speaker for Dr. Deborah Smith Pollard's Introduction to Gospel Music class on November 16, 2010.
During the event, Brooks discussed her musical upbringing as well as the role gospel music has played in her life, and gave a special performance for the audience.
Gospel Artist Lisa Page Brooks speaks at U of M Dearborn Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Hancock
As the former lead singer of the female gospel quartet, Witness, Brooks has been instrumental in the progression of contemporary gospel music and has continued to minister through song with the release of her third solo project, Strong, which was released in 2009.
Growing up in Detroit, Brooks says she was always surrounded by music and learned the craft of the art form at an early age. Her father, Warren Harris, was a member of The Monitors, a singing group that was signed to Motown Records and earned moderate success in the 1960s.
"As a young child, it was a common place for The Temptations and different members of groups from Motown Records to drop by my house," said Brooks."I didn't know the magnitude of that when I was younger, but it's really something for me to have that heritage and that history."
Brooks followed in her father's footsteps by singing in her church choir and joining the family group, Voices of Eden, which was composed of her mother and sisters.
She recalled, as a child being made to rehearse for different programs she would perform at in the city, and was brought back to the times when she would be made to sing the religious hymn, "Touch me Lord Jesus," for family and friends.
"Back then I thought I was doing something, but I would have the words all mixed up," she said, laughing.
Recollecting her musical past, Brooks says she never thought she would be in the position she is in her life now.
"I never had a desire to be what has become of my music ministry. I just loved to sing," she said.
Brooks' passion for music led to her success with Witness, who debuted in 1986, and went on to garner numerous accolades including two Grammy nominations.
The audience at UM-D got a taste of her performing skills with the group when they watched a YouTube clip of Witness' performance on the 1991 Stellar Awards, in which they sang their hit song "Old Landmark."
Brooks also belted out an a cappella version of the gospel hymn "Great is thy faithfulness" and sang the current single from her new album, "I Want To Say Thank You."Her daughter also showed off her musical talent by singing a stirring rendition of "His Eye Is On the Sparrow."
Lisa Page Brooks' daughter and students from Dr. Deborah Smith Pollard's
Introduction to Gospel Music class at University of Michigan-Dearborn Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Hancock
Brooks continues to spread her love of music throughout the city of Detroit with her church, Restoration Fellowship Church International, where she serves in a pastoral ministry with her husband, Pastor Michael Brooks, who is also a musician and founding member of the famed gospel group Commissioned.
She ended her lecture by emphasizing the importance of music as a universal tool and its ability to influence lives.
"When your passion is singing, and I prefer gospel music, because of my relationship with God, it touches the soul, it gives hope and it encourages you," said Brooks.
"It is so awesome to know that music and lyrics can do that to someone. I felt like I was made to do this, but to see now the importance of it and the history of it and to be a part of that history is just really remarkable. "
Brooks will be starring in the upcoming TJ Hemphill play, "I'll Be Home For Christmas" which will be running December 9-12 at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit.
Lisa Page Brooks Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Hancock
Author, motivational speaker and university professor Deborah Smith Pollard, Ph.D., first attracted national attention when she was named Gospel Announcer of the Year during the 20th annual Stellar Awards, called The Grammys of Gospel Music.
Pollard is a recognized expert on contemporary gospel music with a knowledge base that is the result of her dual career: Associate Professor of English Literature and Humanities at University of Michigan-Dearborn and award-winning gospel radio announcer Sunday mornings, 6-10 AM, on FM 98 WJLB, Detroit's top rated station for young adults.
She has published both academic and popular articles on various aspects of gospel music.
Her book, When the Church Becomes Your Party: Contemporary Gospel Music (Wayne State University Press 2008, includes chapters on praise and worship in the urban church, gospel musical stage plays, the changing dress code in gospel music and the Black church, women gospel announcers and holy hip hop/Christian rap.