About the Musicians | Devotion: Meditating on the Black Gospel Tradition

Nov. 3rd, 2021

    Pamela Jean Davis is a true believer in the Father, Son, and Holy-Ghost – and confesses that Jesus Christ is her Savior and Lord! She is a writer, composer, arranger, and accompanist, known for her lifelong talents on the piano. Ms. Davis boasts a lifetime membership with the Jordan Conservatory of Music at Butler University in her hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. She has performed with such artists as Michael McDonald, Shirley Caesar, the Mass Choir, Patti Austin, Women of Worship, the P.U.S.H. movement with Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and more. You’ve likely heard her accompaniment to the song, “Order My Steps,” written by the late Glenn Burleigh, or heard her background vocals in tracks by Diana Ross, Michael Bolton, and Barry Manilow. Ms. Davis has served as choral director for Celine Dion and Michael Bolton, and is currently the Director of Worship Arts at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston, Texas. She continues to write, travel, conduct music classes and workshops, and record internationally. She seeks to spread the gospel through music – giving God honor, praise, and glory!

 

    Dr. Melanie R. Hill  received her Ph.D. in English Literature with concentrations in Africana Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a second Master’s degree in Literature from George Mason University, and a B.A. in English with a minor in Spanish from the University of Virginia. Dr. Hill is Assistant Professor of American Literature at Rutgers University, Newark and has published articles on black feminism/womanism and the art of the sermon in African American literature, as well as on the works of Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald for Oxford University Press. Dr. Hill is also an Associate Research Scholar at Yale University Institute of Sacred Music and Visiting Assistant Professor at Yale Divinity School. Her forthcoming manuscript, Colored Women Sittin’ on High: Womanist Sermonic Practice in Literature and Music (UNC Press), is an interdisciplinary analysis of Black women preachers in African American literature, music, and in the space of the pulpit countering social injustices through sermon and song. In addition to her scholarship, Dr. Hill is a Gospel Soul Violinist who has performed at the White House on two occasions under the Obama administration, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Apollo Theater in New York, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and for Pope Francis’s Papal Mass during his historic visit to the United States. She’s also been featured on Showtime at the Apollo, Good Day Philadelphia, Philadelphia Style Magazine, BET, TV One, and has performed for Senator Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, Ms. Sabrina Fulton, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, Mrs. Susan L. Taylor, Alice Walker, and opened for John Legend and Jonathan McReynolds. Recently, in honor of precious lives lost during the pandemic, Dr. Hill opened for the National Council of Churches before the sermon of Bishop Michael B. Curry, presiding Bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church. Dr. Hill is grateful for God’s blessings and remains focused on sharing inspiration through her violin and spreading scholarship along the intersections of literature, music, and theology. 

 

    Derrick Jackson is a lifelong musician from a musical family. Born in Chicago, and raised in Memphis, Jackson’s father founded and pastored a church in for forty-seven years. As he grew, Jackson realized he could sing or play anything he’d been acquainted with, musically: gospel, jazz, classical, blues, pop, even country. He eventually began formally studying classical piano and organ in junior high, and classical piano performance at Memphis State University, as well as Shelby State College. Since then, Jackson has performed and recorded with a roster of gospel artists across the country, and has garnered numerous awards. He has scored for, and performed with, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, as well as the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, and served as the personal organist for the late Bishop G.E. Patterson; particularly, during his time as Presiding Bishop of COGIC World Missions.  Likewise, Jackson has played behind COGIC Presiding Bishop Emeritus Charles E. Blake Sr., and Presiding Bishop J. Drew Sheard. Jackson and his sister Barbara have run a music school for the past three decades, and he is currently the minister of music at his father’s church, where his brother serves as pastor, Faith Temple Ministries COGIC in Memphis. He is also the minister of music for the famed Temple of Deliverance COGIC, pastored by Bishop Milton Hawkins. He is married to the lovely Shirley Jackson, with whom he has a son, Derrick Jamal Jackson.

 

     Joey Woolfalka lead and acoustic guitarist from Chicago, is also a singer, songwriter and producer. Joey has played professionally for over 20 years and has loaned his talent to various artist in all genres of music. Joey was the first guitarist and one of the first musicians to win a Stellar Award (for Best Guitarist). Joey has traveled the world playing his guitar. His gift can be heard on several compilations including music for Bishop TD Jakes, Donnie McClurkin, Fred Hammond, BeBe & CeCe Winans, Yolanda Adams, Donald Lawrence, Commissioned and the Clark Sisters to name a few. Joey is currently working on a musical CD, with plans to release the first single in January, 2022.

 

     Eric Johnson has been playing the drums since childhood, and professionally from the age of fourteen. Born in New York City, he attended the Professional Performing Arts High School in Manhattan, and later graduated from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Music Business/Marketing. Currently, he serves as a percussionist at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, NY. He has accompanied artists such as Rhonda Ross, Darlene Love, Adrian Haye, and more.