Each semester, approximately two dozen students spill into a Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) classroom, pick up sheet music, and find a seat. Director Stephen Spilger opens with prayer while pianist Grace D’Amico waits at the piano. Over the next hour, laughter, music, and the rustle of papers fill the room as the students postpone dinner to practice. These are the Spirit Singers, a well-known music group that has been a PCC tradition for over thirty years.
A Spirit Singers veteran with a passion for music, Syneaqua Benboe (Jr., FL) shared how she joined the group as a freshman. “I believe music is such a great ministry, and the music on campus is no exception!” Syneaqua said. “I always wanted to be a part of PCC’s music ministry but never knew how to get involved. When I heard about Spirit Singers a few years ago, I jumped at the opportunity.”
Syneaqua’s initial excitement dwindled, however, when she realized she would not only have to audition before teachers but would also perform in front of the entire student body if she got into the group. Because of her stage fright, she almost didn’t audition, but when she entered the VPA, a music teacher’s kindness encouraged her to try out, and she ended up singing with the group for four semesters.
“Spirit Singers has totally influenced my college experience!” Syneaqua said. “I have made friends that I wouldn’t have made otherwise.”
Because Spirit Singers represents a variety of majors and student classifications, members have the chance to connect with students they may not have classes with.
Chris Montgomery (Jr., TN) explained that his favorite part of being in Spirit Singers was the people, both the other singers as well as the group’s leader. “We knew how to have a blast but get things done,” Chris said. “I think singing was great enough, but adding to that a group of individuals who are not just singing to sing, but for God, it’s ten times better!”
One of the main performances the Spirit Singers prepare for is the annual Christmas Lights concert. It was for this very event that Danielle Gibbs (Sr., TX) auditioned for Spirit Singers: “I decided to join Spirit Singers . . . because I had heard about Christmas Lights from upperclassmen. I love Christmas music! A whole choir dedicated to singing Christmas music sounded too good to be true.”
Danielle also shared that being in Spirit Singers became an encouragement to her. “Whenever I was overwhelmed and stressed about life going into rehearsal, I would come out with a huge smile on my face humming fun Christmas songs!”
In fact, Christmas music was what caused the Spirit Singers to form back in the 1980s. “Before it was called Spirit Singers, a group of us got together to sing carols at the mall,” said Scott Roberts, chair of the Performing Arts Department. Among those involved were Dr. Steve Ainsworth, Greg Soule, Darlyn Cole, and Scott Roberts. “We did a short Christmas concert with the band in front of the VPA, and we provided some special music for a program between shifts of the Christmas banquet on campus,” Roberts recalled.
In addition to performing during the annual Christmas Lights event, Spirit Singers perform for most Student Body programs. The group has also performed at the Bible Conference picnic, Campus Church, and other local churches as well as for local events. In 2018, Spirit Singers worked with composer Ben Everson to record his song “Don’t You Fear.”
“Spirit Singers has helped to shape my view of singing to others,” Chris said. “Mr. Spilger constantly stressed the importance of the message of the song. He wanted us to have the song down so that we could focus on what the words mean.”
Music faculty Stephen Spilger, the group’s leader, said that one thing he enjoys about working with Spirit Singers is “the realization that I’m part of something much larger. I’m helping to encourage and refresh students campus wide.”
And it’s true. Whether through the Christmas Lights concert or an encouraging song right before midterms, Spirit Singers often uplift PCC’s student body.
“One moment that stuck with me the most was [from] last year—[after] we sang a song called ‘Be an Example,’ a random girl came up to me at work and gave me a hug,” Syneaqua said. “She explained to me that the Lord used that song to help her with some decisions she needed to make in her Christian walk. I love hearing that the songs we sang touched others.”