As the grand finale of Syracuse Jazz Fest in 2023, Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University will host “Return to Community: A Sunday Gospel Jazz Service”, featuring The Dillard University Ensemble (New Orleans, LA), Black Celestial Choral Ensemble (BCCE) of Syracuse University, and a community choir composed of Syracuse area residents.

This first-of-its-kind program will offer a dynamic and inclusive spiritual experience that fuses and celebrates Gospel and Jazz music, includes a pre-event welcome luncheon, and seeks to spark and sustain renewal in our local community and beyond. The program and luncheon are both free of charge, and open to all.

No registration is necessary however, you may join the Facebook event to receive reminders.

“Return to Community: A Sunday Gospel Jazz Service”
Sunday, June 25, 2023
Program: 3:00 PM
Pre-Event Luncheon: 12:30-2:30 PM*
*for the first 1,000 attendees

Click here for more information on the luncheon.


Several choir members in black choral wear sing with their hands raised in the air. The Dillard University Ensemble

Through the leadership of Samuel Carver Davenport, Dillard University’s Ray Charles Endowed Professor in Music, the nationally renowned Dillard University Concert Choir features vibrant student voices from across North America. The choir recently performed for the nationally televised Historically Black College and University (HBCU) All-Star Game as well as the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) Annual Education Conference, with the choir being described as “surpassed only by the angels of heaven.”

Located in New Orleans and established in 1869, Dillard University is Louisiana’s oldest historically Black college. As a private faith-based liberal arts university that offers 22 majors and two certificate programs, the university “cultivates leaders who live ethically, think and communicate precisely, and act courageously to make the world a better place.”

The Black Celestial Choral Ensemble (BCCE) of Syracuse University

Founded in 1977 by Rev. Dr. Seretta C. McKnight to provide a spiritual home for Black students at Syracuse University, the Black Celestial Choral Ensemble (BCCE) ministers through Gospel music that fosters and supports academic excellence at a university welcoming to all. Led by student director Gabrielle Pinkney ’24 and supported through The Alumni Group (TAG) of the BCEE, the choir has performed at numerous venues throughout North America, including the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church (Atlanta, GA), the spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and currently led by Rev. Dr. Senator Raphael Warnock.

Gospel Jazz Community Choir

To honor the 2023 Sunday Gospel Jazz Service theme of “Return to Community,” a diverse community choir composed of Syracuse area residents will be led by Cora Thomas, known locally as the “First Lady of Gospel Music.” Born and raised in Syracuse, Thomas supports numerous community organizations and hosts “Sunday Morning Gospel” on WAER 88.3 of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

All interested in participating in the community choir may contact Cora Thomas at or Hendricks Chapel at or 315.443.2901.

For additional information on 2023 Syracuse Jazz Fest, please visit


Pre-Event Outdoor Welcome Luncheon

Sponsored by the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Ministry (FELM), and to express the 2023 Sunday Gospel Jazz Service theme of “Return to Community”, a pre-event outdoor welcome luncheon, featuring free food and refreshments, will take place on the Kenneth A. Shaw Quadrangle of Syracuse University from 12:30-2:30pm. At 2:30pm all luncheon guests will be invited into Hendricks Chapel for the 3:00pm Sunday Gospel Jazz Service start time.