Once a year, gospel music has risen up to the intricately molded ceilings at Proctors during the annual Gospel Jubilee.
That’s in part thanks to producer Sara Hill, a Schenectady native who created the Jubilee eight years ago.
“I grew up listening to all genres of music. We played everything. Gospel was definitely one of the top favorites in the family but I grew up listening from everything from rock to blues, I was a disco head. I also was a DJ as I got older,” Hill said.
She also sang in the choir at Refreshing Spring Church of God in Schenectady.
“That was really where I got my love of gospel music,” Hill said, “It was the culture that we were in as well, growing up in Schenectady.”
After graduating from Mont Pleasant High School, Hill went on to attend Fisk University and New York University, ultimately landed a job at an investment banking firm in NYC.
But music didn’t take a backseat just because it wasn’t her day job.
“I was attending some of the club appearances of independent singer-songwriters at the time and these were singers that were doing supporting vocals for artists like Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, Elton John, Tina Turner. They were so talented and they had their own projects and no one was out there helping to promote them,” Hill said.
She knew there was talent just waiting to be given a platform. One day at work she started doodling and came up with an idea that became the second and major next step in her career: Sista Factory, which stands for Soulful Inspirational Sounds to Admire. Under the company name Sista Factory, in 1999 Hill started promoting and scheduling shows for up and coming artists at major venues across NYC.
“I started really early on as one of the first women to become a promoter at major venues in New York with these artists,” Hill said.
About a decade later, she moved upstate to be closer to her extended family and to start a family of her own. But she brought Sista Factory with her, teaming up with Mona Golub to present a few shows at Music Haven. She also started working with Phillip Morris at Proctors on various shows. It was actually Morris that first approached Hill with the idea to hold an event centered around gospel music back in 2011.
“Our first show was in the GE Theater 434 capacity. I wanted to take a moment and recognize someone who has been very influential in the community and I dedicated that first concert to the late pastor Georgetta Dix of Refreshing Spring Church,” Hill said, “And we sold out.”
The following year, the Jubilee was moved onto the main stage, where it’s remained ever since, bringing in nearly 1,000 people every year.
“It’s grown so much and I’ve seen the attendance grow. We have branded such a special program that has all walks of life, every denomination. Those who live by the faith, or are looking for faith or just want a night of inspiration and enlightenment, they come to Gospel Jubilee,” Hill said.
The event has brought in people from all over the greater Capital Region, as well as people from Canada.
This year, under the musical direction of Reverend Elgin Joseph Taylor, Sr. the Jubilee is bringing in world-class talent like Troy Sneed.
“We’ve brought in some iconic singers from the top of the Billboard charts that are very significant right now and relevant in gospel music,” Hill said.
Sneed is the CEO of two record labels, Emtro Gospel and T-Sneed Records. He’s one of the leading artists in gospel music today, with albums like “Kept By His Grace” and “My Heart Says Yes.” He’ll be performing alongside the Jubilee Mass Choir, which is led by Reverend Taylor.
“We are going to do a special moment of memorial recognition to the late and great Aretha Franklin. She’s one of my heroes and one of the most iconic singers of all time,” Hill said.
The Jubilee will also include a message by Michael-Aaron Pointdexter, the minister of community life and outreach at Albany’s Metropolitan Church.
“Every year, we recognize someone in the community who has laid down the groundwork for others to follow, but this year I wanted to take a moment and recognize the families of those who have lost loved ones to violence. The reason is we had a very hard summer throughout the Capital Region,” Hill said, “as it [was] around this country. Gun violence is just wicked.”
There will be an unveiling of artwork by Albany-based artist M. Dontae Jones, for the families. Between the messages and the performances by Sneed and the Jubilee Mass Choir, it’s bound to be one of the most popular Jubilees yet.
“They’re going to have to [put] the ceiling back together after we’re done singing,” Hill said.
8th Annual Gospel Jubilee
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday.
MORE INFO: proctors.org