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National recording artist Crystal Aiken ’97 returns to PLU for a Gospel Experience Concert encore

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In celebration of Black History Month 2020, PLU will host headliner Crystal Aikin '97 for an encore performance at this year's Gospel Experience Concert.

Image: In celebration of Black History Month 2020, PLU will host headliner Crystal Aikin ’97 for an encore performance at this year’s Gospel Experience Concert.

February 14, 2020
By Staff
Marketing & Communications

TACOMA, WASH. (Feb. 14, 2020) —The Gospel Experience Concert is returning to Pacific Lutheran University on Saturday, Feb. 15., featuring an encore performance by national recording artist and event headliner Crystal Aikin '97.

The renowned gospel singer was born and raised in Tacoma, and graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a degree in nursing. Aiken performed on Black Entertainment Television’s first all-gospel talent show, “Sunday Best,” in 2009. She competed with some of America’s best gospel singers and won the first season, scoring a contract with Zomba Gospel — the largest gospel label in the world.

“PLU is a part of my academic journey, but they’re also just part of my element. I think to come back and say thank you, and to come back to show how I’ve developed and how I’ve launched at this point in my life, is always a treasure — and it’s really a privilege to be able to do,” Aiken says.

The event will also include performances from C. Ivan Johnson and the Washington State Church of God in Christ Mass Choir, as well as acts from Robin Henderson and Friends, and Anointed Brothers. In addition, there will be praise dancing featuring artists Sabian Pleasant and Diana Starr.

Gospel Experience is a Pacific Lutheran University Campus Ministry event directed by Melannie Denise Cunningham. Cunningham’s goal is to bring people of different cultures together through gospel music and to specifically honor people who identify with black culture.

“I am particularly proud of this event because of the cultural learning and experience that students gain from participating. Black students are affirmed in their culture and others are exposed to new insights about people who are different from them,” says Cunningham.

PLU Senior Ian Rice, a member of University Congregation, attended last year’s Gospel Experience Concert and reflected on his experience of the event.

“Overall the concert was very different than what I’m used to, especially because Lutherans traditionally sit and stand fairly still while singing a hymn. This was louder and longer — since each song seemed Spirit-led in terms of when it actually finished — with lots of different instrumentation and preaching throughout,” says Rice.