For members of Youthful Spirits, a local gospel-jazz group, the past 10 years have been ones consumed with a love for and a dedication to music and a desire to spread their spiritual message.
The group, which was formed in August of 1993, celebrates its 10th anniversary this weekend with a two-day concert event at the Hylton Memorial Chapel.
The celebration began last night with a group performance as well as a solo by founding member and saxophonist Rob Maletick, during which he recorded a live album and video.
The celebration will continue today at 4:30 p.m. with a free concert at Hylton Chapel.
Maletick, James “Robbie” Wigington, Mike Coleman, Roderick Jeter, TJ Nokes and Donald Bell started the group when they were students at Osbourn Park, Stonewall Jackson and Osbourn high schools in Manassas.
Maletick, vocalist Coleman and vocalist and keyboard player Wigington are still with the all-male group, which has since grown to include 11 members who range in age from 17 to 28.
Newcomers to the group since its early formation include group president Marcus Fields, vocalist Mike Fields, keyboardist Mitchell Fields, conga player Mike Mitchell, John White on auxiliary percussion, keyboardist and percussionist John Lacey, vocalist Stevie Tibbs and drummer EJ White.
Jeter and Bell will reunite with the group for tonight’s concert.
The six original members of Youthful Spirits were united by their interest in music and originally set out to form a R&B group, Wigington said.
They were later persuaded by their parents to pursue more uplifting music, he said.
“Our parents wanted us to sing about more positive things,” he said.
That’s when the members turned to gospel music.
The group’s music is a mix of jazz, go-go, and contemporary and quartet gospel music, Wigington said.
Over the years, its sound has transitioned from a more traditional sound to one more contemporary, Maletick said.
Since its creation, Youthful Spirits and its members have found success both locally and beyond. The group has released three albums together and Wigington and Maletick have each released two albums of their own.
The group has performed at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., and the Patriot Center in Fairfax and has been a part of the summer concert series at the Loy E. Harris Pavilion in Manassas for three years.
Youthful Spirits has also been involved with several community and national service organizations throughout its existence, including the National True Love Waits Conference, the National Conference of Negro Women and the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation, Wigington said.
Of all these accomplishments, Wigington said he is most proud of the times when he and other group members have seen and heard the impact their music has had on their audiences.
“The best moments happen every time someone comes up to us after a concert and says that our music has helped them and they want to change their lives,” Wigington said. “Two of our own group members, EJ White and John Lacey, who weren’t Christians when they joined, decided to give their lives to Christ after joining us and that was a great thing, too.”
Although they feel their music has the power to move and influence people, Wigington, Maletick and other group members acknowledge that they are not perfect and feel that may be part of their appeal to audiences.
“We know that we make mistakes like everyone else. We’re not up here preaching; we just want to show people they have the power to rejoice,” Wigington said. “Youthful Spirits is a testimony that God can take anybody and make something beautiful out of their lives.”
The group has seen its fan base change to a lower age.
“When we began, our target audience was probably in the 25- to 40 year-old age range; now it’s more like 12 to 30,” Maletick said. “It’s been an unexpected change.
“We reach out to all ages, but it’s with the youth that we seem to be making a big impact. We’ve developed a powerful youth ministry through our music,” Wigington said. “Our concerts are always very vibrant and energetic.”
The group hopes for a large turnout at today’s concert, Wigington said.
“We’re hoping that we can gather around 1,000 youth here Saturday,” he said. “We’d love to fill the pews of this chapel with youth linking arms in prayer and praise for God.”
The group’s goals for the future are simple, Wigington said. They hope to stay together and continue playing the music that they love.
Additionally, Youthful Spirits hopes to one day establish a scholarship fund to further serve the youthful fans they have attracted.
Wherever future years find them, Wigington said, the group will continue to promote the positive message that they feel their music conveys.
“Our message is that no matter who you are, what race, what economic class, you can always try to help somebody else and no matter what situation you’re in, God can work it out,” he said.