Discovering the Roots of American Music in September

Lori Dokken, Music Director


How Spirituals and Gospel Music provided the musical inspiration and foundation for blues, jazz and rock and roll.

Every September at Unity Minneapolis the Music Department presents a month-long focus on a specific musical style, genre, artist or era from our past. Being the Musical Director at Unity places me in the position of selecting what will be featured each year.


I am very excited to join with my friend and collaborator, Ginger Commodore, to assemble this journey through Gospel Music – from the Spirituals to contemporary Gospel artists. As challenging as this will be – to distill into four Sundays, decades and centuries of songs, composers and artists – we look forward to bringing you a snapshot of the foundational, musical building blocks for the development of some of America’s most renowned contemporary music styles … blues, jazz and rock and roll.


Robert Darden, former gospel music editor for Billboard Magazine, says it best in his book, *People Get Ready! A New History of Black Gospel Music:

“Among the richest of the lavish gifts Africa has given to the world is rhythm. The beat … It is rhythm that drives the great American musical exports, the spiritual (and by extension, gospel), the blues, jazz, and rock and roll.

But first you must have the spirituals – religion with rhythm.”


Mr. Darden goes on to describe his research:

“What I found thrilled me. I found a people so extraordinary that they could make something out of nothing. When denied a spoken language, they created a language of song of such complexity that researchers are still trying to tease out its meanings. When denied access to religion, they assembled snippets and bits and molded them into a religion that sustained them through America’s darkest hours, slavery, and Jim Crow (and, in my opinion, created a theology closer to first-century Christianity).”


Ginger and I have known each other for a very long time and just recently have spent time together sharing the stage. Ginger has been a member of the Twin Cities music scene for many years. Beginning her musical career, she joined the three-time Grammy Award winning Sounds of Blackness, touring across the United States and opening shows for The Jackson Five, Roberta Flack and The Pointer Sisters. She was instrumental in ministering, performing and recording with Sam Davis and The Twin Cities Gospel Ensemble, and the JD Steele singers. Ginger is also an original member of the local female group, Women Who Cook.


Her theatrical credits include: The World Premiere of Death in the Family with the Minnesota Opera Company, Selma and Black Nativity at the Penumbra Theatre Company, Black Belts at the Mixed Blood Theatre, Stamping, Shouting & Singing Home at the Children’s Theatre Company, Smokey Joe’s Café at Hey City Theater, Hairspray at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, The Color Purple at Park Square Theatre, and Capitol Project at Wunderlust Theater. She’s also been a featured soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra Pops series at Orchestra Hall with Doc Severenson.


Ginger is a founding member of the local jazz ensemble, Moore By Four, who toured the United States performing at Colleges and Universities, concert halls and Coliseums and renown Jazz Festivals. Ginger also toured England, Scotland and Wales joining Judy Craig Mann of the 60s girl group, The Chiffons. You will find Ginger currently appearing at local jazz clubs with her own trio of musicians, as Ginger Commodore & GCQ.


Please join us in person or online in September 2021 for this fantastic music series. I am really looking forward to it!


Lori Dokken, Music Director
Unity Minneapolis

Lori Dokken

Lori Dokken

Music Director

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