Superintendent Marc Cooper is a Miami, Florida–based pastor, keyboardist, singer, songwriter, arranger, producer and choir director who is best known for organizing and leading the award-winning Miami Mass Choir.
Born September 15, 1971, Cooper cut his teeth on sacred music as minister of music for Cooper Temple Church of God in Christ, the Carol City, Florida, church his father, Elder Lenwood Cooper, founded in 1970. His church music debut came at age five when he filled in on organ for his uncle, Cooper Temple’s regular organist, who happened to be running late for the Sunday service.
By the age of 17, Cooper was music coordinator and keyboardist for a gospel group called the Revelations. Later, he organized a small choir known as Marc Cooper and Friends. The choir’s sole Savoy release, Glory, Glory, was recorded in 1995 at the Miami Way Theater in Miami, Florida. It featured contemporary gospel choral arrangements as well as cameos by label mate LaShun Pace of the Anointed Pace Sisters, who soloed on I’m Saved and Hold Out.
In January of that year, the Reverend Milton Biggham, Executive Producer for Savoy Records, asked Cooper to assemble some of Florida’s finest singers into a new choir. More than 100 women and men answered the call. They gathered at Florida Memorial College Chapel on February 27, 1995, for the first rehearsal of the Miami Mass Choir.
By July, the choir had completed its debut album, It’s Praying Time. Released on Savoy in 1997, It’s Praying Time went to No. 25 on Billboard’s Top Gospel LPs chart. It was buoyed by the Joy Cooper–led single, What God Has for Me It Is for Me. The hit song helped the Miami Mass Choir take home a Stellar Award for Choir of the Year in 1998. Ole Rickety Bridge, the choir’s 2000 Malaco collaboration with Evangelist Dorothy Norwood, climbed the Billboard Top Gospel LPs chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album.
Cooper eventually started his own record label, MaJo Records—an elision of the first two letters of his and wife Joy Cooper’s first names. Miami Mass Choir’s third album, God Will See You Through (2001), was released on MaJo. By 2010, Miami Mass had become the resident ensemble at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s “Free Gospel Sundays” series in Miami. It was not surprising, then, when after a long hiatus from the recording scene, the Miami Mass Choir’s fourth album was recorded at the Arsht Center. LIVE at the Adrienne Arsht Center, released on MaJo Records, hit stores in December 2016.
After the January 1997 passing of Elder Lenwood Cooper, Marc became assistant pastor of Cooper Temple under his mother, Mildred Cooper. A year later, she transitioned and Marc was named pastor of the Miami Gardens church. Today, with able assistance from First Lady Joy Cooper, Superintendent Marc Cooper leads the family’s church, Cooper Temple Church of God in Christ, now known as Upper Room Ministries.
—Robert M. Marovich