Gospel Music Workshop of America Celebrates 50th Anniversary With High Attendance and Chapter Representation From Around the World

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TBR — Atlanta, GA — The Gospel Music Workshop of America. (GMWA) just wrapped up its celebratory 50th Anniversary at their Annual Convention at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta Hotel in Atlanta, GA, July 22-29, 2017.  This year’s theme “We’ve Come this Far By Faith” focused on the accomplishments of the GMWA over the past 50 years.

It was in March of 1967, when the late Reverend James Cleveland called together friends from across the United States to brainstorm his idea of producing a venue for gospel music presentations which led to the formation of the Gospel Music Workshop of America.  The initial concept was to bring together all of the best exponents from all over the world to mentor young people in Gospel Music Ministry.  This was also a part of Rev. Cleveland’s dream to create a “floating university” where people could be taught and learn the principles and elements of music.  As a result this dream was fulfilled as this Christian organization decided to convene annually, where national performers, recording artists, new and inspiring songwriters, educators, liturgical dancers, young and old, pastors and others could minister to each other as well as to the needs of the African American religious experience. Since its inception, the GMWA has also opened its doors to welcome and receive people of different colors, influences and cultures from around the world.

Since the passing of its founder Reverend James Cleveland in 1991, the organization still marches on as one of America’s treasured music institutions, and to this day, is the largest artistic organization of its kind in the world with 75,000 members in more than 185 chapters stretching from the United States to Asia.

Marking this year’s 50th Anniversary, Bishop Albert Jamison Sr., Chairman of the Board of Directors of the GMWA stated that more than 10,000 people had registered for the Atlanta convention and that the convention would be returning to Atlanta to celebrate its 51st Anniversary in 2018.

(Bishop Albert Jamison Sr., and The Belle take a moment to pose for the camera during the 2017 GMWA Annual Convention in Atlanta, GA)

Kicking off this year’s list of back to back activities, classes, workshops, panel discussions, rehearsals and concerts was the 2017 9th Annual “GMWA SERVES,” Community Charity Outreach Day, honoring the late Rev. James Cleveland and Rev. Charles Hicks.

After an overwhelming success over the past eight years, “GMWA SERVES” continued with great expectation to help hundreds in need in Atlanta. Ten local charities and churches were chosen to receive the support of 150 volunteer GMWA Ambassadors for what Atlanta Mayor Kassim Reed and local officials honored as “GMWA Serves Atlanta Community Service Day.”

Key attendees invited included the Hon. Mayor Kassim Reed, the Hon. John Lewis, Member of Congress, and the President and members of the Atlanta City Council.  In addition, GMWA Board of Directors, national leaders and Evelyn White, and Bishop Richard “Mr. Clean” White, head of Atlanta’s two GMWA Chapter Representatives, local Atlanta pastors, and gospel music industry leaders. Some of the confirmed Atlanta charities include the Morehouse School of Medicine, American Heart Association, GAG Back to School Supplies, National Urban League, New Life Church, Dodd-Sterling UME, Foundation of Hope, Veterans & Community Outreach, Big Bethel AME, Apex Museum, and Antioch Baptist. The Atlanta Chapter Nurses Guild and the Wellness Assessment Team coordinated the health fair for all residents.

GMWA Serves Atlanta 2017 was dedicated to the legacies of the late gospel great GMWA Founder, Rev. James Cleveland and GMWA First Vice President, Rev. Charles Nicks.

On Sunday the convention held its annual Communion & Consecration Service with the saints all dressed in white along with a powerful message that set the tone for the rest of the week.  By 4:00PM, the Contemporary Adult Division, Debutant and YYA Reunion Choir were in their first rehearsal for the week.

The Detroit Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America

By Monday the 50th Anniversary for the GMWA was in full swing with classes and rehearsals for Choirs, Quartets, Contemporary Adults, the Robert Fryson Chorale, National Mass Choir, Youth Rehearsal, Small Children, Chapter Representatives, Debutants, New Artist Showcase, James Cleveland Chorus, Thurston G. Frazier Memorial Chorale, Women of Worship, Charles Nicks Tribute, Men of Promise and so much more.

Breaking tradition unlike most Monday nights that started the week off with nightly services, this year in its place was the GALA CELEBRATION Banquet. Co-chaired by Lady Marsha T. DuPont and Dennis E. Cole, this was a beautiful setting with no disappointments.

With ticket prices ranging from $150 to $200, guests were treated to an exclusive program with special musical guests Chrystal Rucker, Maurice Griffin and the Williams Brothers. Dr. E. Dewey Smith served as the keynote speaker and Rick Joyner served as the Banquet Host.

Guests dined on Garden Salad Seasonal Greens, Tomato, Cucumber, Julienne Carrots House Vinaigrette and Ranch Dressing, Bread, Crisp Skinned Tanglewood Farms Chicken Breast, Broccolini, Seasonal Wild Rice Pilaf, Pan Jus, Strawberry Cheese Cake and Coffee and Tazo Tea selections.

Speaking on the festive evening was Bishop Albert L. Jamison, Sr., “This year is our Jubilee, 50 years. In Leviticus 25, Jubilee means a year of rest, redemption, restoration and holy living which is your reasonable service.  By the grace of God we are truly able to exemplify this year’s theme, We’ve Come This Far by Faith!”.

Following that evening was a musical tribute at 11pm at the GMWA nightly service. Special guests included some of the biggest names in gospel including Dr. Steven Roberts, Elder Isadore Jackson, Min. Prince Yelder,  V. Michael McKay, A.  Jeffrey LaValley, Rev. Milton Biggham, Dorothy Norwood, Dottie Peoples and the Original James Cleveland singers just to name a few.

For the remainder of the week, the days were filled with activities and concerts from sunrise until the crack of dawn.

Just down the hallway in the Hanover Hall C & D Foyer, was the gathering of the 47th Annual Gospel Announcers Guild, now under its new name Alliance of Gospel Music Professionals.  Under the leadership of Dennis E. Cole, President and Chris Squire, Vice President, this year marked an uptick in registration with totals nearing two-hundred and fifty.

(From left to right) Facilitator Sheilah Belle, Robin Wear, Hasan James, Vincent Hill, Teresa Hairston, Aldren McCullar

This year’s panel discussions included “Digital Social Media Connect” with facilitator Sheilah Belle “The Belle” with special guest panelists, Robin Ware, Hasan James, Vincent Hill, Teresa Hairston and Aldren McCullar.

Following was the panel on the Changing Face of the Gospel Music Industry with facilitator Chris Squire.  Guests panelists included, Mike Gamble, Hasan James, Teresa Hairston, Adrian Warren, Lee Michaels and Gina Waters.

Radio Panel with Mike Gamble, Hasam James, Dr. Teresa Hairston, Adrian Warren and Lee Michaels

The afternoon session included the 13th Annual GMWA –GAG Alliance Sisterhood Service, which was Co-chaired this year by Dr. Susie Jones and Sis Anne Lewis, along with the planning staff of Zadella “Mama Curtis”, Evg. Fran Kelly, Sheilah Belle and Linda Greenwood.  This year’s program was emceed by Trina Jeffries who is also known as Sister Cantaloupe.  She truly kept things lively.  Special awards and proclamations were also handed out to the surprise of many including Dennis Cole, Minister Chris Squire, Bishop Sam Williams, Bishop Arvetra Jones, Minister Earl Bynum, Bishop Wells, Sheilah Belle, Michael Boykins, Lady T’Mil Curtis, Neily Dickerson and Daulton Anderson.

(First photo left to right) Chris Squire, Sheilah Belle, Dr. Susie Jones, Bishop Sam Williams, Fran Kelly

(Second photo left to right_ Fran Kelly, Michael Boykins, Lady T’Mil Curtis, Dr. Susie Jones and Minister Earl Bynum

Because of the generosity of the Sisterhood and the vision to love on so many with recognition and awards this also became a historic moment and a first for the group.  They truly raised the bar high in excellence as they created a memorable moment for so many people who have been working in the trenches and in the industry for years!  JOB WELL DONE!

Later that evening with much anticipation, there was originally scheduled a special tribute to Kenny Taylor, who recently passed away and was loved by many.  However to the surprise of many it was announced on that Tuesday, by Dennis Cole, that the tribute would be rescheduled for Board Meeting 2018.

The Virginia AiresRuth LaOntra

Dr. Leonard Scott

Co-Host Mike Chandler and Bonita Bellamy

On Wednesday, the day for the announcers started a bit later thanks to the Al Hobbs Awards Luncheon sponsored by Tyscot Entertainment and Dove Records, which is the home for the Virginia Aires.

Special guests performances were given by Ruth LaOntra, Dr. Leonard Scott, Kelontae Garvin, LaVarnga Hubbard, Minister Earl Bynum and the Virginia Aires.  Co-hosting the stage were Michael Chandler & Bonita Bellamy and Sheilah Belle “The Belle.”

With just a short turn around, the International Soundstage took center stage with talent from London, Ghana and the Islands.  Special guest included Jay Ess, Onos Brisbi, Dennis Parks, Dawn Thomas and Joe Mettle. (Check out Jay Ess performance on Instagram @LivingthatlifeforChrist )

 The International Sound Stage was sponsored by Zoe Records, www.IamMarnita.com and The Alliance.  The evening was coordinated by Marnita Coleman.

Chris Squire Radio Panel with Alex Snipes, Sybil, Fred Blain, Skip Dillard, Mike Chandler, Eboni Thunderburk, Rodney B, Reggie Gay, Adrian Warren, Rodney Evans and Jerry Smith

Tracy Bethea, Carmina Barnett, K D Bowe, Tracy Morgan and Katrina Bryant Dawson

On Thursday, the panels and industry conversations continued with the Broadcast Forum with Tracy Bethea, Sybil Sloan who delivered an incredible session on Taxes and part II to Christ Squires Changing Face of the Gospel Music Industry.

Blessing the announcers with a mini concert later in the day was Kevin Lemons and Higher Calling with a Praise Break followed by a Kingdom Records –Chicago Creed Showcase.

On Friday, Sheilah Belle “The Belle” was asked to share her testimony during the morning Inspirational Moment, which was followed by a special segment Christmas in July, and an Urban & Hip Hop Showcase panel.

Inspirational moments for the GAG-Alliance were also provided throughout the week by Pastor Juandolyn Stokes, Minister Earl Bynum and MIT Sheilah Belle “The Belle.

Special guests ministers for the GMWA Daily Bread Services included Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Dr. T. L. Penny, Rev. Dr. Melvin Wade, Dr. Jasper Williams, Jr., Dr. Craig Oliver, Sr., Bishop Paul S. Morton, Bishop Eric Figueroa and Dr. Todd M. Hall.

Tyrone Porter talks to Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson about the Quartet Revival that is become more visible across the country.

The Quartet Division, under the leadership of Paul Porter also delivered a heavy run down of concerts with some of the top times in the music industry including Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson, the Virginia Aires, Melvin Williams and a long list of others.

Nightly services were held in the Centennial Ballroom with special performances by Chapter Affiliates and special guests including Angela Willis, Royal Bahamas Police Force Choir, Chester Burke & Co.,  Oklahoma city Chapter, Dayton Chapter, Jeremiah Towner & Highest Praise, Detroit Chapter, Cincinnati Chapter, Germany Chapter, Indianapolis Metro Chapter, Chicago Metro Chapter, Lexington Kentucky Metro Chapter, Flint Chapter, James Williams & Total Praise, Saginaw Chapter, Michigan Mass Choir, Combined Midwest Chapters, Beulahland Bible Church, St. Louis/East St. Louis Chapter all on Tuesday night.

The Gospel Music Workshop of America of the Virginia Combined State Chapters

On Wednesday night special guests included Evangelist Barbara Williams, Rev. Emory Andrews & Faith, Tamara Edwards, M Cornelius Wyche & Octave Praise, Western BY Chapter (Mass & Youth), Zion Hill Baptist Church Mass Choir, Charlotte Chapter, Goochland VA & Vicinity Chapter, Kenny Smith’s Peace & Serenity, North New Jersey Chapter, Rochester NY Chapter, Bahamas Chapter, Mt. Arrarate Male Chorus, DMV Regional, Ferebee Sisters, Pittsburg Chapter, Combined Virginia Chapters, Japan Chapter, Philadelphia Chapter and the Eastern New York Chapter.

On Thursday night the Debutante Cotillion 2017 set the pace for the afternoon with a growing sponsor list including V Man Entertainment, The Jo’Landa Harris Agency, Howard-Harris Funeral Services, B. Chase William, Dr. Floyd Miles, Kevin Lemons & Higher Calling, Robert Demetrius Griffin & School of ONE VOICE, Minister Early Bynum and Carolyn Traylor.

Bishop Albert Jamison crowns the winner Janee Brown and assisted by Audrey Howard Harris

This year’s winner was Janee Brown.

The Cotillion was followed by the singing presentations of the kids, Young Adults and Dancers.  Following them was a slight shift in energy when the Virginia Aires set the tone for the nightly service.  Following them were the San Diego Chapter, LA Messengers, Sacramento Metropolitan Chapter, Northern California Chapter. LA Chapter and the Contemporary Adult Division followed by the California Mass Choir.

Gospel Music Workshop of American Mass Choir Rehearsal 2017

On Friday final concerts and close out concerts took the stage including those from the Thurston G. Frazier Memorial Chorale, the G.M.W.A. 50th Mass Choir , the James Cleveland Chorus and the 50th Anniversary Concert “Tribute to the King.”

This was truly an amazing week with all of the bells and whistles to boot and if it’s God’s will, Bishop Albert Jamison says, “We’ll be coming back to Atlanta in 2018.”

(From left to right)Ingrid, Sheilah Belle “The Belle” Tammy Taylor, Bonita Bellamy and Monica Butler

2nd Picture: Bishop Ryan Warner, Rev. David Wright, The Belle, Pastor John P. Kee and Brother Ricky Williams


Group shot with some of the top Gospel Music Industry Executives. (The Crew).

Visit the GMWA website www.gmwanational.net for more information about the convention and GMWA Serves.