By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
The Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) will open its 49th annual convention in Birmingham beginning Saturday.
It is the first time the convention is being held in Birmingham.
“We are totally excited to have the opportunity to host the convention here,” said Christal Whitfield, assistant representative for the Birmingham Chapter of the GMWA. “We have about 10,000 delegates coming from across the U.S. and Japan.”
The conference will kick off with a welcome program on Saturday night at the downtown Birmingham Sheraton hotel.
Some of the genres top gospel singers like Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin and John P. Kee have been associated with the conference, say organizers.
“[The conference] is a training mechanism to help musicians and vocalists across the country,” Whitfield said.
The week-long conference will hold classes from 7 a.m. to noon, which will not only be for musicians, but for different church ministries including praise dance, nursery, ushers, and evangelistic ministries. A series of music classes, seminars, workshops, exhibits and musical showcases will be presented by the gospel industry, the national GMWA chapters and national gospel recording labels and artists.
“Anything that might be in your church, we cover,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield is also a musician at her church, Allen Temple A.M.E. in Bessemer. She currently works in the music ministry at her church, and has been active in the church’s music ministry since she was 18.
GMWA will also have its eighth annual GMWA Serves event during the week. During the event, GMWA partners with local churches and charities to receive the support of 200 volunteers from GMWA ambassadors. This year’s Serves is dedicated to gospel singer Andrae Crouch.
“We do health screenings as well,” Whitfield said. “You can get ear and eye screenings, blood pressure checks; and of course you’re going to get a little gospel music in between.”
During this year’s service volunteers will be giving out clothing, canned goods, and toys in a toys-for-tots give away.
Serves is one of the ways GMWA shows their appreciation to their host city, Whitefield said.
“We want to give something back to the community that supports us throughout the convention,” she said. “We do a serve in every city we go to.”
Events will be held at the Sheraton Hotel and Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex.
The GMWA was founded in 1967 by the Rev. James Cleveland in Detroit. It currently has over 75,000 members worldwide, and over 150 chapters in almost every state in the U.S. and cities around the world.