By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
The Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) conference in Birmingham has drawn thousands of visitors to the Magic City and offers dozens of classes for ushers, choirs and evangelists.
The convening also has a session that plant seeds for the future – the children’s choir.
This week, over 50 children learned six new songs that were presented to the entire conference.
“We have to start them young,” said Hugh Davis, one of the directors for the children’s mass choir, “because we’re expecting them to take over in a few years.”
Davis, who taught the children “God Made Me,” said, “[The children’s choir] is a prime spot in the children’s conference, and I really commend the conference for giving them prime time.”
The 49th Annual Gospel Music Workshop of America, Inc. (GMWA) convention was founded by Rev. James Cleveland in 1967 in Detroit, Michigan. The weeklong event offers music classes, seminars, workshops, exhibits and musical showcases presented by the gospel industry. National GMWA chapters along with national gospel recording labels and artists also make up the conference.
Sylvia Warren, who traveled from Tyler, Texas, said her 6-year-old granddaughter has been coming to GMWA conferences since she was 18 months old.
“She loves it,” Warren said. “I bring her every year, and now that she’s old enough to sing in the choir, she really loves it.”
The children’s mass choir is an important part of the week, she said.
“We have to have this as a foundation for them as they grow up,” Warren said.
The children had the opportunity to sing solos and new songs to the thousands who were in Birmingham for the conference.
Another important aspect of the conference was the community service project “GMWA Serves Birmingham Community Service Day.”
GMWA partnered with 10 local churches and charities to offer a canned food drive, clothing drive, Toys for Tots giveaway, back to school supplies and healthcare fairs for residents.
Attorney Ron Magnus, chair of GMWA Serves says the day is a chance for the conference to give back to Birmingham.
“It’s an opportunity for us to do our part, we can’t expect government to do everything,” Magnus said.
Mayor William Bell welcomed the organization to the Magic City, honoring the importance and impacts the gospel community had during the civil rights movement.
“Our strength and salvation through all the centuries of enslavement, through all the centuries of being disenfranchised through segregation laws, it was the song of the movement that lifted us up, it was the songs of our church that gave us the foresight and energy,” Bell said.
Magnus said Birmingham was selected for this year’s convention, its first in Birmingham, because of its support for GMWA Serve.
A few of the Birmingham charities involved in the Day or Service were Daniel Cason Ministries, Lovelady Center, Jessie’s Place, First Light, At Risk Kids, Brother Bryan Mission, Aids Alabama, and Grace House.
Staff Writer Ebone’ Parks contributed to this report.