An open letter to the industry from the GMA (Gospel Music Association)

Dear Gospel Music Community:

Greetings. I pray this letter finds you well.

I find myself in a unique position in my role as membership committee chair at the GMA alongside my 30-year walk in the Gospel community. As a GMA board member I can say that there are efforts happening behind the scenes to make the GMA more inclusive of the various genres, including our Gospel community. As a member of the Gospel community I certainly understand the challenges at times we have experienced along the way regarding what could be interpreted as a lack of recognition & representation. Having said that, I believe there has been a lack of communicating pertinent information on my behalf regarding the values of being a GMA member to our community at least over the last 2-3 years. I take responsibility for not communicating better.

This letter is sent in the spirit of coming together as “ministers of music,” given this unique opportunity we are all charged with to spread the Gospel through music to those in and out of the church.Over the years the GMA has received many Gospel artists & dignitaries into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, most recently in 2009, when Dr. Bobby Jones & the Dixie Hummingbirds joined Gospel legends like Mahalia Jackson, Thomas Dorsey, James Cleveland, Clara Ward, Andrae Crouch, Edwin and Walter Hawkins, Albertina Walker, Ethel Waters, Shirley Caesar and many more in Gospel’s honored Hall.

Founded in 1969, the GMA Dove Awards is the longest running televised awards ceremony recognizing achievement in all genres of Christian and Gospel music.  Shows over the past few years have included many Gospel artists including Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin, Marvin Sapp, The Clark Sisters, Trinitee 5:7 and many more.

As previously stated, I know and understand some of the frustrations the Gospel community has experienced down through the years in the lack of proper recognition and representation for Gospel artists. To reinforce my previous point, in the last couple of years there has been and still remains a concerted effort internally to change that, specifically regarding show performances & including Gospel nominees in the top 8 categories.

Having said that, and this is the primary point of this letter, unless we (Gospel community) join the GMA, we can’t properly effect change. As an example, in any given year, if we expect to see Marvin Sapp have a legitimate chance to win Male Vocalist of the Year or a Mary Mary or Kirk Franklin have a reasonable chance to win Artist of the Year it’s just not going to happen without votes, however deserving the artist may be that particular year. If you become a member you can vote.

Certainly there is more value to becoming a member than just the voting privileges for the Dove Awards, including but not limited to:

·        Sound Healthcare, GMA professional members have access to worldwide comprehensive health insurance at an affordable price

·        Advocacy efforts with members of Congress and other governmental agencies on issues like digital rights, music piracy, and other concerns affecting GMA members

·        Developing top-notch events like IMMERSE that provide professional and spiritual growth opportunities to tomorrow’s artists, songwriters, and worship leaders

·        Attracting media and sponsorship opportunities by producing resources, disseminating information and being a point of contact for those looking to promote and partner with Christian/Gospel music artists & companies.

Ed Leonard, our board chairman, wanted me to share the following with you:

“As Kirk Franklin said recently, ‘through our unity, we find strength.’ The Gospel Music Association is the home of Gospel music.  Through our staff and volunteers like you, GMA works on your behalf to celebrate and promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ through music.  This is the most unifying purpose on the planet.  We value and embrace everyone working toward this purpose.  Sometimes we have fallen short in showing our appreciation to the various communities that make up the world of Gospel music.  For this we apologize and pledge to listen, to encourage, to embrace and to honor your work.  Join us and let’s work together, using our combined strength to spread Gospel through music.”

There are 3 levels of membership & it’s very simple to join. Just go to https://www. gospelmusic. org/membership/ individual/ join.aspx and click on the membership button for details and benefits.

Lastly, I have one agenda- to expose Gospel music to as many people as possible. Please consider letting the GMA work for us to do just that.

Respectfully,

Larry Blackwell
GMA Membership Committee Chair


[***this is a courtesy message and not a direct endorsement from the New Life Music Network.  We certainly encourage unity and also a testing of the spirits.]

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