Gospel Music Heritage Month has drawn to a close after an eventful month that included the uplifting and inspiring Evolution of Gospel concert. September was a time to reflect on the history of gospel music and its diversity. Another page of that history is being shaped by the outstanding gospel artists and power players who call the DMV (D.C., Maryland and Virginia) their home.
Here is a list of some of the movers and shakers in the DMV. Some fill the air with song; some play roles behind the scenes, while others also use gospel music to ignite community action. This alphabetized list is by no means all-inclusive, but showcases some of those making an impact.
Movers and Shakers
Shirley M.K. Berkeley: Known to many as “Ma Berkeley” the much-loved songwriter, composer, arranger, musician and musical director has a musical career that spans 65 years. She founded the D.C. Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) more than 42 years ago and is chapter representative. In September she received the Gospel Music Heritage Living Legacy Award during the Evolution of Gospel concert at the Warner Theater and was also honored at the First Annual Hymn Lovers Conference. Her song, “I Will Bless the Lord,” is featured on the “DC Gospel Artists United: Together in Unity” debut album and performed by Jimmy Russell and BOC.
Winston Chaney: Known as ‘The Morning Man,” Chaney hosts the most popular broadcast on WYCB-AM 1340. He also emcees local events and has a very devoted following. He is one of gospel radio’s mainstays, having spent more than three decades in radio. Chaney has only missed one day in his time on-air.
Bil Carpenter: The former contributing writer to the Washington Post and People magazine co-founded the public relations firm, Capital Entertainment. A skilled writer, he served as junior press secretary for former President Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. He received an NAACP Image Award nomination for “Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia,” a book that has become a gospel history bible. The music historian was also featured in the 2011 documentary film, “Rejoice and Shout.” Carpenter is a Governor with the Washington, D.C. Chapter of the Recording Academy.
Cathy Hughes: The media giant started the largest African-American owned and operated broadcast company in the U.S. and became the first African-American woman to head a publicly traded company. Her company, Radio One owns 53 radio stations in 16 urban markets, including D.C.’s Praise104.1. Radio One also owns 51% of TV One and has online ventures that include NewsOne, TheUrbanDaily, BlackPlanet, MiGente and Asian Avenue.
Ron Magnus, Esq.: The former Assistant Attorney General for Washington, D.C. wields considerable influence within the gospel music industry. He is General Counsel for GMWA and Counsel, Board of Directors at Tehillah Music Group, Inc. He is also the Chair of the DC Host Committee of the Gospel Music Heritage Month Foundation. The successful execution of the Evolution of Gospel concert at the Warner Theater is just one of his many accomplishments.
Jeff Majors. A celebrated harpist who trained under jazz pianist and harpist Alice Coltrane, wife of jazz legend John Coltrane, Majors is also a staunch advocate for the homeless. With his non-profit organization “The Network of Doves” he holds the annual “Jeff Majors Blankets for the Homeless.” He also created “Hip hop for the Homeless,” and has collaborated with many artists, including Canton Jones and youth in the inner cities to bring awareness of and help to homeless communities throughout the country.
Jawn Murray: Ebony magazine named him one of the “30 on the Rise” to watch in the industry and the NAACP recognized him as one of “40 Power Players Under 40.” He appears frequently on HLN and other networks. The celebrity journalist has kept himself firmly ensconced in the gospel community in addition to his other endeavors. In September 2011, he joined with EMI to find the best unsigned artists in gospel music with “Jawn Murray Presents: Untapped.” His popular website, AlwaysA-List.com also includes information about the gospel industry.
Richard Smallwood. A piano virtuoso since childhood, Richard Smallwood is one of the most respected songwriters and composers of the age, creating modern-day hymns. His portfolio of songs is extensive and includes “I Love the Lord,” “Center of My Joy,” “Anthem of Praise,” “Healing,” and the church anthem, “Total Praise.” A member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the multiple award-winning artist’s latest album (with Vision), “Promises” debuted #1 position on Billboard’s Gospel/Christian chart in 2011. The album received nominations on the final ballot for the Stellar Awards including a nod for Song of the Year (“Trust Me”) and Producer of the Year.
Myrna Summers: One of the significant figures in the world of choir music, Summers received GRAMMY nominations for her original compositions “God Gave Me a Song” and “Give Me Something to Hold on To” and she continues to be celebrated and admired today. She is a recipient of GMWA’s Mahalia Jackson Award. and is a Stellar Award winner. Her international footprint includes London, England and Frankfurt, Germany.
Jacquie Gales Webb. The award-winning host of the number one Sunday afternoon Gospel music program has hosted the show since 1990. She is well-known in public radio for such award-winning productions as Black Radio, Remembering Slavery and Jazz Singers. She was selected as the first Public Radio International (PRI) fellow in 2002. Webb appeared in the 2011 documentary “Rejoice and Shout” which chronicled the origins of Gospel music.
Pastor Jerome Bell: The gospel music industry insider manages gospel great Tramaine Hawkins and is the former road manager for Richard Smallwood. Pastor Bell flies below the radar but wields a strong presence in the gospel industry establishment and beyond. He was one of the few selected to attend the invitation-only homegoing of Whitney Houston. He recently released the spoken word CD, “Energy Trax!”
Phillip Carter: What started as a Facebook group evolved into the Independent Gospel Artists Alliance Conference that the Stellar Award winner co-founded with Earl Bynum. The conference will celebrate its fourth year next July. Carter recently spearheaded the release of “DC Gospel Artists United Presents: Together in Unity,” a compilation CD that features 11 of D.C.’s finest gospel artists.
Andrea R. Williams: She has been progressively carving out a large footprint in the world of public relations. The founder of Tehillah Enterprises, LLC has a list of clients that includes Earnest Pugh, Martha Munizzi, Robert E. Person, Anita Wilson, Phillip Carter, Todd Ledbetter and Theresa Pinkney. She recently was instrumental in the well-received CD release party of client Byron Cage.
Making their mark
Others of note who are making their mark in the industry include Praise 104.1’s Cheryl Jackson, Maurette Brown Clark, Anthony Brown, Y’Anna Crawley, Stephen Hurd, Earnest Pugh, Patrick Henderson of Baltimore’s WOLB, Patrick Lundy, Bonita V. White, Eric Richardson, Carlton Burgess, Isaiah D. Thomas, Clifton Ross, III, Shai Linne, promoter Kenny Taylor, Simone Henry and Kevin James (CJB Radio), Henry Harris (SpiritCo1/Excellent in Christian Music Academy) radio personality Tracy Morgan, 3 HP Records’ Troy Edward. The DMV also boasts Shirley Ables & The Joy Singers, Mattie Johnson & The Stars of Faith, The Moye Ensemble, The Speight Sisters and The B L & S Singers who have a rich history serving up great music.
Coming Next Month: Ten rising artists in the DMV
Think someone else could be included on this list? Add their name in the comment section.
© 2012 Sarah Hearn