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Sis Debra Thompson

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The Gospel Songwriters Workshop is now beginning its 20th year in existence and God has been doing some miraculous things as we move forward.  Some people might have thought the enthusiasm and dedication would wain as time went by, but it has only made us more determined to seek God more for His guidance in the 21st Century.  It is important to look back, but it is equally important to make sure you are building the future on a solid foundation. that is why we are taking the time to ensure a record  of our success is maintained.  It is our prayer that this workshop will continue another 20 years, but until then, we will continue to share our history with you.

The first gospel songwriters Music Workshop occurred in 1994 with just a handful of participants.  The special guest clinicians were sister Yvonne Reed-Matthews, Sister Shirley Scott and Pastor O'Neal Porter.  It was a one day event which culminated with a concert on the next day.  God has truly blessed us through the years because we have been able to maintain our cornerstone class of songwriting, but also grow into a 3 day workshop without losing the original intent of education and preservation of Gospel Music.  Through the years we have added a Workshop Choir; Praise Dance Class; Vocal Class and a Musicians Class.

In 2003, we started our first Vocal Class with Sister Wendy Henderson Wyatt. She was such a phenomenal vocal coach that everyone who attended the class was inspired and anxious to present what they had learned. Sister Wendy had the ability to bring out the best in your vocal skills. It did not matter how long you had been singing, she helped you to increase your knowledge and ability as a singer.

Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina had a profound impact on the workshop during 2004 and 2005. Because of the devastation inflicted on the Pensacola area and the entire Gulf Coast, we were unable to include the vocal class as a part of the workshop line-up. We could only do a very basic workshop, but our attendees were anxious to get past the devastation and build the workshop back. As a result, God blessed and we were able to schedule another Vocal Class and add a Musicians class in 2006.

Our Vocal Class was headed up by Sister Katrina Washington and our Musicians Class was started by Dr. Barbara Averhart. It was such a pleasure to have such talented people to work with our attendees. This was not only an opportunity for singers, but it was an opportunity for experienced and not so experienced musicians to come together and learn from each other. Sister Katrina worked with the Vocal Class for three years until 2009. Dr. Averhart worked with our Musicians Class for 2 years and we appreciated her hard work and dedication. Brother Jermel Kidd came to us in 2008 and continued to build on the foundation that had been established. Brother Jermel is a teacher with vision and passion who never lost sight of the workshops mission ... to promote excellence, education and knowledge to those who attended his class.

In 2011 we conducted our first Gospel Songwriters Music workshop in St. Petersburg, Florida and it was an overwhelming success. We started by adding some new clinicians, Sister Deborah Butler-Brown and Sister Darline McCoy to help us jump start our Praise Dance Class.  The young people had such a great time and they learned so many new dance techniques that could be incorporated along with what they already knew.  Minister robert Brown continued to work with our Musicians class, but he was joined by Dr. Joel Johnson as our special guest clinician.  Dr. Johnson is a skilled guitarist and music professor from Tallahassee, florida.  Dr. Johnson brought a broad range of knowledge and a freshness about music history and vocal training.  Even though this was the first time we conducted the workshop in the Tampa Bay area, it felt like we had been there all the time.

The excitement just carried over to the 2012 workshop because we had a number of return attendees and we brought in a new special guest Singer, songwriter and producer Brother Derek Smith of SKD Entertainment, Tampa, Florida.  This turned out to be a fantastic addition because he brought a new enthusiasm and vitality to our already great line-up.

As we move forward into 2014, we believe God will touch hearts as we continue to promote education, creativity and originality in music. We have a new project the workshop has undertaken called "Healthy Bodies & Minds Health and Vision Fair."  This is an opportunity for the workshop to encourage people through the medium of music to take care of their bodies and minds.  When you have a healthy body and mind you can focus on other things which make life worth living such as songwriting, singing, music and dance.  We are making history as we move into our 20th year.  We invite you to make history with us by signing up for the workshop today!