Conference Recap: GMA Week
April, 2006

Providing the future music ministers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow's industry with the necessary tools they will need to break in and have a long-lasting impact, the Gospel Music Association (GMA) Week continues to be one of the best groundbreaking and informative conferences, bringing together all genres of Christian music in one room, giving an up close and personal invitation to see what heaven could possibly look like.

Virtue and Tonya BakerGOSPELflava.com traveled to this year's GMA Week, hanging out with new artist Tonya Baker (known for penning the song "To Know You Lord" for Tonéx's Out The Box) allowing us to gain insight on the benefits of attending this conference from the standpoint of an independent artist.

The week transpired in the Christian music capital of the world, Nashville, Tennessee, and offered three main tracks of classes, including the new "Urban Music Connection Track' consisting of classes geared towards the Gospel community. Other courses offered ranged widely from "Minding Your Business", all about how to manage yourself as an independent artist, to "The World Of Urban Christian Music" which was co-lectured by Max Siegel, President of Zomba Gospel and VP of the Zomba Label Group.

"It is so refreshing to come to a conference and gain industry knowledge and see how willing CCM is to embrace our vision," said Tonya Baker after we exited our first class.

"Public Relations Essentials" proved to be another class full of information and connections. This one was taught by some of today's giants in public relations, including, Gwendolyn Quinn, President of GQ Public Relations, Jalila Larsuel, CEO of JL Media Relations, Teresa Lyle Holmes, Founder/President of TLH Communications, and Jojo Pada, Vice President of Publicity for Artemis Gospel.

Japhia Life with Canton JonesThe statement that best sums up this class comes from Ms. Jalila Larsuel, who shared that "as an independent artist you need to have a unique element or niche about your ministry and know why you're targeting a specific market. The vision needs to be made plain before one can run with it." The importance of being a professional artist in every area was another point that was strongly stated.

That evening we attended the Urban Showcase where it was evident that our friend Tonya had been closely following the advice presented in the classes for years. Traveling on the Evolution II Tour as a backup vocalist in the fall of 2003 gave Tonya a chance to meet and befriend several artists who were on the showcase that night, including Lisa McClendon, Virtue, and Tonéx. This opportunity served as an open door for her ministry, and indeed, Tonya Baker has just released her second independent project, entitled Since He Came In (read album review).

After catching up with industry friends, Tonya and GOSPELflava.com took a front row seat and enjoyed the ministry's of Lisa Mclendon, J Moss, Marcus Cole, 21:03, Anthony Evans, Myron Butler, and Kierra "KiKi" Sheard who ministered several new songs from her forthcoming album entitled This Is Me. She also received a plaque from the president of EMI Gospel for going gold in Japan.

Overall the conference, in our eyes, is one that every serious singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur needs to attend. But don't take our word for it! Several artists we met gave us their own perspectives, and below you will find quotes from many of them. Read up and enjoy!

The Independent Artist Perspective:
GMA Week provided a wealth of knowledge and is an excellent venue for any artist looking to advance their ministry. The conference allowed me to gain insight on learning your market, getting engagements and gaining the exposure you desire. I was also afforded the opportunity to sit and hear some of the greats in the industry like Matthew Easton and Kirk Franklin pour out their hearts on what life has been like balancing the demands of the industry and their personal family lives. To sum it up, the conference was REAL and worth my financial investment —Tonya Baker

The Producer's Perspective
You know if I could say anything to GOSPELflava.com's readers about the conference, it would be that GMA is a chance to come together as a body to share, impart, and to grow as artists. I believe it's essential in the body that we reflect what heaven looks like and for me GMA has been the best way to do so. Keep up the good work GOSPELflava; y'all got the FLAVA —Percy Bady

The Entrepreneur's Perspective
GMA Week is a professional conference where you can come and network in a professional, organized environment without some of the restrictions or hang-ups that other conferences have. This conference makes sure it pulls from their financial resources to ensure that the attendees get the best. Everyone is so friendly and ready to embrace you, GMA is always "rocking" —Walter Kearney of PAJAM

The Artist's Perspective
"I talk to people on the CCM side and ask them if they have heard of Fred Hammond and they are like who? I can't believe it! So I feel its important for all artist to come out and meet from both Gospel & CCM so we can continue to bridge the gap" —Martha Munizzi

The Legend's Perspective
GMA Week is one of the only conferences that attempt to bridge the gap between CCM and Gospel music. The classes are diverse, and informational and give much needed insight to singers and songwriters. If I could actually give you a different spin on the question at hand, I would like to say that Gospel music is in a serious state right now. We have become more worried about the mainstream appeal and somehow we have forgotten to mention the name of Jesus. It's nice to reference Him and His attributes but never forget that there is POWER in His Name —Andrae Crouch

Photos from GMA Week 2006 are presented below:

Andrae Crouch

GMA attendee Judge Reinhold with GOSPELflava.com special correspondant  Dwayne Lacy

Kierra Sheard

Kierra Sheard

Lisa McClendon

Martha Munizzi

Mary Mary

Myron Butler

Smokie Norful

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recap by Steven Jones

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