History of the Western North Carolina Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Inc.
The Gospel Music Workshop of America was founded and established by the Reverend James Cleveland in 1967. This organization’s objective is to perpetuate, promote and advance the Christian Ideal through the medium of music by joining together gospel choirs, choruses, singers, musicians, and songwriters throughout the US in a Voluntary Association for education, cooperation, promotion, and the communication of ideas for the genre of gospel music.
The Gospel Music workshop is comprised of local chapters across the United States and abroad. The Western North Carolina Chapter was established in the year 2000 when the first chapter representative was Bishop Sherwood Davis Sr. In 2004, the chairman of the board of Directors, Bishop Albert L. Jamison, Sr. appointed Rev. James “Jimmy” Hayes as the new chapter Representative. Rev. Jimmy Hayes led the chapter alongside his brother Bishop Rickey Dale Hayes as his assistant chapter representative up until his death in May 2012. Bishop Rickey Hayes became the Chapter representative in 2013 and appointed Gary Blaylock and Dean Carlton as his assistant chapter representatives. Bishop Rickey Hayes was instrumental in the growth of the Western North Carolina Chapter of GMWA, implementing membership drives, the annual James O. Hayes Gospel Fest, and the chapter’s Living Legends Gospel Awards. Bishop Hayes began attending the Gospel Music Workshop in 1985 under the leadership of the late Rev. James Cleveland and was a long-time member of the Men of Promise Choir as well as the men’s praise team and section leader.
Gary Blaylock was named interim chapter representative by the GMWA board of directors upon the death of Bishop Rickey Hayes in May 2021. Gary was officially installed as chapter representative during the 55th Annual GMWA Convention in Atalanta, GA in July 2022. During Gary’s tenure as chapter representative, he has established a board of directors for the chapter, established the Bishop Rickey Hayes Mass Choir with their inaugural concert being held on July 22, 2022, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Charlotte NC. The choir was led by Christopher L. Ervin, Musical Director, and Dr. Ron Bigelow, assistant Musical Director with much success and over 50 members participating. The Bishop Rickey Hayes made their debut on the main stage at the 55th Annual Convention in Atlanta, GA. This performance was overwhelmingly received by the delegates and other attendees. To date the performance has been viewed more than 23 thousand times on YouTube.
The Western NC Chapter successfully hosted the 2nd GMWA Oh, Give Thanks concert in November 2022 along with the other four chapters in North Carolina. The Bishop Rickey Hayes Mass Choir was consecrated in a service held on April 22, 2023, in Statesville NC with Host Pastor, Apostle Carl Lykes and guest preacher Pastor Johnny Brown at Christ Cathedral of Deliverance. The Bishop Rickey Hayes Mass Choir celebrated their 1st anniversary with a concert at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Gastonia NC with national recording artist Pastor Benita Washington. The Bishop Hayes Mass Choir made their second appearance at the 56th Annual convention held in Greensboro NC by opening the nightly musicals beginning that Monday July 10, 2023. Gary Blaylock also led the North Carolina GMWA Coalition as the chairperson to host the 56th Annual Convention in Greensboro, NC where the attendance reached a peak of over 4000 attendees following the
Our current assistant chapter representatives are Elder Jeremy Littlejohn and Dean Carlton, Financial Secretary/Treasurer, Dionn Owen, Praise and Worship Leader Angelena Crank, Chapter Chaplin, Bishop Ricky Valines. Musical directors Christopher L. Ervin and Dr. Ron Bigelow. Our executive board members are also Pastor Robin Hayes, Bishop Freddie Marshall, Thyssen Brawley, Julia Postell, Pastor Michael Smith, William Brown, Pastor Edward R Jackson, Minister Darrell Izard, Wendy Vannoy and Sherrill Lash.