J. H. Stephens was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was educated in the
public schools in New Orleans and obtained her degree of music from Dillard
University of New Orleans, Louisiana. While attending Booker T. Washington
High School, Helen played the piano for weekly assembly programs, sang in the
school choir, performed in operettas, and was active in the school band.
While in New Orleans, she sang with a choral group, “The Southland Spiritual
Chanters”. Helen, being the aggressive and progressive woman formed her
own group “The Ebenezer Echoes”. In addition to this, she played for
several churches in the area.
After completing her degree at
Dillard University in 1949, Helen married Arnold E. Stephens in 1950 and shortly
thereafter moved to California in 1953. She initially played for the Solid
Rock Baptist Church of Oakland. She also played at the Progressive
Missionary Baptist Church, Berkeley California, and the Antioch Baptist Church
of Oakland, California. Helen is now a member of the Olivet
Institutional Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. Gordon Humphrey, Jr.
In 1956, Helen organized the
“Stephens Singers”. In 1969, she organized
the gospel group, “The Voices of Christ” of Berkeley, California with 23
members. By 1970, the choir had grown to 92 members strong. The
choir has recorded eight albums and has received numerous awards. The
choir is the Hall of Fame of the Bay Area Gospel Academy Awards presented by the
late Dr. Justin S. Cummins and the G.L. Bedford Specials. Many outstanding
music directors and gospel singers were trained under the direction of Helen
Helen has many ‘firsts’ to her
credit along with being the founder of the “Voices of Christ”. She also
organized the Northern California Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of
America and has remained as chapter representative. This involvement takes
her to many gospel workshops throughout California and other states to teach and
learn gospel music.
At the invitation of the
California State College of Hayward, Helen introduced and incorporated gospel
music into that institution’s curriculum and instructed there for six years.
She is currently a teacher of gospel music at the College of Marin in Kentfield,
California and formerly Dominican College of San Rafael, California.
1979, Helen became the director of the “The Lighthouse Singers of
Marin”. The choir was formed from the Family Light
School of Music and the Tamalpais Singers. Under Helen’s fine direction,
they sing throughout the Bay Area, California and nationally. As an
example of her influence, the Lighthouse Singers of Marin won an award at the
Bay Area Gospel Academy Awards for the most promising choir of 1983. Helen
and the Lighthouse Singers have completed two recordings, their first “See the
Glorious Light” and the second “Lighthouse Sings Steven Roberts Music”. In
addition to being one of the greatest directors around, Helen also sings
In 1992, Helen was appointed to the National Board of Directors of the Gospel
Music Workshop of America in Chicago, Illinois. She has made her mark in
gospel music for more than 50 years. Helen was also appointed to and
served on the Marin Arts Council in Marin County for two (one year) terms.
In May 2004, the Bell Grove Theological Seminary awarded Helen with an Honorary
Degree of Doctor of Music Ministry in a ceremony in Oakland, CA.
Helen attributes her success in
gospel with Northern Cal, Voices of Christ, the Lighthouse Singers, to her faith
in God and the support of Arnold E. Stephens, her late husband for 55 years.
They have three children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Helen Stephens’ goal in life
would be to spread the inspiration of gospel music and teachings for the
education, spirit, and joy to the world.
God called Dr. Helen J.H.
Stephens home in
May of 2014