The year was
1969. After attending two national music
convocations, Helen J. H. Stephens was decidedly
impressed with the vision, direction and dream of
the founder and organizer of these events - Rev.
James Cleveland. His vision imparted seeing choirs,
groups, soloists and musicians who enjoyed
performing gospel music coming together and sharing
with each other as a conglomerate of professional
gospel performers from all over America to an even
broader audience of this genre (eventually named the
Gospel Music Workshop of America).
Mrs. Stephens embraced the dream of Rev. Cleveland.
She had her own vision for the Northern California
region connecting people in this same way. In 1971,
through her efforts with help from long-time-trusted
friend Fran Harden and choirs, groups, soloists,
musicians from the Northern California region, they
came together under Stephens’ leadership. The
Northern California Chapter of the Gospel Music
Workshop of America was officially formed and
organized in the region. With a membership of 200,
prayer, perseverance, sacrifice and hard work, the
organization got off the ground and thrived. Justin
S. Cummins (a Los Angeles native) moved to the bay
area and assisted Stephens. Harden and Cummins
became and remained Stephens’ assistants for many
years. In 1992, 40 people amicably separated from
the Chapter and organized in the Sacramento area.
They became known as the Sacramento-Metro Chapter
under the direction of Dorothy Love Thornton. Dr
Stephens’ influence remained strong, supported by
her team and beloved husband (Arnold Stephens) for
40+ years. Arnold passed in 2009. With health
challenges severely limiting Dr Stephens’
effectiveness- the torch was passed to the Chapter’s
Minister of Music of 30 years, Dr. Steven Roberts in
August 2011. Helen Stevens then became Chapter Rep
Emeritus until her passing May 2014. Dr Roberts’
leads the NorCal Chapter, assisted by Aaron Woodson,
Dorla D. Cummins, Evelyn Ayers, Sharon Poston and
The Chapter has added a Solano, Fresno and Stockton
components. We also have a young adults division
(Helen J.H. Stephens Young Adults) and children’s
choir (The Angelic Voices). The NorCal organization
is a non-profit (501C) that sings and shares in the
art & ministry of gospel music. We promote our
message by reaching beyond the walls of religion
with love, unity, fellowship, inclusion and
continued music education.
Dr. Roberts served as NorCal Minister of Music from
1981-2011. Two assistants served with him during
those years: Dr Evelyn Ayers and Dr. Tim Poston. Dr.
Tim Poston was appointed by Roberts as Minister of
Music in Sept 2011. Former Ministers of Music were
Charlene Moore and the lates Rev. Elijah Green and
Rev. John McBride.
God has richly blessed Northern California Chapter.
In February 2006, in partnership with St. John
Baptist Church (Oakland, CA), the Chapter sponsored
a benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina victims on
our area with proceeds going to those in needs. It
is the Chapter’s hope that music will bridge the gap
of understanding, encourage acceptance and motivate
others extend their borders and hearts to those that
may not look like, act like or think like them.
The NorCal Motto is “Love extends beyond my walls”
In 2012, Northern California Chapter created,
through an idea brought by Dorla Cummins (niece of
Justin S. Cummins) an event celebrating local Bay
Area church choirs (Crystal Choir Awards) with
special emphasis on their consistency and longevity.
This has been a very successful annual event. NorCal
Chapter Choir remains committed to bettering,
strengthening, supporting, sustaining, community
programs and the marginalized by sharing the good
news’ through gospel music at every opportunity.
Northern Cal has recorded albums and CD’s:
Stephens and the Northern California Chapter GMWA,
“Oh, My Jesus What a Friend”, with special guest
Rev. Donald Vails.
and Southern California Chapters, “Breathe on Me”.
California Chapter with “Dorothy Norwood Live”
vocals for National GMWA 25th Anniversary
Cal Chapter, “Wait on the Lord”, produced by Steven
California Chapter, “Created for Worship”, live
recording November 1998, produced by Dr. Steven
vocals for National GMWA Recording, “Live in Kansas