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 Sylvia Norman.

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: 

1.  Helen Stephens and the Northern California Chapter GMWA, “Oh, My Jesus What a Friend”, with special guest Rev. Donald Vails.

2.   Northern and Southern California Chapters, “Breathe on Me”.

3.  “Northern California Chapter with “Dorothy Norwood Live” Recording. 

4.  Background vocals for National GMWA 25th Anniversary recording.

5.  Northern Cal Chapter, “Wait on the Lord”, produced by Steven E. Roberts.

6.  Northern California Chapter, “Created for Worship”, live recording November 1998, produced by Dr. Steven Roberts.

7.  Background vocals for National GMWA Recording, “Live in Kansas City”.