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"Two Gospel Music Living Legends To Provide Opportunities for Teenage Artists Through Gospel Music"

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VY HIGGINSEN AND DR. CISSY HOUSTON JOIN FORCES IN SUPPORT OF GOSPEL FOR TEENS ARTS EDUCATION PROGRAM
Spring Semester Auditions Scheduled for January 21, 28 and February 4 in New York City


In an effort to share their vast wealth of experiences and to enlighten teenagers about the importance of gospel music as an art form, writer/producer Vy Higginsen and gospel legend Dr. Cissy Houston will come together to participate in The Gospel for Teens arts education program. This institutionalized program is part of The Mama Foundation for the Arts (MFA) School of Gospel, Jazz and R&B Arts.

Founded by Higginsen in 1998, MFA is holding open auditions for the program’s spring semester for teens ages 13 through 19 on Saturday, January 21 from 1-5 p.m., Saturday, January 28 from 1-5 p.m. and Saturday, February 4 from 1-5p.m. at The Mama Foundation for the Arts, 149 West 126th Street (between Lenox and Seventh Avenues) in New York City. The 40-60 selected participants will learn music history and vocal techniques such as placement, breathing, harmony, pitch and control in classes held on-site at MFA’s renovated Harlem brownstone. Students will also be encouraged to discover their personal artistic talent and expressions and build self-confidence on stage and off.

“Soul food is what comes to mind when I think of gospel music,” says MFA founder and executive director Vy Higginsen. “It is the foundation of many musical genres and must be passed on to our youth. Besides the solid foundation it provides in vocal training, gospel music is historical, therapeutic, and an art form that instills hope and expands the possibilities."

The Gospel for Teens arts education program was created to provide aspiring teenage artists with fundamental vocal techniques, as well as the historical significance gospel music has played in other musical art forms such as jazz, blues, and contemporary R&B.

Having already trained over 300 students from various segments of the Harlem community, MFA expects to serve between 85-100 students in 2006 through this program. Classes are offered at no cost to the selected students and each semester of workshops culminates with a performance that demonstrates the range and versatility of the students in mastering jazz, gospel and R&B music.

Through the program, seasoned music masters nurture musical talent that includes individual musical assessments, the learning of new and established music in MFA’s Traveling Theatre’s repertoire, and discussions about the role Gospel music played in history and in their current lives. Stressing artistic discipline and commitment, music instructors help students define their personal artistic expressions and build self-confidence both onstage and off.

Beginning with the spring 2006 semester, Dr. Cissy Houston will serve in the capacity of Artistic Consultant of the program. Dr. Houston is excited to join MFA in serving youth all across New York City, with a concentration in Harlem through the teachings of Gospel music history, fundamentals, and performance. Dr. Houston states, "Gospel music is a feeling, a spirit, a connection, a faith, a joy and good news. I would like to teach young people to embrace their gift and to sing from the inside out."

Specifically, Dr. Houston will attend scheduled auditions, play an active role in confirming the musical director, consult on the gospel repertoire to be included in the curriculum, extend the semester’s welcome to new enrollees, and attend a minimum of five classes, as well as the culminating recital.

Higginsen, co-creator/producer of Mama I Want To Sing!, the longest running Black Off-Broadway theatrical production, established the MFA to train young and maturing burgeoning artists and provide the platform for them to work in the field and interact and receive direct feedback from more established professionals. Ultimately, with the hopes that the best graduates of the program will become members of MFA’s Traveling Theater and may even embark upon successful independent artistic careers.

The MFA Board of Directors includes a who’s who of leaders from the worlds of entertainment to business. They include Joyce Davis, business consultant in leadership and economic development, community leader, activist and organizer; Cheryl Forbes, Treasurer/Educator, Walker Memorial Church; Andrea Cisco, Secretary, Race Relations/Diversity Consultant; Toya Beasley, Program Director, KISS-FM Radio; Leonard Burnett, Vice President, Vanguard Publishing; Kery Davis, Senior Vice President, HBO Sports & Entertainment; Linda Dunham, Vice President, McDonalds Corporation and Guy Romain, Real Estate Developer/Architect, Guy Romain & Associates.

For more information call the Mama Foundation for the Arts at 212-280-1045 or check out the website at www.mamafoundation.org.

The MFA Mission
MFA’s mission is to present, preserve and promote gospel, jazz and the rhythm and blues arts for the current and future generations, and in so doing help rebuild Harlem as an artistic cultural center. MFA is committed to identifying, training, and employing the next generation of singers, actors, composers, musicians, writers, directors, administrators, and technicians in producing original and revival theatre and musical productions. By recognizing the great contributions of African American musicians, composers, and theatre artists, MFA ensures the continued legacy of gospel, jazz and R&B music in theatrical productions.




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