Preserving Gospel Music and Inspiring Teenagers


I recently came across a 60 Minutes segment that was very moving, encouraging, and left me with goosebumps — so I had to share it with you.  The segment presented by Lesley Stahl featured a New York City program called Gospel for Teens, developed and operated by Executive Director Vy Higginsen, a long-time radio personality and theater producer.

Gospel for Teens was launched in 2006 and is still going strong today under the MaMa Foundation for the Arts. The kids have to audition and attend the weekly rehearsals to participate in Gospel for Teens, which take place in a brownstone located in Harlem, New York.  The auditions are held once a year and teenagers ranging in age from 13 to 19 are able to join the group.  The kids don’t have to be the best singers in the world or be the next American Idol,  but they do have to be able to hit a good note or two.  The teens are never charged a fee to be a member of the group.  Gospel for Teens is supported by grants, donations, and interested sponsors who wish to see the program flourish.

Ms. Higginsen was interested in teaching the importance of gospel music,  explaining how the genre is an integral part of American history.  She also found it a way to encourage New York City and New Jersey teenagers to build their confidence and self-esteem.  Vy teaches the youngsters about the roots of traditional gospel music and how it cannot be forgotten or cast aside.  Vy Higginsen feels that if she has the ability to reach the children involved in Gospel for Teens and encourage their love of music cultivated from their heritage, then maybe they’ll eventually teach it to the generations after them and continue the legacy of great music.

It was amazing to see each teenager, whether they were excited, nervous, or timid, go from the audition process and transition through a few months of work to sing with such wonderful power, spirit, and joy.  The Gospel for Teens is a program that opens up new doors for many intelligent young people and provides these individuals a way to be involved in a positive activity as well.

Click the link below to watch the story.  I truly believe you will not be disappointed with everything you see and hear.  The music that these young kids create is guaranteed to leave you in awe.  Many communities could use an organization like Gospel for Teens as a way to build hope and knock out negativity in our youth.

Click here to watch the 60 Minutes segment.

Click here for extended CBS coverage on Gospel for Teens.

Click here to visit the mama foundation website.


Heidi Norris
A Vocalist and a Concert Opera Philadelphia Company Board Member. Earned a M.S. Degree from Full Sail University (July 2010), and B.A. In Music from Immaculata University (May 2006). Works in the Accounts Payable division of J.W. Pepper.


  1. I was so excited to read your artical, it was encouraging since I will be starting a high school gospel choir this year; it will be the school’s first experience. I have been fortunate enough to sing in an adult gospel choirs over the years, but this will be my first time directing one for 9th-12th graders. All the best! EHT

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