ECMA Coaches: L to R: Julia Royston, Sharnette Mitchell, Angela Donadio, the Rev. Duncan Land, and Sandra King.
Born out of Prince Georges County, the Excellence in Christian Music Academy (ECMA) is a gospel music organization that continues to connect diverse groups to opportunities previously not afforded them. According to Henry Harris, CEO and founder of ECMA, the organization is based online and grew out of a desire to connect local artists and music lovers to professional production of gospel music.
The ECMA program started in 2003 and was inspired by internet radio and Stellar Gospel Music Academy. Harris was a Stellar Gospel boardmember from 2001 to 2002 and president of the Stellar Awards Gospel Music Academy. “I wanted to create inclusiveness and diversity in gospel,” stated Harris. “There are many subgenres of gospel and independent artists who were not afforded the same opportunities as others,” said Harris.
Harris explained that ECMA works with music artists as young as 14 and seniors too and them a chance to follow fulfill their dreams of becoming recording artists. “We educate you on the ins and outs of the industry,” explained Harris, “We have coaches who teach our participants in their respective fields, whether it be marketing, accounting, image, etc.”
As a result, the students involved in this program receive what Harris refers to as a sort of graduation, which is the awards ceremony. “We bring them together to recognize their completion of the program with a certificate, a lapel pin, and an opportunity to perform in a professional environment.”
This year the ceremony takes place Oct. 11, in Southeast D.C. It is sponsored by MGM National Harbor and called the “Seniors Night Out Celebration.”
“We focus on underserved populations, such as seniors and youth who do not ordinarily get an opportunity to get out,” said Harris. According to Harris, they deliver sponsor tickets for the Gala, which is in its fourth year, to churches, assisted-living facilities, and more.
Vivian Walker, a senior who received a ticket last year, attended the gala and is grateful for the opportunity in her otherwise underserved community. “I am grateful for the opportunity to attend ECMA’s gala,” said Walker, “As a senior, I am not always able to greet the others in my neighborhood and surprisingly, this event was in my own backyard. ECMA has brought my community something that we really needed – professional entertainment.”
Ashly “Blaze” Miles, 23 and a successful participant in ECMA, will be attending the gala this year for the third time. “ECMA has taught me professionalism,” said Miles, emphasizing how impressed she was with the professional conduct and structure of the program. Miles has five recorded albums and says that one of the lessons she learned from the program was to carry herself with respect.
“I didn’t grow up with a lot of positive role models,” continued Miles, “This program helps youth to prepare for success and for me, it gave provided a greatly needed outlet.”
“Henry Harris is not focused on ticket sales,” stated Alecia Jones, public relations representative for ECMA, “He has focused himself and the program on diversity, connecting underserved people with opportunities.”