Established in 1994, the Southern Gospel Music Association (SGMA) is a professional preservation association of artists, songwriters, industry workers and fans founded to preserve, protect and promote Southern Gospel Music, its history and heritage.
The SGMA is a private, non-profit corporation with a board of directors selected from artists, industry participants and others, whose job is to oversee the activities of the business and make sure the organization’s stated purpose is fulfilled. The day-to-day affairs are managed by the executive director.
Southern gospel music has enjoyed a long and colorful history, with many talented individuals and dedicated professionals whose efforts helped create a unique sound of harmonious melodies and uplifting words. The genre’s artists, both past and present, provide entertainment to millions of people, with a central message built around biblical truths and spiritual values.
Originally, Southern gospel music was sung only by quartets, utilizing a style known as four-part harmony, often from books where musical notes were identified by their shape. Henceforth, many singing schools sprung up around the country teaching this “shape note” method. Often a musically adept person would travel from town to town teaching school for a couple of weeks, where interested students paid a small fee to attend. Later, larger, more professional schools would be established in cities where more serious students trained for a possible gospel music performance career.
James D. Vaughan of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., is credited with establishing the first Southern gospel music quartet in 1910. In the early years quartets were hired by music publishing companies to travel the country, entertaining, teaching and selling song books produced by their sponsoring company. By the 1930s and early 40s, most quartets were independent and Southern gospel music as we know it today was in full bloom.
The SGMA is dedicated to the legacy of these early pioneers’ accomplishments as well as promoting today’s music through an expanding marketplace and a new generation of music lovers.
The SGMA operates the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., which welcomes more than one million visitors annually to read and observe displays and memorabilia from a century of gospel music. Thousands of items from some of the greatest singers, writers and musicians are displayed. The facility includes a gift shop which carries one of the country’s largest Southern gospel music selections. The SGMA also specializes in vintage and difficult-to-find Southern gospel music products.
Hall of Fame nomination and induction is the SGMA’s responsibility. Once selected, these distinguished individuals are permanently enshrined in the Hall of Fame with a plaque bearing their picture and list of accomplishments. Also, the SGMA mails, collects, and tabulates votes in several categories of industry awards that are presented annually in a formal ceremony.
The SGMA current membership ranks in the thousands with members from almost every state and several foreign countries. Members come from all walks of life joined by a love for the music, an appreciation for the positive, uplifting lyrics and the music’s central message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The artists in this industry have traveled thousands of miles, often through adverse conditions, to entertain, minister and create a musical genre for which the SGMA is committed to preserving.