When someone hears that Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, Mary Mary, Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker, James Fortune, Israel Houghton, Smokie Norful, and more were under the same roof, for one event, the automatic assumption is that it had to be the “Stellar Awards.” Or if not the Stellar awards, then most definitely it must have been the “Celebration of Gospel”, or maybe even the Grammy’s. Well, fortunately for the fans who descended upon Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Convention Center March 10th it was none of the previous three notable events. Gospel music’s biggest stars descended into Philadelphia for Praise 103.9’s Inspiration and Music Conference.
The 2nd Annual Inspiration Conference catered to a diverse array of needs for the Inspirational listener. According to Radio One Inspiration Format Director Elroy Smith, “the Inspiration and Music Conference catered to the hearts and minds of the inspirational listener. It was truly a holistic experience with varying workshops for singles, married couples, individuals looking for legal advice, financial advice, or for those looking to break into the music industry. It was an amazing day for Praise 103.9 and the listeners who came from all over the country.”
The transparency in the workshops also helped attendees break through with their own personal challenges. Gospel star Tye Tribbett was a panelist on the “Marriage Beyond the Vows” workshop and was extremely open about the challenges in his marriage and it only helped to encourage the married couples sitting in that room to be open and honest when it comes to the different obstacles they face in their own marriage. The sentiments leaving workshops like Marriage Beyond the Vows, Single and Saved, Faith and Finances, and My Philly Lawyer was that this conference was a much needed tune up in their on-going pursuit to being a better wife, husband, or citizen of humanity seeking self empowerment. Kirk Franklin hosted his own workshop going “Up Close and Personal” with his biggest fans. According to Franklin, “I am humbled that people take time out of their busy schedule to hear what I got to say. I think it’s amazing that God put something in me that somebody wants to hear.”
Another highlight to the conference was the “Best Inspirational Singer” competition where Praise 103.9 and Black Smoke Music awarded the winner $5,000. In the end, the competition was narrowed down to two dynamic singers who had a “sing-off” to determine the winner. In a packed room with standing room only, the two sang their hearts out and one walked away with $5,000 and a contract for James Fortune to write and record a song. It was truly an emotional moment as the woman who was 9 months pregnant broke down in tears overcome with emotion. There may have not been a dry eye in the room.
And how could you have all these gospel stars under one roof and not have a power packed finale concert! Praise 103.9 ended the all day conference with a sold out finale concert featuring Marvin Sapp, Mary Mary, Smokie Norful, James Fortune, Earnest Pugh, Jessica Reedy, JJ Hairston and Youthful Praise and Israel Houghton! March 10, 2012 was a day to remember in Philadelphia and it represented every facet of the inspirational listener. If you missed it, check out the highlights and interviews on Praisephilly.com