It is Saturday morning in Harlem, but, outside a townhouse on 126th Street, it sounds like a Sunday. This is no storefront church but an institution that is preserving the great musical tradition of African-American gospel music and passing it along to a new generation that may never have heard of Mahalia Jackson or Sam Cooke. And it’s helping to steer kids–some of whom take long bus and subway rides to get here–onto the right path.

Gospel for Teens began when founder Vy Higginsen’s daughter Noel was admitted to New York’s well-known Professional Performing Arts High School. Higginsen, a New York radio and advertising industries veteran, expected that Noel would be exposed to the full range of musical styles and history. As pleased as she was that her daughter would, in fact, become versed in everything from Bach to Gershwin, Higginsen found herself disappointed because she believed that some core African-American contributions to American music were not well represented.

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