Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Appoints Interim Executive Director
Announces Departure of DeSaulnier and Welcomes Amdal

April 3, 2019 (OAKLAND, CA) - The Board of Directors for Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir (OIGC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Maren L. Amdal, CAE as Interim Executive Director. We are confident she will provide strong operational and governance leadership during this time of transition following the departure of Mark R. DeSaulnier, who has accepted a position with Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. Amdal and DeSaulnier will be working together over the coming weeks to ensure a smooth and effective transition for OIGC. A national search will be underway in the coming months. 

Maren (pronounced MAH-ren) has more than 15 years of leadership, development, and management experience in non-profit and arts organizations, including roles with San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and Calliope Women’s Chorus in Minneapolis, MN, among many others. Maren currently serves on several boards of directors, including Community Women’s Orchestra in Oakland, CA. As a consultant and facilitator, Maren brings extensive leadership skills and entrepreneurial success as well as strategic vision to her guidance of organizations in both the profit and nonprofit sectors. 

“Maren’s proven business acumen and governance experience make her an excellent choice for OIGC,” Board Chair Mike Gooding said. “She will lead through a critical phase of planning and transition that will set our course for long-term growth and sustainability.” Maren will partner with the OIGC Board of Directors on organizational planning and the search for a permanent Executive Director and will also manage operations for the organization, including programs, workshops, and concerts. She will oversee staff and administration, acting as steward and supporter during the search process. 

Of her new role, Maren says, “I am honored to lead the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir during this period of transition, and I am grateful to Terrance Kelly, the Board of Directors, and our singing members and funders, whose hard work and support have helped OIGC grow into a vital resource for our community. Having sung in the OIGC Community Choir for the past three years, I look forward to the opportunity to contribute now behind the scenes with staff and board as they embark on this important transition and begin to lay the groundwork for development of their next strategic plan.”

Artistic Director Terrance Kelly said of the appointment, “We are thrilled to have someone as passionate for and knowledgeable about our choir community as Maren to carry our important work forward during this exciting time. We share a commitment to our mission ‘to inspire joy and unity among all people through black gospel and spiritual music traditions’, and both the staff and board look forward to working with Maren as we plan for a promising new chapter.”

The Board maintains its commitment to high standards during this transition and will continue to work toward a strong future. While we will miss Mark, and we thank him for his many years of service, please join us all in welcoming Maren to OIGC family! 


Michael Gooding, Board Chair – board@oigc.org
Maren Amdal, Interim Exec. Dir. – maren@oigc.org


Bread and Roses: Santa Rita Jail - Nov 18, 2018


Bread and Roses: Santa Rita Jail - Nov 18, 2018

Received an email today from Bread & Roses. Performances such as this are part of our Community Engagement Program.

Dear Members of OIGC,

I really appreciate your giving the time, talent and good will to the men at Alameda County Jail, Santa Rita. I know they got a lot out of your visit. We're so happy to have you as part of our family of performers. You make a difference!



Show report by Jay Dicker:

I was fortunate to be invited along to assist Carolyn at the pre-Thanksgiving performances of the OIGC at the Santa Rita Jail. The choir did an interesting thing before each of the performances, they took a small group of singers into the housing units beforehand, to sing and stimulate interest in getting inmates to come to the gym (after all, there was a decent football game on at the time). It worked - there were two separate performances to equal size (70+) groups of male jail inmates, and a few staff members in attendance on this Sunday evening.

Led by the charismatic and talented Terrance Kelly, the audience was into the singing immediately – and when the first song ended, they erupted into applause…and that’s how the music was received the entire evening. This being Alameda County the audience was diverse…like the choir. You could tell there were some inmates who were very familiar with some of the true Gospel type music. I’m certain this type of performance was a real treat for the audience – not only the music – but also the opportunity to view a group of 50 individual performers of different genders, shapes and sizes, etc. (The incarcerated enjoy seeing people from the outside!). Carolyn and I sat stage right from the choir, and I can tell you I enjoyed watching Terrance conduct the choir, and the 3 musicians. (And I especially loved when he sang in falsetto).

The jail staff was very nice and helpful. We were kept a distance from the inmates so I could not speak with them directly, but from observing them, there is no doubt the OIGC brought the spirit of the holidays, with their wonderful musical performances, into the Santa Rita Jail.

For Bread & Roses updates, visit https://www.breadandroses.org/ and "like" their Facbook page https://www.facebook.com/BreadAndRosesCA/



...supports delivering musical experiences to institutionalized and underserved audiences; serving the general public with free admission events; benefits for schools and fellow nonprofits; and presenting the Biennial Gospel Music Workshop and Annual Free Musical.




Dan and Tehree

Dan and Tehree

It has been a great joy for me to be able to work with OIGC this summer. The experiences I have had working with OIGC for SKRUK’s visit, helping OICC with their annual concert, and assisting in the office have all revitalized my faith in OIGC and the power of music to bring people together. I have been uplifted and blessed by the music I heard, and I know that the members of the community who participate in any OIGC performances and the choir members who spread peace, love and joy are all fortified through the wonderful power of gospel music and the spirit of unity that accompanies it. 

One of my primary responsibilities in the office was compiling a catalog of the music OIGC and OICC perform. The combined list included over 200 songs. I spent much of my time working on this project listening to different versions of these songs to find the best version to put in the catalog of the choir’s repertoire. Repeatedly hearing the messages of hope, faith, love and acceptance of these songs was very powerful for me. Each of us has a different set of life experiences as well as personal characteristics and beliefs that set us apart and make us different. The truth that was reaffirmed to me as I worked with OIGC this summer was that all of us need to and deserve to know that we are worthy of love and acceptance. We each need to know that there are people around us who care, and we need to hear it over and over again. That is why I am so thankful for OIGC. The gospel music they have shared with me has truly changed my life. It has made me a better, more compassionate, more accepting and more understanding person. The world has never needed the joyful noise and unconditional love OIGC shares more. Thank you all for the good you do. I am excited for the next chapter as I hope to stay involved in whatever way I can. 





Oh What A Night! OICC's 5th Annual Summer Concert

OICC with guest artist Ms. Jackie Tolbert

Oh what a night!!  Of course, this is a completely biased review of the evening given I was one of the earlier members of the Oakland Interfaith Community Choir (OICC) that began in 2014.  But there are some things that are undeniable; the house was full, the music was infectious and many of us could not stay in our seats throughout the evening.  I’m so proud to see the choir now 100 plus strong but still representative of the diversity of who we are as unique individuals, unified by the common desire to lift up each other and all those within earshot with anthems of joy, hope, and love. Watching from the “stands”, there was a sense of envy that I was not with my OICC peeps, but being on the receiving end of OICC’s presence and vocal energy more than made up for it.   

It’s a tradition to kick off the concert with a spiritual and OICC wowed the audience with “Thy Way”.  The challenging acapella arrangement had several difficult movements and was handsomely directed by Paul Daniels.  The altos anchoring and holding out strongly on that final single note brought gasps amongst us in the crowd.  OICC honored the life and music of Edwin Hawkins by busting out with “He’s Alright” and “O Happy Day”.  I could literally feel the joy and energy of the choir igniting us to sing and celebrate with them and we happily obliged.  Special guests Rebel and SWAG treated us to laughter, endearing singing, as well as powerful messages of change and acceptance.   Jackie Tolbert mesmerized and took us to church with “He will Supply”.  What a treat to watch Terrance and Jackie doing a gospel tango of improvisation as the choir responded enthusiastically to Jackie’s testament of God’s faithfulness.  Of course by night’s end, we were all in the mood to dance and Terrance obliged by literally making ALL of us dance while Jae did an awesome job directing.

Terrance keeps challenging OICC to higher levels of excellence so as not to be content to be just another good community choir.  I thought last year’s concert was the best, but each year, OICC continues to outdo itself.    I’m so grateful to Terrance and the Oakland Interfaith family of choirs that my wife, Cynthia and I, are blessed to sing in.  I’ve made so many new friends from so many different walks of life that is enriching my life journey now and will continue to do so for years to come.  Oakland Interfaith is more than just a choir, or singing.  It is family.  It is a movement of positive change, peace creation, and love sending and I’m deeply honored to be a part of this distinctive assembly.

Gene Ho
Tenor, OIGC
Former tenor, OICC

Gene with his wife, Cynthia in front of the Paramount Theatre - Oakland, CA

Gene with his wife, Cynthia in front of the Paramount Theatre - Oakland, CA




TOP: OIGC and SKRUK in Molde Domkirke in 2015 - Molde, Norway
BOTTOM LEFT: OIGC DIrector, Terrance Kelly; BOTTOM RIGHT: SKRUK Director Per Oddvar (Prots) Hildre

The single favorite moment of the tour for me was when the combined choirs held hands and sang Kyrie in the parking lot at Napa with Terrance directing. I was holding hands with Prots and trying as hard as I could to blend with him and stay in perfect intonation as he sang the bass part. I can attest that he is a real bass with excellent technique!

Carl R. - OIGC Tenor

While I have been Facebook friends with some of the SKRUK members for almost 3 years, I didn't really know them! Unfortunately, I was sick during our tour in Molde, so I didn't get to hang out and get to know them very much then. I think I more than made up for it this time around, especially now that I work as a staff member of OIGC!

My favorite part was the first day, when SKRUK had just arrived to Church Divinity School Of The Pacific campus where they were staying. Some of them had just dropped off their luggage, and came back down to the main room for our first meal together. Before we started dinner, we shared with them our practice of praying together, ending with "we send joy, we send peace, we send love!" Then a hum began from one corner of the room, and I realized that they were singing the blessing I heard 3 years ago when we first arrived in Molde! The same corporeal feeling came over me - and when they were finished, I couldn't help but jump and say out loud, "SKRUK IS HERE!"

Isa C. - OIGC Alto

It was a joy for everyone in the OIGC community to have our Norwegian family SKRUK visit for the “Roots from the West” Bay Area tour from June 28th-July 5th, 2018. The five-concert series covering Oakland, Napa and Walnut Creek saw a seemingly unusual partnership blossom as the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and SKRUK shared the stage, changing hearts and breaking down barriers. The two choirs reunited three years after performing together at the 2015 Molde International Jazz Festival in Molde, Norway.

Members of SKRUK Choir with OIGC Intern, Dan Ankenman

Members of SKRUK Choir with OIGC Intern, Dan Ankenman

I had the privilege of serving as a production assistant for the choirs’ three performances in Walnut Creek and Oakland, which gave me a front row seat to hear and see much of the tour. The two choirs may seem an unlikely pair given SKRUK’s entirely a cappella repertoire of hymns, masses and other traditional Christian choral music both ancient and modern, and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir’s soulful gospel music and traditional Negro spirituals. Nevertheless, the two choirs share a love of music and a love of people, making any differences between them insignificant in comparison to the higher purpose that motivates both organizations. SKRUK and OIGC are both world-class choirs, and the combination of the two together was truly transcendent.

SKRUK Soundcheck at Allen Temple Baptist Church - Oakland, CA

It was exciting for me to see how OIGC director Terrance Kelly and SKRUK director Per Oddvar Hildre (known as Prots) adapted the concerts to each audience and venue. Each performance was unique, but the general structure was that one of the choirs would perform the first set, while the other would perform the second set and both choirs would join together for a final set. The performances I saw in the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, and the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland each brought a different audience to the choirs. Terrance and Prots never failed to direct the choirs to provide audience members with messages of love, acceptance, unity and peace, as well as give everybody a reason to dance. The performances were truly dynamic and varied, inspiring the full gamut of emotions. I felt chills and a deep sense of reverence every time I heard OIGC perform “Lord, How Come Me Here?” or SKRUK’s version of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. Hope always won the day, though, as I was filled with jubilation hearing the choirs come together to perform songs such as “Kyrie” and “I Love The Lord.”

It was an amazing experience for me to stand in the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland and be surrounded by the members of SKRUK spread throughout the church, singing a mixture of modern Norwegian hymns and ancient Christian songs. SKRUK’s operatic range, pure vocal blend and virtuosic attention to detail encircled me. It was equally enthralling for me to stand in Allen Temple and join OIGC in making a joyful noise. More than any of this, what stands out to me is the implicit and explicit message of the tour that people can come together in unity and love regardless of apparent differences. In stark contrast to the pervasive and persistent messages we often hear, this tour demonstrated for the whole world that love, peace, unity and civility are possible not only in spite of but because of differences. That truth is certainly something worth making a joyful noise about!

Dan A. - OIYC Alum/OIGC Summer Intern



From Soprano to Bass: An OIGC Intern's Journey

Dan on a trip to New Orleans earlier this summer.


My name is Dan Ankenman, and it is my great honor and blessing to be serving as an intern for OIGC this summer. I just finished my junior year at Brigham Young University where I am studying Commercial Music. OIGC has opened my heart and mind and given me so many opportunities to grow and reach out to others. I am elated to help OIGC and its members in any way I can as they seek both to attain musical excellence and their timely and overarching mission of unity in diversity. 

My association with OIGC began over 10 years ago when I joined what was then the Oakland Interfaith Youth Gospel Choir. It was life changing for me as a young teenager to see the power our music had to touch those around us and to unify us so completely in the common purpose of bringing light and joy. Our differences in terms of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or any other quality that might have otherwise separated us instead only increased the power of the message we brought of rejoicing in our common humanity and the power of love between people.

I have seen that this pure love and power to profoundly impact communities for good is the very heart and soul of OIGC. I am deeply indebted and grateful to Terrance Kelly, not only for helping me to transition from my beginnings in the choir as a preadolescent soprano to now being a bass but for helping me see how music can bring love, peace, and understanding whenever and wherever the parties are willing. 

The OIYGC Tenor section

The OIYGC Tenor section

Dan performing with the Oakland Interfaith Youth Gospel Choir

Dan performing with the Oakland Interfaith Youth Gospel Choir

This internship has come at a very special time for me. It was wonderful to serve as a production assistant for OIGC’s concerts with the phenomenal Norwegian Choir SKRUK. This was a meeting of two worlds for me in a unique way as I lived in Norway for two years serving as a missionary for the LDS church after graduating from high school. These concerts showcased an eclectic set of hymns and spiritual music. The versatility and virtuosity of both choirs was astounding, but what stood out to me was what I felt as I saw dozens of people who many may see as different be united in song. 

I am excited for the opportunities that are in store for OIGC and for me throughout the rest of the summer. With the bulk of the summer performance and rehearsal schedule behind us, I will continue to hold regular hours at OIGC’s offices where I will assist with day-to-day operations as well as with cataloging the choir’s repertoire. I am grateful to be able to help OIGC in accomplishing its mission of making a joyful noise and bringing people together in love. My love and best wishes to all of you. 



Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Community Engagement Program Awarded California Arts Council “Local Impact” Grant


Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Community Engagement Program Awarded California Arts Council “Local Impact” Grant

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir's Community Engagement Program Awarded California Arts Council “Local Impact” Grant

State funds support arts projects in California’s historically marginalized communities

The California Arts Council announced its plans to award $16,200 to the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir as part of its Local Impact program.

The Local Impact program provides support for community-driven arts project for small and mid-sized arts organizations. The program fosters equity, access, and opportunity for historically marginalized communities by cultivating community participation in art making, learning, and exposure.

Projects provide access to arts participation and representation of and by the community identified in the application. Historically marginalized communities include specific ethnic and tribal groups, LGBTQ+, individuals with disabilities, low-income and rural communities, and immigrant and refugee communities.

OIGC typically performs more than thirty times each year, delivering a musical experience to institutionalized and underserved audiences at venues such as the Mercy Retirement Home and the Crossroads Homeless Shelter; serving the general public with free admission events such as the City Center Holiday Concert and Oakland Tree Lighting; and appearing at most major Oakland events, like the annual Art & Soul Festival.

The Choir remains on call for the community in times of need and assists other nonprofit organizations through performances at events such as the Break Bread Concert with Oakland East Bay Symphony, Living Jazz’s MLK Jr. Tribute at Oakland’s Scottish Rite Center, and Allen Temple AIDS Ministry. OIGC has performed at benefits for the Jewish Music Festival, Black History Month events, and the Alameda County Food Bank.

OIGC is one of 133 grantees across California chosen for the Local Impact program. The award was featured as part of a larger announcement from the California Arts Council.

“The Local Impact grant program strikes at the heart of the issue of access and equity in the arts,” said Nashormeh Lindo, California Arts Council. “OIGC’s project is crucial to help arts and culture opportunities reach California’s marginalized communities, and to promote the unique creative expressions within that community.”


To view a complete listing of all Local Impact grantees, visit http://arts.ca.gov/programs/files/FY1718_ProjectDescriptions_LI.pdf.


About CA Arts:

The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California's diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Vice Chair Larry Baza, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Juan Devis, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Donn K. Harris, Louise McGuinness, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov.



OIGC and SKRUK: "Roots from the West"

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir joins Norwegian Choir SKRUK for a four-concert West Coast tour:

“Roots from the West"

The unexpected partnership between Bay Area’s own Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, and SKRUK, hailing from Norway, came to life in 2015 at the Molde International Jazz Festival.

SKRUK, founded in 1973, consists of 50 singers from all parts of Norway. Its members meet four to five times a year and boast a varied repertoire, influenced by Norwegian folk music, spirituals, world music, and jazz. The choir has released more than 20 records and has performed on several continents.

This synergistic collaboration, under the name "Røtter" (meaning: "Roots"), is based around the fact that despite cultural differences in upbringing, culture, and behavior between the American and Norwegian west-coasts, we have common spiritual roots.

As the collaboration culminates in a week-long tour, audiences can expect to experience OIGC’s exquisite harmonies and stirring gospel repertoire alongside SKRUK’s groundbreaking and award-winning Scandinavian choral music.

The concerts will alternate between the choirs singing individually and together. The last is set to be a truly exciting unison. As SKRUK’s founding director of over 40 years, Per Oddvar Hildre (known as Prots) says, the collaboration is "a new musical latte". Whatever your taste, this "latte" is something that all audiences can enjoy.


Use code OIGCNEWS for $3 off tickets!

Code valid only through Thursday June 14th


Saturday - June 30 - 7pm
Lesher Center for the Arts
1601 Civic Drive
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

Sunday - July 1 - 4pm
Allen Temple Baptist Church
8501 International Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94621

Monday - July 2 - 7pm
Arts Under the Spire
First Presbyterian Church
2619 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

Tuesday - July 3 - 6pm and 8pm
Napa Methodist Church
625 Randolph Street
Napa, CA 94559


1 Comment

OIYC Senior, Saaniyah Tomlinson: An Essay

The Tomlinson family from left: OIYC alum Aliah, mother Leatrice, Saaniyah, and OIYC member Niara 

The Tomlinson family from left: OIYC alum Aliah, mother Leatrice, Saaniyah, and OIYC member Niara 

Growing up, my Mom gave us two jobs: be a good student and be a good person. She worked her jobs and took care of us so that we could do our "jobs" and grow up to take care of ourselves and others. College has always been in my future, but so is service to the people. I like to learn and I am excited to be in a place where I can explore and grow. I want to major in Political Science so I help be an advocate for those without power. In these times of political turmoil, it is important to have advocates on Capitol hill, state government, and local government. With a college education, I will be better equipped to teach others and uplift my community.

Three personal attributes that will aid in achieving these goals are: knowing how to build relationships, having initiative, and knowing how to ask for help. I’m proud of the choices I’ve made in keeping good friends, losing bad ones, and being a team player. I can figure out how to work with people to get projects done and to create a strong support system while I am away from home.

Initiative will help me be proactive with assignments. I had to develop this skill by learning the hard way in 9th grade. Older friends have told me how hard college work is when you wait to prepare for a test or write a paper. Knowing how to start early and get things done will help me succeed.

As much as I think I am prepared for college, I know that there will be times that I need help. I used to think that asking for help meant that I wasn’t as good as other people. Now I know that everybody has something they need help with. I know how to ask for help when I need it.

Half of my life has been a part of OIGC and OIYC. First my mother made me attend [OIGC] concerts, then I attended my sister’s [OIYC] rehearsals, then I became a member. Although I started in OIYC because of mother, I stayed and grew up in OIYC because of me. OIYC has contributed to my growth and development of educational goals and my identity as a whole.

When I was 11, I was shy (around people I did not know), nervous in front of crowds, and not always confident. In OIYC, I was pushed to go outside of my comfort zone even though it frightened me. I learned to be comfortable in front of hundreds of people, whether I was singing a solo or hosting a concert. I learned how to push myself, which translated to how I dealt with school and life in general.

Saaniyah directing the Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir to sing for their hosts during their trip to Hawaii (Feb 2017)

Saaniyah directing the Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir to sing for their hosts during their trip to Hawaii (Feb 2017)

The biggest way OIYC contributed to my growth is teaching me how to be a leader. When my [older] sister left the choir, it felt like we had lost our ringleader. She was the one who took over when Terrance wasn’t there and helped us with our singing. When she went off to college, there was a hole left. I did not want to take her place. I did not want to become “Aliah #2”, but then I realized that me being a leader was not trying to be like my sister. Me being a leader was me being ME. I started to direct more, sing solos, host choir concerts and help fellow choir members. I took on the role that had been left behind, and this really taught me how to lead. It helped me give presentations at school. It taught me how to work with different personalities. It taught me how to get people quiet so that we can work on our music. Most importantly, it taught me how to be a good role model for the young kids around me.

OIYC has also helped me develop educationally, because it taught me how to sacrifice for the good of my growth. I have missed many parties and hangouts with friends because of choir. However, this isn’t all bad. I learned how to prioritize my commitment to my singing and my section that depends on me. This translated to my education because I learned how to prioritize getting work done over giving into the urges to go out when I had an important deadline.

OIYC also taught me how to push through hard times. When there were only 6-7 kids in the choir, I felt like there was no point in being there. But then, I would look at Terrance and see that if he was not going to give up on us, then I wouldn’t either. This perseverance has helped me reach my educational goals. There have been many times when I felt like I would never understand a math concept and wanted to give up, but I thought of that exact moment. I remembered that when things are tough, the only way to go is up. That perseverance was instilled in me though Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir, and I am forever grateful for those lessons.


OIYC Senior Sending and End of Year Concert



Donations to Support the Youth Choir will be accepted

Imani Community Church
3300 MacArthur Blvd
Oakland, CA

Come celebrate our Graduates with us while listening to OIYC sing joyously. There will also be FANTASTIC food for purchase and a bake sale benefiting the Youth Choir.

Recipients of the Riley West Scholarship, available only to OIYC Youth, will be presented along with a bon voyage ceremony for our Seniors this year:

Saaniyah Tomlinson, Jacob Martin, and Victoria Smith.


I’m over the moon proud of Oakland Interfaith Choir youth and Alumni.

This Class of 2018 are attending:
Bethune Cookman University
Howard University

In addition, degrees received by previous alumni this year:
UNLV – Doctorate
San Diego State - Bachelor
UC Berkeley - Bachelor
UC Davis - Bachelor
USC - Bachelor
Harvard - Masters program enrollment
— Terrance Kelly

1 Comment