Ramona V. Newsom is a musician, songwriter of contemporary Gospel music.
Ramona V. Newsom had not planned on going back to school. She had other more immediate concerns. She went to great lengths to leave an abusive marriage, moving to Salina, Kansas from another town for a fresh start in her life.
Ramona joined the staff of St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Salina, Kansas as the Minister of Music, playing piano for services and overseeing three choirs. She happened upon Brown Mackie College – Salina when the school was moving to a different location and donating unneeded office furniture to the church.
It was hard to pass by the one-class-a-month format and flexible schedule. Ramona enrolled in the Associate of Applied Science in Business Management program. “I graduated third in my high school class, but after 28 years I didn’t know if I still had it in me to succeed,” Ramona said. “It was challenging because of my church commitments. I have major OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and being able to focus on one class made it easier to get through. Multiple classes would have driven me crazy,” she continued.
Ramona earned her Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Management in 2006 from Brown Mackie College – Salina and now holds an administrative position at KLA Environmental Services, Inc. in Salina, Kansas. Her duties include proofreading, standardization, process development, and office management. She still works at the church with five choirs, the groups including youth, young adults, men, adults, and anybody who wants to sing.
“The ultimate thing about Brown Mackie College – Salina is how they helped me grow. I am able to talk about my past hardships because of the assignments I received. I was asked to reach deep inside and write about something in my life. I wrote about my issues and it helped me to deal with it,” said Ramona.
“Going back to school was harder than I thought it would be,” said Ramona. “Had she not encouraged me when I wanted to give up, I wouldn’t have met any of the others.”
Ramona reminds adults who think about going back to school that “there is a way. When juggling life and pursuing education, being in a comfortable, accommodating environment helps.”
Now carrying on with a new life and a new career, Ramona says an old friend told her she seems like a whole different person.
As a small child, Ramona Newsom would play gospel music on an imaginary keyboard along the pews in her church.
Newsom, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., wanted to play the piano to perform the gospel music she loved. Yet she didn’t take her first piano lesson until age 15 – and that was only as a result of her father’s death.
“I couldn’t learn piano because we couldn’t afford lessons or a piano,” said Newsom, now 53 and living in Salina.
Then Hazel Weddington, owner and operator of Weddington School of Music in Kansas City, Mo., took on Newsom as a student.
“Within a year, I was playing duets with Mrs. Weddington,”Newsom said.
Newsom also has been performing and writing gospel songs since 1989. In 1992, she joined the Kansas City chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, an international organization with more than 75,000 members in more than 185 chapters in the U.S., United Kingdom, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia.
This year, after nearly 20 years of trying, Newsom has conquered another obstacle — her original gospel song, “When Jesus Stops By Your House,” was selected to be performed in the Mass Choir Performance Division at this year’s convention which took place July 7-13 in Nashville, Tenn.
Humbled, scared, happy. To say Newsom is honored at being selected is an understatement.
“I’m thankful, I’m humbled, I’m scared, I’m happy,” said Newsom, minister of music and church secretary at New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, 321 N. Eighth.”There are so many emotions. This is like the pinnacle for gospel songwriters.”
Newsom will perform her song and other material at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Bravo Salina! Stage at the Smoky Hill River Festival, joined by instrumental musicians and a community choir.
“I’m frantic, because I can’t go to the convention and just hang out now,” Newsom said.
“I have to teach 3,000 people this song, and I only have about 20 minutes to do it.” Her sister will sing lead.
Newsom is relieved that her younger sister, Omega Tillman, will be singing the lead in her song. “I needed the lead singer, and she does this song at our old church (Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo.),” Newsom said. “She has a beautiful voice.”
Tillman, 42, said she is excited and honored to sing her big sister’s original song at such a prestigious gathering. “It’s huge to go out there to sing this,” she said.
Newsom, who belongs to the Wichita chapter of GMWA, said she was prepared to receive a rejection when she scanned her email May 9 at church and saw the subject line “2012 GMWA Mass Choir Songbook Acceptance Letter.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I really didn’t expect anything to happen.”
During the next month, Newsom will be raising money to fund travel expenses to Nashville for herself, the vocalists and instrumentalists through a “Reach for the Stars Benefit” account at Bennington State Bank, 2130 S. Ohio.
Whatever it takes to get to Nashville, Newsom said she will do it, and whatever the fate of her song, she will accept whatever becomes of it. For her, it’s all in the hands of a higher power.
“It’s already done more than I expected, so whatever happens when I get there, the rest is gravy,” she said.