HENRYETTA, Oklahoma – On the west side of Henryetta and one block up from the Interstate 40 exit lies a small brick building on the corner where a Y starts forming in the road.
This little building with doors facing the north is called the Tulledega Hills Gospel Music Theatre, formerly known as the Tullegdega Hills Baptist Church, which has since changed locations.
Muscogee citizen and Indie Gospel artist Winnie Cooper owns the theatre gifted to her by her parents, Teresa and David Cooper.
Cooper leads the music ministry and is also the lead singer of the main performing band, Mended by Grace. Other notable band members are MCN Council Representative Nelson Harjo Sr., the drummer. Each band member is of Native American descent, a source of pride for the band.
Currently, the band is looking for a talented instrumentalist, specifically a committed bass guitar player.
Cooper claims she would like to add other instruments to the band and is open to all calls and tryouts.
Every Saturday night, the Theatre hosts concerts at 7 pm for free for community members and guests. Shows include gospel praise music for the most part. You may occasionally catch Cooper singing an original written piece of hers that may be just outside of the gospel realm.
Other bands come to play. While it is free to attend, the performers do accept love offerings.
Local groups like the All Native southern gospel quartet ReDefined, Garland Blocker and Blue Tradition, Higher Ground, Amundson Family Music, Wesley Vanmeter, Mark Huitt, Leon Purley, and several more have performed.
In addition to the ministry, the Theatre is also developing a food ministry program. They obtained a truck with fundraising and donations to haul cold food items like meat and produce. Vittle’s Food Program will be an emergency food service for those in need.
There is music and food, and the Theatre hosts AA/NA meetings called Rez Recovery led by Muscogee citizen Casey Thomas each Saturday from 4:30-5:30 (subject to change).
The last Saturday of each month is dedicated to the youth. Winnie and her husband, Tyler Hampton, help lead the evening by hosting a special guest speaker to share stories with the youth audience.
The first Youth Night featured Ava Rose, an Osage and Cherokee citizen. She is a freshman from Eufaula, OK. Her song “There’s a Boy” has climbed to number two on the Indigenous Music Countdown charts on Sirius XM. Rose has been nominated for three Native American Music Awards, including Best Female Vocalist, Best Country Recording and Best Pop Video.
Although the Theatre was once a church, it does not host church services. Winnie defines the gathering place as a place for praise and fellowship where anyone is welcome.
Conventional but not traditional, the Cooper’s may have found a modernized form of doing God’s work, but they say it was a calling.
The Cooper’s decided to purchase the church after they found out some devastating news about the fathers’ health.
“When David was diagnosed with dementia we couldn’t afford a mortgage,” Teresa said.
The sold their home n the small community of Wilson and bought the old church building on the other side of the edge of town.
“We were going to move by the lake,” Teresa said, giving her daughter a wink.
Parents said they are “grooming” the young married couple (Winnie and Tyler) to take over the ministry of the Theatre and let God work through them when ready to do so.
For more information, visit the website https://www.tulledegahillsmusictheater.com.
Tulledega Hills Gospel Theater is a 509 (a)(2) non-profit. You could use that donation for a tax deduction if you would like to donate.
View past coverage of Winnie Cooper at https://www.mvskokemedia.com/local-artist-joined-mvskoke-radio/ and full Mvskoke Radio interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jc4mTtBqWu0.