The Federation of Greek Orthodox Church Choirs of the Western States was created in 1944 in Modesto, California. At that time, six choirs gathered with the Philoptochos of those parishes through the vision of the Very Reverend Naoum Nitsiotis and with the support of Archbishop Athenagoras, both of blessed memory.
The basic concern of +Father Nitsiotis was to unite the youth to stimulate interest in their common heritage, and that included music and the church. The event marked the first historic gathering and the formation of the Federation of Greek Orthodox Church Choirs of the Western States.
The Federation elected +Mrs. Helen Gonis to serve as the first president of the original organization. The group met in 1945 in Sacramento with nearly 400 young people. The next convention took place in 1946 in San Francisco, when the constitution of the Federation was ratified. Initially, a competition was held between the choirs. Each parish was assigned to sing a portion of the Divine Liturgy. The practice ceased in 1949 because it was decided the combined Federation choirs should sing as a group at future conventions.
Since the time of its founding, the organization has existed as an important ministry in the Metropolis, with the exception of a short hiatus in the mid-1960s. In the early 1970s, Perecles Phillips (of blessed memory) of Oakland, California, along with +Father Tom Pallad, +Plato Arapostathis, and Dr. Tikey Zes, began to revive the Federation. Through Phillips’ diligent efforts, enthusiasm, and leadership, the Federation began to thrive and once again serve as a primary church music ministry for the Diocese. Until 1975, the Federation continued as a partner with what would be known as the Denver Diocese. At that time, the two organizations divided because of the expansiveness of the geographic area, but continued their individual ministries.
In the course of the organization’s history, a number of important and influential composers of Greek Orthodox liturgical music began to come to the fore, beginning with the great Dr. Frank Desby. Other composers soon followed in Desby’s footsteps, including +Dr. Theodore Bogdanos, Dr. Tikey Zes, Steven Cardiasmenos and Fr. Michael Pallad.
In 1988, Michael Captain (of blessed memory) of Redondo Beach was elected President of the Federation. His 10-year service happened during a time of considerable growth and change. The Federation’s focus on choirs was expanded to include Youth Choirs, Sunday School teachers, chanters and organists. A comprehensive Music Ministry program was developed and implemented with the support and encouragement of +His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony. The program has helped continue the rich tradition of church music in our Metropolis.
The Federation was blessed with the spiritual guidance and leadership of +His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony from 1979 –2004. His untimely passing was a sad time in the life of our church, but also brought a strong reminder of the challenges he placed before us to boldly expand our ministry and continue our tradition of preserving the beautiful Byzantine musical heritage.
Following the death of His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony, Bishop Gerasimos of Krateia was elected on February 22, 2005, by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be the new Metropolitan of San Francisco. On April 2, 2005, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America presided over the Enthronement Ceremony at the Ascension Cathedral, Oakland.
At that time His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos challenged the Federation to incorporate more youth in the choirs and keep young people involved in the life of the Church. He has also reiterated the importance of choirs in the divine services, as well as chanters and congregational singing.
From 1999-2007, the Federation was led by President Kristen Bruskas of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, Arizona. Kristen previously had been involved in virtually every aspect of the organization. Under her presidency, the Federation continued its mission to organize and unite the church musicians of the Metropolis of San Francisco. Kristen’s special gifts of leadership, musicianship and vision enabled the Federation to embark on its significant Strategic Planning Initiative which will bear fruit for many years to come.
In 2007, Kristen “passed the baton” to another longtime Federation officer, Kathy Loukatos-Meck of Saint Spryidon GOC in San Diego, California. As President, Kathy continued Kristen’s efforts with the Strategic Plan and encouraged new initiatives to get the youth more actively involved in music ministry. Kathy also brought the Federation’s regions and administrative posts into alignment with those of the Metropolis, creating a staff of regional administrators for more effective leadership.
In 2013, Mrs. Elizabeth Levy, of Resurrection GOC of Castro Valley, was elected to the office of President. Elizabeth was an experienced Executive Board member having last held the position of Vice President and continued to lead the Executive Board in a number of initiatives to make the organization a more fully functioning ministry of the Metropolis.
In August of 2017, His Eminence Archbishop Gerasimos averted another hiatus of the organization when no members of the organization were found willing to run for the positions on the Executive Board. He tasked the current board members at that time, President Levy, Vice President Athena Anastos, Treasurer Costa Kourtis, and Secretary Kay Harkins to remain in office for another two years to transform the organization into a more church music education and parish assistance oriented ministry.
Secretary Kay Harkins then took on the role of Transition Coordinator and worked with the existing board to create a new organizational format to more organically manage the work of the ministry. At the business meeting of the August 2018 conference, the name of the organization was formally changed to the GOMSF Church Music Federation Ministry.
Resulting from the work of the transition board and the consultation and advice of Mr. Steve Tibbs, an organizational management specialist, the transition board created a plan to transform the existing structure of President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and auxiliary board, into a collaborative team format. The rationale for this format and a new Organizational Guide to replace the existing by-laws was presented to the stewards at a business meeting of the Federation on April 14, 2019. It was unanimously adopted, creating a structure composed of a Ministry Chair appointed by the Metropolitan to serve for a two-year term, and five Ministry Teams (Church Music Development, Ways and Means, Communications and Outreach, Events, and Ministry Records and Archives) to be appointed by the Ministry Chair to serve for two-year terms. The positions of Senior Music Minister, and Spiritual Advisor were also approved in the new plan. The Organization Guide is available for public viewing on the ministry website, sfchurchmusic.org
On July 2019 His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos appointed Kay Harkins of Saint Spyridon San Diego as Ministry Chair, and at the Plenary Information and Planning meeting on August of the same year, the stewards approved her recommendations for the Team Leaders and the new organizational model went into practice.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kay Harkins and her Ministry Teams continued in their positions until August 2022, overseeing an expansion of church music scholarships, electronic resources, and the creation of practical on-line and in-person workshops to fulfill the mission of the ministry to serve the church musicians and parishes of the Metropolis in spite of the challenges presented by the pandemic.
In August of 2022, Mr. Christopher Hondros of Resurrection GOC Castro Valley was appointed by His Eminence Archbishop Gerasimos, bringing many years of service, experience in the music of the Church, and his educational background to carry on the goals and unified vision of the Ministry.