Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: The Sacred Music of the African American Diaspora

Don Lee White

Don Lee White was born in Los Angeles, CA, on October 25, 1926 and attended both Los Angeles City College and California State University, Los Angeles before earning his Master’s degree in Music in 1958 from the University of Southern California (USC) where he majored in Church Music. White completed graduate work towards his doctorate in Musical Arts at both USC and Stanford University, and was given an honorary doctorate in 1984 by the University of Monrovia, West Africa. In his early career, he served as organist for New Hope Baptist Church before accepting the position as college organist and Professor of Music at Prairie View A. & M. for five years. Upon his return to Los Angeles he taught organ, piano, choral music, conducting and music appreciation at California State University, Los Angeles for 27 years.

White also served as the organist and musical director of the Grant African Methodist Church, Los Angeles, for over 38 years. Under his leadership, the Grant A.M.E. adult choir achieved national recognition for their musical versatility. Under his leadership, the adult choir of Grant A.M.E. Church gained substantial recognition for their versatility in music and professional performances throughout the United States and has several recordings. White also served as director of music for the Southern California Conference Fifth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Church for 15 years and served eight years as associate director for the Connectional Music Department for the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 1988, White took a leave of absence from Grant A.M.E. and organized the D.L.W. Community Chorale, whose purpose is to perform the extended compositions of African American composers. White preferred anthems, cantatas, and opera, saying “The smooth performance of the classical sacred music is something the musicians of today should strive to keep alive and valued for future generations”. White was an active member in many music organizations, among them the National Association of Negro Musicians and the American Chorale Directors Association. In addition he was often requested to give lectures and workshops across the country.

In 2008, White was inducted as a "Living Legend" into the California State University Dominguez Hills Georgia and Nolan Payton Archive of African Diaspora Sacred Music and Musicians (ADSMM). He passed away on September 16, 2010. Explore the Don Lee White Collection.

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