Oral Histories

Interview of Don Lee White

Prairie View A. & M and California State University, Los Angeles professor of music. Organist of African American hymnal music.
Black Music and Musicians in Los Angeles: Spirituals, Gospel, Jazz, and Spoken Word
African American History
Biographical Note:
Prairie View A. & M and California State University, Los Angeles professor of music. Organist of African American hymnal music.
Patterson, Karin
White, Don Lee
Persons Present:
White, Patterson, and Adriana Montenegro (videographer).
Place Conducted:
White's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research. Original digital video cassettes were deposited with the Department of Ethnomusicology. Additional materials relating to these interviews are located in the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Karin Patterson, UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology; B.A., Ethnomusicology, UCLA, 1997; M.A., Ethnomusicology, 1999; Ph.D., Ethnomusicology UCLA June, 2007.Patterson prepared for the interview by initiating an introductory phone conversation and a pre-interview meeting at his residence. Preparation included obtaining White's CV and a recorded musical example of him conducting the Grant AME [African Methodist Episcopal] adult choir.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. White was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and make corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
7.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
These interviews with African American musicians provide details about the narrators' background, training, influences, and musical choices and discuss their contributions, and connections to the music of black Los Angeles. The series was a collaborative project of the UCLA Center for Oral History Research, the Department of Ethnomusicology, and the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, with funding from an Arts Initiative grant from the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture. UCLA Professor Jacqueline DjeDje was the principal investigator and defined the scope and selected the individuals to be interviewed. In addition to the audio recordings housed with the UCLA Center for Oral History Research, the interviews were all captured on video, and those videos can be accessed at the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive.
Circumstances of White’s birth and heritage—Early life in “Mother White’s” home—Memories of neighborhood and early childhood—Initial musical influences—Motivations for learning music, dance—Neighborhood characteristics—Churches in his childhood community.
His music teachers and the churches they were affiliated with—Early affinity for classical music.
More early musical influences—Development as an instrumentalist—Church affiliations—Characteristics of different church denominations—Development of his organ playing—Discussion of organs—His various performance opportunities—His experience in Chicago and in the Military—Time spent at Prairie View A&M in Texas—Other college experiences in Los Angeles—Los Angeles City College, California State College—His directorship at Grant AME—Some early employment in secular environment—Impressions of Central Avenue.