© 2024 WEMU
Serving Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, MI
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

creative:impact - Living His Legacy Locally, Dr. Willis Patterson’s Inspiration Sings

Willis Patterson
Willis Patterson

Willis Patterson and his talent were gifted to Ann Arbor 90 years ago.  It took a village to guide him through a twisting route before he found his voice, but find it, he did.  Join Deb Polich and David Fair to hear the inspiring story of Dr. Patterson’s work as a performer, advocate for young artists of color, teacher, publisher, and administrator on "creative:impact."

Deb Polich
Deb Polich, President and CEO of the Arts Alliance

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.


Willis Patterson
Credit Willis Patterson
Willis C. Patterson

Professor emeritus of voice and former associate dean, joined the faculty in 1968 after having taught at Southern University (Louisiana) and Virginia State College.  Mr. Patterson has concertized extensively in the U.S. and Europe and has appeared as bass soloist with major American orchestras.  He was a Fulbright Fellow and a winner of the Marian Anderson Award for young singers.  Mr. Patterson, who appeared as King Balthazar on NBC-TV in its production of Menotti’s opera Amal and the Night Visitors, has been seen professionally in such operas as Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Beethoven’s Fidelio and Puccini’s La Bohème.  He has served as president of the National Association of Negro Musicians and as executive secretary of the National Black Music Caucus.


The Willis C. Patterson Our Own Thing Chorale, established in 1969, is named for its founder and director Willis C. Patterson, an Ann Arbor native and U-M Professor Emeritus.  The Chorale has performed extensively in the greater Ann Arbor area, and throughout Michigan and beyond.  With a culturally diverse membership with individuals from the greater Ann Arbor area, representing varied careers and a wide range of musical experience, the Chorale is committed to the preservation and performance of traditional Negro spirituals as well as contemporary choral compositions written and/or arranged by African American composers and musicians.  The Chorale also works to raise funds for the Our Own Thing Instructional Program (OOTIP).  These instructional offerings take place in the Community Church of God in Ypsilanti.

Founded in 1968, the Instructional Program provides free instruction in the arts, both vocal and instrumental, rental of musical instruments, and scholarships to area youngsters who would otherwise be unable to afford the opportunity to study music.  The Chorale is an outgrowth of the Instructional Program. In the past 46 years, over 1,000 middle and high school students have received the advantages of this opportunity.  The Instructional Program currently continues to work with students at all ability levels.  Several graduates have become recognized performers, teachers of the arts, and arts professionals at every level both domestically and internationally.

The Willis Patterson Our Own Thing Chorale will present a one-hour Virtual Christmas Celebration Saturday, Dec. 19, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Tuesday, Dec. 22, at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.  


Our Own Thing Chorale

Willis C. Patterson Faculty Profile

"Willis Patterson: Artist and Advocate"

"The Unlikely Saga of a Singer from Ann Arbor: The Autobiography of Willis C. Patterson, Basso"

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
Related Content