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

Willis C. Patterson

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ISBN: 978-1-60785-354-1

(From the Preface) Many budding musicians–even from affluent families with both parents living at home and providing a strong supportive environment, combined with constant encouragement–find it very challenging to earn a PhD and reach the pinnacle of a deanship and professorship at a competitive institution of higher learning in the United States of America. As you read this book you will find that no one informed Willis Patterson of this phenomenon because without having the aforementioned criteria, he accomplished those goals and many more. The book’s main character begins his life, similar to a diamond in the rough, and over time evolves into a rare gem at maturity. These pages will reveal how Willis Patterson of Ann Arbor, Michigan developed from somewhat of a lost child in the 1930s into a: sophisticated academician (Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Supervision from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI); a superior vocal performer; Voice Department Chair, Fulbright Scholar; esteemed Master Voice Teacher; Choral and Glee Club director extraordinaire; University Leader in the recruitment and retention of Minority students (Voice/Performing/Composition); an established Church Choir Director; and Associate Academic Dean of the School of Music at one of America’s finest universities, the University of Michigan. This book is about a very humble man of significant stature. Although he was motivated and driven to become the best he could be in his quest for excellence – by kicking open the door of opportunity whenever it was presented (audition ready) – he never forgot his family members or hometown acquaintances.

“The life of Willis Patterson is an inspiring story of high achievements against remarkable odds. He was a singer of remarkable musicianship, a teacher of countless students who went on to illustrious careers, a courageous advocate of minority rights, and a model husband, father, and mentor to the disadvantaged. His life story will inspire readers in this engaging autobiography.”

—Paul Boylan PhD., Emeritus Professor and Former Dean University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance

“The story of Willis Patterson as told in “The Unlikely Saga of a Singer from Ann Arbor” is one of challenges met and conquered. It is told in inspiring fashion, one that will serve as an inspiration to all who read it, especially the young. I especially like the identification of music and spiritual faith as lynchpins of stability through trying times faced during his childhood.”

—George I. Shirley, The J. Edgar Maddy Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Music (Voice) University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance

“Willis Patterson’s book is a compelling story of perseverance in the face of adversity. It centers on the role music played to mitigate his early circumstances and to create opportunities for his later successes. The book contextualizes his work with integration (both the faculty and student body) while a faculty member and Associate Dean at The University of Michigan School of Music. His documented commitment to Black Music (through publishing and symposiums) and higher education serves as an inspiration for future generations. Well into his eighth decade, he continues to mentor, teach and advocate for others as his story continues to unfold….”

—Dr. Louise Toppin, Chair, Department of Music, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill