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Fri, 09.04.1931

Wendell Whalum, Choral Musician born

Wendell P. Whalum

*Wendell P. Whalum was born on this date in 1931. He was a Black gospel musician, educator, and minister.

Wendell Phillips Whalum was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the third of five children of the late Thelma T. and H. David Whalum. His musical talent, nurtured by his parents, was evident when he was a very young boy.  He played for Avery Chapel A.M.E. Church, Central Baptist Church, and Providence A.M.E. Church in his hometown.

In 1948, Whalum graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis and entered Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College in 1952, the Master of Arts degree from Columbia University in 1953, and the Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Iowa in 1965. The University of Haiti conferred upon him the Doctor Honoris Causa in 1968.

After joining the faculty of Morehouse College in the fall of 1953, Dr. Whalum was appointed Director of the Morehouse College Glee Club, which earned national and international acclaim during his thirty-four years of leadership.  Despite numerous attractive offers of positions at major colleges and universities, he chose to remain at Morehouse, where he spent his entire professional career and achieved an enviable record as a professor and director of both the Band and Glee Club.  He was chairman of the Music Department and Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Music. He was elected Faculty Representative to the Morehouse Board of Trustees and the National Alumni Association. He was also a Merrill Faculty Travel-Study Grant Abroad recipient and a Danforth Fellow.

Dr. Whalum achieved international recognition as a teacher, organist, conductor, musicologist, arranger, composer, author, and lecturer, and he traveled extensively throughout the United States and abroad. In Bonn, Germany, he studied the pipe organ's origin and intricate construction. He performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as an organ soloist in 1968 and prepared the chorus for the world premiere of the opera in 1972.

That same year, he took the Glee Club on a State Department tour of five countries in West and East Africa. He also prepared the Morehouse College Glee Club and the Atlanta University Center Community Chorus for numerous appearances with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He also conducted at major music centers, including the Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center.  Dr. Whalum reached legendary fame through his involvement in and contributions to the community. He organized and directed the Atlanta University Center Community Chorus and was co-director of the Morehouse-Spelman Chorus.

Because of his interest in quality church music, he accepted positions as organist-choirmaster for several Atlanta churches. They were Providence Baptist Church; Allen Temple A.M.E. Church, at which he was a member and trustee; Ebenezer Baptist Church; and Friendship Baptist Church, where he served at the time of his passing. He was constantly selected as a music consultant, member of evaluation committees, conductor or workshop, and lecturer throughout the United States and abroad. He held memberships on advisory boards of numerous music and civic organizations. Dr. Whalum created numerous musical arrangements and published numerous articles and chapters in publications.

He was known more for his scholarship in hymnody, Negro spirituals, and anthems. In 1972 he worked with the world premiere of Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha. Dr. Whalum was the choral director for this production, where many rehearsals took place at Morehouse College. The first orchestration of that work was done by Dr. T. J. Anderson, the first Black artist in residence with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and on the music faculty at Morehouse College then.

Whalum was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, American Guild of Organists, National Humanities Faculty, National Society of Literature and the Arts, Music Educators National Conference, Georgia Folklore Society, Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and the Intercollegiate Musical Council. He possessed the rare mixture of intellect, common sense, and humility. Dr. Wendell Whalum died June 9, 1987, in Atlanta, GA.

To Become a Musician or Singer


An Encyclopedia of African American Christian Heritage
by Marvin Andrew McMickle
Judson Press, Copyright 2002
ISBN 0-817014-02-0

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