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 African American 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.
Darnell Ishmel grew up singing, playing, and directing gospel music at his local church in his hometown of Lansing, Michigan. He graduated fro J.W. Sexton High School where he played varsity football, was a captain of the wrestling team, and sang bass under the direction of Mrs. Verna Holley.
After finishing his training in Music and African American studies at the University of Michigan, where he studied voice with Dr. Willis C. Patterson and later with Daniel Washington, he went on to make his professional debut with Cincinnati Opera.
Hailed by the New York Times for his, "show-stealing" stage presence, "rich baritone, precise diction and superb comic timing" in his New York opera debut, he is a flexible vocalist and an innovative recitalist who constantly explores programming in an effort to enhance the recital tradition, attract new audiences, and preserve the art form.
As an adjunct professor of voice and gospel music choral instructor, he has taught at Washtenaw Community College, Madonna University and Michigan State University Community Music School.
As an international concert singer, he has appeared before audiences in Russia, Brazil, Prague, Guadeloupe and beyond.
As a professional choral singer, he holds membership (and countless tour memories) with Exigence, American Spirituals Ensemble, and the Harlem Jubilee Singers.
He is a longtime member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc and is active in workforce development, urban enterprise and ex-offender success throughout mid-Michigan. In collaboration with the University of Michigan’s Prison Creative Arts Project and the School of Music, Theater, and Dance, he is a lead facilitator for an outreach effort to bring vocal training and music education to citizens behind prison walls. As a choir director, he has twice conducted the singing of patriotic songs for CNN’s internationally televised Democratic Presidential Debates.
He now serves as conductor of the Willis C. Patterson Our Own Thing Chorale in Ann Arbor, MI.
2019 – 2020 Leadership
Darnell Ishmel, Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Vaughters, President
Ronald C Woods, Past President email@example.com
Janet V. Haynes, Treasurer firstname.lastname@example.org
Willis C. Patterson, Founder and Director Emeritus email@example.com
Nancy Kerner, Soprano
Francetta Ampey, Alto
Jeffery Pickell, Tenor
OPEN, Bass/ Baritone
c/o Janet V. Haynes, 1410 S. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
The Willis Patterson Our Own Thing Chorale is a 501(c) (3) not-for profit. All donations are tax deductible as permitted by the Internal Revenue Service