I’ve had the privilege of learning from some exceptional voice teachers, both in the classroom and through private lessons. These mentors shared a wealth of knowledge with me, focusing on various vocal techniques. One of the key lessons I received was the importance of knowing a range of vocal exercises to maintain and restore a voice that might be showing signs of wear and tear. Mr. Patton, one of my influential vocal coaches, consistently emphasized the necessity of voice care and the appropriate exercises to ensure vocal longevity.

My college vocal studies began with a foundation in music theory and the fundamentals of vowel production in singing, complemented by an understanding of voice anatomy. Mr. Patton, my private vocal coach, had a comprehensive approach to my education. He encouraged regular vocal practice and also urged me to delve into the biographies of renowned singers. During this period, I studied Negro spirituals, explored the distinctive styles of Jazz singers, and received sheet music for significant American Art songs. Mr. Patton made it clear that there was a distinction between singers and stylists.

Simultaneously, I was introduced to Italian Operatic Arias and was being prepared for classical performances in the mezzo voice by another beloved vocal coach, Mary Cobb Hill. She recognized my potential and proved to be an exceptional teacher. Opera places demanding physical requirements on the voice, and I found my voice becoming increasingly agile.

In this context, Mr. Patton introduced me to Enrique Caruso, an Italian operatic tenor born in 1873 in Naples. Caruso’s early voice training involved an entire year of singing only vowels, laying a solid foundation for his illustrious career.

Mr. Patton, a lyric tenor, possessed a remarkable ability to infuse every utterance with dynamic nuances, making his performances truly awe-inspiring. His musical education included studies at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and private lessons with Roland Hayes in Boston. Notably, he made his New York City debut at Carnegie Hall in 1965 and played the role of “Il Trovatore” with the Duluth Symphony alongside stars from the Metropolitan Opera Company in 1967. His talent also took him to Europe, where he toured as a soloist with the Albert McNeil Choir of Los Angeles.

Mr. Patton’s recitals showcased an exceptional range of musical styles, from Handel to German lieder, Puccini, contemporary art songs by Black composers, and arrangements of traditional spirituals. His renditions of spirituals were particularly moving, akin to the expressive delivery one might find in a Luther Vandross Rhythm and Blues ballad. His tenor voice displayed remarkable power and strength in the higher registers, yet he could effortlessly deliver a delicate, pianissimo line with exquisite beauty.

In the later stages of his life, before his role in “The Color Purple,” Mr. Patton took on the role of a radio DJ at a station in Los Angeles, where he delighted listeners with classical and spiritual music. Additionally, he co-authored a book on choir direction, leaving a lasting legacy of his knowledge and passion for music.


  1. abdul moonan rahaman

    Mr. Patton also taught “Black Music ” at Macalester College, in St. Paul Minnesota. What a wonderful and enlightening experience it was to be a student in those classes. I am certain the music of the Color Purple was influenced by this great musical energy. Love is all …

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