The Oakland University Board of Trustees recently appointed John-Paul White to the rank of Distinguished Professor of Music for his contributions to vocal scholarship, teaching and service.
White has been a part of Oakland University’s faculty since 1984. He promotes a positive and productive learning environment in his classes and encourages students in their work.
Music has always been a huge part of his life, as his mother was a pianist. It was also taught as part of the curriculum in grade school, and he was part of the music program at his church when he was younger.
“I really fell in love with the human voice and all it can do,” White said. “Not just the singing voice, but speaking, languages, accents, inflections as well. It is an amazing instrument.”
White has taken his love for music all around the world, performing with people who he considers some of the greatest musicians. He said his favorite performance was his Carnegie Hall debut in New York.
“Over 50 family members, friends and OU colleagues came to New York to hear me,” White said. “And seeing their faces in the audience that night was thrilling.”
With all of the great moments he has experienced, his career has endured struggles as well.
“It is not an easy career path, and auditioning is filled with rejection,” White said. “One simply has to believe in oneself and learn to hear ‘no’ to one job as a ‘yes’ to something yet to come.”
But his proudest moments, which are many, make the challenges he has faced all worth it.
“The fact that, just last week, I had coffee in New York with one of many former students making a living as a professional musical theatre singer, and the fact that our Matilda Award winner this year for ‘Outstanding Alumna in Music’ will be returning from her engagement at the Metropolitan Opera to receive the award,” White said. “I could go on and on.”
He was also proud to announce that the upcoming Orchestra Hall performance of Verdi Requiem in April will feature all OU alumni as the soloists for the first time. He also noted the vocal program was capable of creating a production of Street Scene in January with close to 50 soloists on stage, both for classical and musical theatre singing styles.
In his 35th year of teaching at OU, he finds inspiration in his students that push him to keep doing everything he does.
“I am inspired every day by my students and their improvement as singers and artists,” White said. “It’s the thing that makes my work feel fresh every day, because they are different every day.”
Since joining the campus community, he said OU has become a family and is much more than just a job to him.
“The relationships I’ve developed with colleagues and students over the years are a huge part of my life,” White said.
And while being on stage can be both overwhelming and rewarding, for White, it has become a part of his everyday life.
“There are four things we teach performers to do to help deal with stage fright: be prepared, be assertive, concentrate and communicate,” White said.
From growing up surrounded by music to discovering his passion for it at a young age, White understands people who have the same big dreams he did and advises them to pursue them.
“Follow your dream… your passion,” White said. “Everyone has to make a living, but if you can do it by doing what you love, you will be among the most blessed of people.”