Celebrating 50 Years in Music Ministry at Unity Baptist Church – Dr. Dorgan J. Needom, Jr.
Most Detroiters who love and enjoy gospel music know the name of Dr. Dorgan Needom. He is well known here and around the country for his musical talent and accomplishments.
For most of my life Unity Baptist Church has had a reputation for having some of the best gospel music in the city of Detroit. Their well-known and respected Minister of Music has had something to do with that.
Dr. Dorgan J. Needom has reached a milestone that few will ever reach. Serving 50 years as the Minister of Music at the same church. Unity Baptist Church is where Dr. Dorgan Needom has served for the last 50 years. It is a great milestone and we at DetroitGospel.com would like to congratulate him on his 50 years of service at Unity Baptist Church.
Here are just a few of his many accomplishments. He served as the chapter representative for the Detroit Chapter of GMWA. He also served with the Detroit 300 Choir that was part of the city celebrating its 300th birthday. In 2002 Dr. Needom was inducted in the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum. He was involved with the “Detroit Remembers” project, and this summer he served as the General Music Director for the NAACP’s 98th Annual Convention which was held here in Detroit.
Dr. Dorgan J. Needom took time out of his busy scheducle to share with us his insights from his 50 years as Minister of Music for Unity Baptist Church.
DG.com: What has been the key to your longevity in serving as minister of music at Unity Baptist Church for 50 years?
Dr. Needom: I initially became so involved in the development of the choir (i.e. to inspire them to want to pursue high musical standards by learning the different genres of sacred music). When I first became involved with the choir at Unity, I was overwhelmed with the large number of naturally talented singers that the choir possessed. Singers with innate musical ability, many who had little or no formal musical training. In those early days, we spent many hours developing a repertoire for the individual singers as well as developing a repertoire for the entire singing aggregation. I grew to love the singers and they in turn demonstrated a love and respect for me. Each musical endeavor became a stepping-stone for the next musical endeavor. We established ourselves by presenting Second Sunday Night Musicals for a number of years. We then ventured outside of the church and held our first concert in the Scottish Rite Cathedral at the Masonic Temple. The choir members were enthusiastic and exuberant about each musical endeavor. Their enthusiasm ignited my passion and motivated me to consistently challenge their musical interests and abilities. After serving for 25 years, I had no idea that I would be there for another 25 years. I attribute my staying at Unity to the grace and mercy of Almighty God.
DG.com: What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Dr. Needom: I believe I can reflect on several accomplishments. One of them is that I was able see how the success of the music ministry impacted the subsequent growth and development of the church. Another accomplishment is my having patience to endure and overcome the seemingly immeasurable odds that appeared to be stumbling blocks which ultimately proved to be stepping stones. I believe that another accomplishment is a personal one in that I know that God rewards those who are patient and that it is He who sustains and keeps us in “perfect peace.” When I started at Unity I vividly remember that I could stand on the corner of Tireman and American and watch the membership who attended the church approach the church from all four directions on foot. There were very few members at that time who drove to church. Today, most of Unity’s members do not live within a 25-block radius of the church in any direction. Another accomplishment is having my music being sung and respected by other singers and musicians.
DG.com: What other Detroit-area musicians have influenced you most during your tenure at Unity Baptist Church?
Dr. Needom: My early influences came from the pioneers of gospel music. Rev. James Cleveland, Rev. Charles Nicks, Jr., Rev. Donald Raymond Vails, Minister Thomas A. Whitfield, Mrs. Elma Lois Hendrix Parham, the Harold Smith Majestics, the Goodwill Musical Youth Union, Mrs. Geraldyne Lattimore Duncan, Mr. Melvin Rencher, just to name a few. I have also been inspired by the musical styles and technique of every musician that I have encountered. I thank and praise God for the many diverse contributions that have impacted my life these 50 years.
DG.com: How long would you like to serve as minister of music if you continue to be blessed with good health and strength?
Dr. Needom: The answer to that question is simple, as long as God allows. I love the Lord and I love playing. With the radical changes that are occurring in gospel music, I have not decided how much longer I will stay at Unity. However, I will continue to play and serve God in some place and in some musical capacity as long good health and strength permit.
Please join the Unity Baptist Church family as they celebrate Dr. Dorgan J. Needom’s 50 years of outstanding service as Minister of Music. The Celebration Fellowship Banquet is at 5:00pm on Sunday, September 30, 2007. The event will be held at the Roostertail Banquet Facility in Detroit. For more information or to purchase tickets please call 313-933-9799.