March 27, 2023

CIM remembers Cleveland composer Dolores White

A portrait of Dolores White seated at a piano.

CIM adds its voice to the chorus mourning the death of Cleveland-based composer and musical pioneer Dolores White (MM ’74), who passed away Friday at age 90.  

White was both a CIM alumna and a Cleveland legend. She pushed past racial and gender boundaries and wrote music esteemed and regularly performed by artists and ensembles all over the country. She also was a beloved teacher at The Music Settlement and a longtime assistant professor at Cuyahoga Community College.  

Her death is a significant loss to the Cleveland cultural community and to the musical world in general.  

“Dolores White was a trailblazer for women composers and composers of color, providing a role model for generations of young musicians,” said Keith Fitch, head of composition at CIM.  

“Her music is always sincere, expressive, and skillfully made, drawing on a mix of international, American, and ethnic elements, often with a dash of humor thrown into the mix. She leaves a lasting legacy not only in Northeast Ohio, but also nation-wide.” 

White’s career was indeed long and distinguished. A list of her compositions, many accomplishments and numerous affiliations would far exceed the space allotted here.  

White, a Chicago native, attended Howard University before completing a degree in piano performance at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. After earning a master’s degree in piano performance and composition at CIM, she did post-graduate work at Ohio State University.  

White’s music, much of which was published and recorded, includes commissions and performances by the Robert Page Singers, the Masterworks Chorale of Toledo, the Society of Composers Festival, the Fortnightly Musical Club and the Cleveland Composers Guild, among many others. Both White and her work were regularly featured at scholarly gatherings and in spotlights of African American women and composers.  

The CIM Orchestra performed White’s Give Birth to the Dream, a work for soprano, narrator and orchestra commissioned by the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra.  

Last June, The Cleveland Orchestra rightly honored White with a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award and a performance of her Celebration, a 1993 commission by the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra. The same work already had been performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony. Her husband of nearly 50 years was Donald White, a longtime member of The Cleveland Orchestra. 

White was a member of several noted professional organizations including ASCAP, the American Music Center, the International Alliance for Women in Music, Cleveland Composers Guild and the Ohio Music Teachers Association.  

White is survived by her daughter Dianna White-Gould and her husband, Eric Gould, her son Darrow White and his wife Avanda White, and grandchildren Alexandria, Gabrielle and Daniel. CIM is proud to have played a role in White’s musical development and expresses its sympathies to her family and many friends.