Obituary of Gloria Faye Harper Lett
The Song of a Lifetime
Gloria Faye Harper was born on June 14, 1938, in Fort Worth, Texas, to Corine and McNoble Harper. Both parents were educators. She would grow up in East Texas, where early on she found her passion in music and education. At fifteen years old, and after being valedictorian of her class at Pruitt High School in Atlanta, Texas, she attended Dillard University, in New Orleans. She majored in music, joined the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in music education, and met her husband, Charles R. Lett. After Dillard, and while Charles studied medicine at Meharry Medical College, Gloria began teaching in the Fort Worth public school system. During the summers, she took classes toward her master’s degree in music, at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
With sons Eric and Marvin now in tow, Gloria and Charles traveled to Pennsylvania and then abroad to Germany, where Charles was stationed as a physician in the Army. A newspaper in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, wrote that she was the first African-American teacher in the area. After three years in Germany, the family moved back to the States and settled in Dallas, and Gloria resumed teaching music. She taught at Robert T. Hill and then Boude Storey junior high schools, and later at David W. Carter High School. Under her instruction, young soloists and choral groups received the highest of marks and recognition, in competitions.
Eventually, Gloria left the classroom to become an administrator. She was an assistant principal at Annie Webb Blanton Elementary School, before being handed the reins to her own school: T.L. Marsalis Elementary School. She was principal there for eight years, and she loved it. Yet, even as an administrator, her love of music never diminished, nor did her desire to spread its many educational benefits. One of her proudest achievements at Marsalis was developing its Young Strings program. The great strides the program made at Marsalis were due largely to friendships she had made with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra while she sang in the Dallas Symphony Chorus.
Just like her many choral students, Gloria also performed. For over 20 years, she sang with the Dallas Symphony Chorus. It carried her to performance halls not only like the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center here in Dallas and Carnegie Hall in New York, but sites in Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.
Indeed, she served as president of the chorus for two years. During her tenure, in 1996 the chorus traveled to Israel and sang for the 3000-year celebration of Jerusalem. When Gloria and her leadership team presented letters and gifts from then-Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk to the mayor of Tel Aviv, she was given the key to the city.
Even once she stopped performing with the Dallas Symphony Chorus, Gloria’s voice could still be heard. She was a member of the Dallas Metroplex Musicians’ Association. And she sang for years with the South Dallas Concert Choir. During that time, she developed the Young Musicians’ Showcase. It was a way to help young people bring their musical gifts to the community. In 2019, the Showcase was officially named after her.
Gloria also served in other capacities and for other organizations. For example, she served on the boards of the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra and the Vogel Alcove for Homeless Children. And she served on the advisory council for Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School.
Even with a full schedule, Gloria always found time for family, friends, and adventure. She enjoyed life to the fullest. She took trips with her mother, her sister, Mackie H. Norris, and her brother-in-law. She also spent many wonderful moments with her dear friend and companion, Lowell Hogans.
Gloria’s parents instilled in her the saying that “A life of service is a life that counts.” And she sought to live that maxim, every place she went and with every life she touched. As the beautiful notes of her own song begin to fade, her contributions will not. Hers was a robust life of music and education, family and friends, joy and laughter, and service. And it counted. Brava, Gloria!
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In Loving Memory
Gloria Harper Lett
1938 - 2023
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