O'Landa Draper was a Grammy Award-winning choir director and vocal performer who had a dramatic influence on the world of gospel music. In the 1990s, many music critics considered O'Landa Draper to be one of the top gospel performers in the music industry. Draper was single-handedly responsible for the formation of a 60 voice gospel choir originally known as O'Landa Draper and The Associates. This choir has won multiple gospel music awards. Draper led O'Landa Draper and The Associates in the recording of several records under the "Word Records" gospel label. Among his choir's biggest accomplishments are Grammy Award performances, Grammy award nominations and wins, music video performances, and several top ten gospel hits.
O'Landa Draper was the son of a recording artist and gospel promoter named Ruth Marie Draper. Because he was the son of someone already working in the business, he heard a good deal of gospel music during his childhood years, which he spent primarily in Washington, D.C. and Alabama. In his adolescent years, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee. The music he heard as a child inspired him, and he began studying music at Overton High School under choir director Lula Hedgeman in the mid 1970s. He also joined a glee club at this time for additional education and practice. In 1982, O'Landa Draper graduated from high school and continued his music education by enrolling at Memphis State University. Eventually, he became the director of Memphis State University's gospel choir.
O'Landa Draper graduated from Memphis State University in 1986 and soon formed his choir, O'Landa Draper and The Associates, at only 22 years of age. This choir would eventually move into the gospel music limelight. O'Landa Draper and The Associates began by recording a few independent albums under the Word Records label. In 1994, the choir decided to expand its reach by performing on Billy Joel's music video for his hit single "River of Time." O'Landa Draper and The Associates also sang with Billy Joel during the Grammy Award ceremonies, which were broadcasted on National Television. The choir's next album, entitled "Gotta Feelin," soared to the second spot on the gospel music charts two years later. Included on the album was a top ten hit entitled "Reflections." The album "Gotta Feelin" earned four Grammy nominations, a Stellar gospel award, and a Dove gospel award.
In 1998, O'Landa Draper fell ill unexpectedly and was taken to Metro Nashville General Hospital with serious symptoms. He died from kidney failure two days later on July 21, 1998. His death occurred approximately two months before he was scheduled to wed his fiancée, Ms. Patrina Smith. O'Landa Draper's group continues to perform and record music with a new group name: O'Landa Draper's Associates. Ms. Smith is now the director of the choir, which holds the Music Lover's Conference each year in celebration of gospel music. Their most recent album was released in 2001 and is entitled "All About Him." Now operating under the MCG record label, the choir recorded several songs written by O'Landa Draper on its album, as well as a tribute to the late musician that was written by Patrina Smith.
Despite his short life, O'Landa Draper left a prominent and unforgettable mark on the world of gospel music. His albums are still sold today, and his choir continues to soldier on even in his absence. In just a few years, Draper was able to build a successful choir, solidify a good reputation, and help his choir reach the top of the gospel music charts. His mother, who died in 2009, continued in the gospel music business in O'Landa Draper's absence, as did his fiancée. Though he isn't here to make music today, his legacy lives on in what he left behind.
To learn more about O'Landa Draper, his successful choir, his personal life, and his many contributions to gospel music, consult the following links.