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A native of Atlanta Georgia, The Reverend Donald Vails' early years were spent in a warm chrsitian enviroment replete with positive role models and achievers from whom he drew inspiration and encouragement. Reverend Vails had the unique experience of attending The Atlanta Gospel Choral Union Day Nursery, where christian principles, music lessons, love and discipline were dispensed in a program geared to produce positive leaders.
Central to these years were the experience he gained as member of Atlanta's Mt. Zion Baptist Church. It was here that the first indications of the magnitude of his musical talents and natural leadership were foreshadowed. At a time when most young people were just beginning to develop a sense of identity, at age 12, Reverend Vails was directing his first choir.
In his late teens young Vails left Atlanta to pursue a degree in engineering at theDetroit (Michigan) Institute of Technology. Yet his childhood dream of a career in gospel music was destined to be fufilled. Almost immediately upon his arrival, he was engaged to play for various singing groups in the city. In 1969, he founded the internationally acclaimed Donald Vails Choraleers.
In 1977 Reverend Vails organized the Detroit Youth Kaleidoscope, a program which provided academic, spiritual and physical development for over 3,000 young people. From this group of talented young people came the Voices of Deliverance, whose debut album, "What A Wonderful Savior I've Found" remained on the Billboards Best Selling List for 104 consecutive weeks. In 1979, The Donald Vails Choraleers' album, "He Decided To Die," earned him both a gold album and the first of several Grammy nominations.
The desire to pursue an advanced degree in music education led Reverend Vails in 1985, to Howard University, Washington, D.C. Since relocation to Washington, he has continued, in the spirit of our Lord and Savior, to reach out and touch the lives of young and old alike. In February 1985, he organized the 80 member interdenominational community choir, "Salvation Corporation," and began his affiliation with The Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church of Fort Washington, Maryland. In March of '85, he organized Ebenezer's Young Adult Choir, a group which has grown from 40 orginail members to 175.
June 4, 1987 is another important date in the life of Reverend Vails. The historic Lincoln Memorial was the site of a special taping for "Night of Music 87," a musical production spotlighting classical, country, jazz, gospel and orchestral music, with the internationally recognized Zubin Mehta serving as central conductor. Reverend Vails and The Donald Vails Salvation Corporation were selected as the gospel artist for this special musical event. This show aired on June 20, 1987, on five continents with over 1 billon viewers.
In September 1991, Reverend Vails was named director of the 1100 - voice National Baptist Convention Choir in Washington, D.C., which opened the 111th session of the National Baptist Convention in a musical concert, with an audience of over 18,000.
When not traveling extensively throughout the world, sharing his musical gifts and serving our Savior, Donald Vails devoted his energies to developing Christian youth. In Washington, he organized a charitable not-profit Christian organization, The Capital City Youth Choir comprised of over 100 interdenominational evangelical youth.
Reverend Vails also served as the National Minister of Music for the Gospel Music Workshop of America Mass Choir founded by the late Reverend James Cleveland. Reverend Vails served as the Director of Church Music at Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington, Maryland and personally directed the Voices of Ebenezer, the Adult Choir, The Daughters of Zion and Rejoice choirs. Reverend Vails died in 1997 after a long illness. He was married to the former Janine Anderson of Detroit. The family includes two lovely children: a son, Brian, and a daughter, Carmen.
I had the pleasure of serving as one of the last directors/musicians for Rev. Vails' Capital City Youth Choir. I didn't know him long, but I will always be grateful for his ministry and the opportunity that I was given.