Glenn Draper was born in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1928, with a tune in his heart. Since an early age, music has always been an instrumental influence in Draper’s life. When he was a young boy, Draper had already begun to organize quartets. At a young age, his passion for music enabled him to bring together performers to make a joyful noise.
When he was no more than sixteen years old, Draper was invited to join the Roanoke City Chorus because of his bass voice. However, his musical talents were not simply vocal. He was admitted to Indiana University on a trombone scholarship.
While at Indiana University, Draper performed with various vocal quartets and choirs. He learned how to direct congregational choirs, a practice that he would soon put to use when he became a choral director in the Air Force.
From 1951 until 1955, Draper served in the United States Air Force. During this time, he organized and directed the Keesler Air Force Base Male Chorus, a 40-member organization. A performance of the Messiah by the Male Chorus was broadcast on NBC, which demonstrated Draper’s God-given talent to bring together and lead extraordinary groups of musicians.
The Keesler Male Chorus appeared with such well-known artists as Ed Sullivan, Vaughn Monroe, Mimi Benzell, Connie Boswell and Dorothy Sarnoff.
In 1954, Draper and the Keesler Air Force Base Male Chorus sang for the dedication of Memorial Chapel on July 4th at Lake Junaluska. In July of the following year, Draper and the Keesler Air Force Base Male Chorus returned to perform at Lake Junaluska.
That same year, 1955, Dr. James W. Fowler, Executive Director of Lake Junaluska, asked Draper to become the Assembly’s new music director for the summer of 1956. Draper graciously accepted the job and began his faithful service to Lake Junaluska as the Director of Summer Music.
During the summer of 1956, Draper formed the Junaluska Quartet. The quartet sang for worship services, conferences, civic organizations and social events. Some of these quartets had the honor of singing for President Richard Nixon, Dr. William Sangster, and Dr. Billy Graham. The last quartet employed at Lake Junaluska under Draper’s direction was in 1966.
In 1966, Draper came up with the idea of employing twelve professional singers to perform at Lake Junaluska. His vision for the Singers included taking concert tours, making record albums, singing on the Protestant Radio Hour, singing for World Methodist Conferences, making television specials, and promoting Christianity through the Methodist Church throughout the world.
As the Director of Music at Lake Junaluska, Draper helped to establish more than the Junaluska Singers. In addition, he helped establish Music Week, which offered courses of musical enlightenment and resources for choral directors, choir members and youth throughout the Southeast. Draper’s vision for Music Week has endured and flourished. Forty-three years later, choral directors and choir members from throughout the Southeast continue to attend Music Week at Lake Junaluska.
The Keesler Air Force Base Male Chorus in 1954.
The Singers Quartet in 1959.
Dr. Draper is pictured on the right beside the young ladies.
*Note: The header image is of the 1966 Junaluska Singers in Memorial Chapel.