Gregory Myron Payne, son of the late Charles H. Payne, Sr. and Lucille Love Payne was born on August 13, 1961, in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was the youngest of three children. Gregory grew up in Carver Gardens, where everyone knew and cared for one another in the tightly knit community. It was a neighborhood that truly exercised the cliché that we often hear in raising children, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
His gifted musical journey began at a very young age. His father recognized his talent, and at the age of nine, encouraged him to begin taking piano lessons. As music became a part of his life, he soon began playing the piano for Sunday school. By the time he was seventeen, gospel music became a part of his life. He became one of the most famous young adult prodigies in the Williamsburg area; directing five local choirs.
Greg was a 1979 graduate of Bruton High School. He received a scholarship that afforded him the opportunity to study at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Music/Performing Arts. While there he studied with many world-renowned conductors. He later pursued his master’s degree in Choral Conducting at The Shenandoah Conservatory. After receiving his master’s degree, Professor Payne traveled throughout the United States and Canada as a consultant. He conducted workshops on how to perform gospel music for primarily white conductors. He created and led productions and conducted ensembles with a chorale of singers that represented the cultural, ethnic, and sociological diversity of New York City. As time moved forward, Professor Payne pushed toward the mark of becoming an internationally renowned choir conductor, voice coach, and vocal workshop clinician. He has been acknowledged for his creative and innovative approaches to voice and choral training and was highly sought after for his skills as a composer and arranger of African American sacred works.
Dedicated, passionate, confident, creative, talented, highly motivated, and professional were his personal descriptors that elevated him to the “Minister of Music” calling at several churches in New York City. “The Big Apple” became his home away from home! It is where a lifetime of wonderful friendships developed for more than thirty-five years. Directing the choirs at Harlem’s Metropolitan for thirteen years, and Canaan Baptist Church of Christ for twenty years. Not only was he known as Professor Payne in directing of choirs; but he truly taught for several years at one of his other Alma Maters, New York University where he received his second master’s degree.
Professor Payne wanted to ensure that each member of his choirs contributions to the music ministry were well respected, not just as a soloist but for all singers in his choirs. His book entitled, “My Spirit Sings” introduced various techniques for new and inexperienced singers. His musical standards were exceptionally high because he always thought that music elevated the spiritual realm, that could become a part of someone’s salvation. His high expectations of the two choirs that he directed, led him into the teachings of sacred choral music and the early spirituals; that he began teaching his choirs and exposing them to various types of music.
Professor Payne’s passion and love of the Lord led him to serve as Minister of Music at Canaan Baptist Church of Christ for twenty years. During his tenure, he developed and led the church’s music department, until his recent retirement. After retiring, he continued serving people as a Doctoral Teaching Fellow at the University of Southern California and as a licensed Creative Arts Therapist and Mental Health Specialist with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Through it all, he learned to trust in Jesus and leaned upon His Word. He possessed a heart of gold, was an encourager, and a positive motivator. He never said the word “no” to anyone and would give you the shirt off of his back. His infectious laugh and beautiful smile will always be remembered. Professor Payne always exemplified positivity in all things, and only saw the good in everyone and in every situation. He loved everyone, no matter who you were!
On Saturday, May 30, 2020, the Lord dispatched his angels and they told Gregory, “Come on home and rest a little while, your work here on earth is done.” “For to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” God has more directing for you to do with your mother, father, special aunt Thelma, uncle James, and cousin Ann. They are all rejoicing and praising the Lord as you are there in heaven praising God through the gift of song that He has given you here!
His memories will forever be cherished by his sister, Pamela Slade (Larry), of Yorktown; brother, Charles H. Payne, Jr. (Geraldine), of Williamsburg; four nephews, Christopher Slade, Lamar Slade, Jamal, and Charles H. Payne, III; two nieces, Tracey Slade and Kameelah Payne; and a host of other relatives and friends.
A funeral service will be held at 12:00 noon Saturday, June 13, 2020, in Whiting’s Chapel. Mr. Payne may be viewed beginning at 10:00 a.m. until the time of his service on Saturday. Due to the current health pandemic and in accordance with state directives, only fifty people may be in attendance. Face masks and social distancing is required. Facebook live-stream will be available for this service.
Professional services entrusted to the staff of Whiting’s Funeral Home, 7005 Pocahontas Trail, Williamsburg, Virginia 23185. 757-229-3011. whitingsfuneralhome.com
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