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June 9, 1969 – Oct. 19, 2013

LeVern L. Durham, a gospel singer and songwriter who toured the United States and Canada with the Var-Son Community Choir, died Saturday after a brief illness. He was 44.

He was born in Buffalo and graduated from Bennett High School.

A teacher in the Buffalo schools, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Fredonia State College, a master’s degree in education from Buffalo State College and was pursuing a doctorate.

His love of music was kindled by his aunt Ethel Johnson, a noted church singer, and his older sister Odessa, whom he followed to piano lessons. He studied voice and piano at the Oliver School of Music.

He first performed as a soloist at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, where he played the role of the Drummer Boy every Christmas. When he was in fifth grade, he was taught to play hymns and gospel music for the morning worship service.

Mr. Durham later served as organist at White Rock Baptist Church, where he also was a member of the Angelic Choir. While there, he formed his first singing group, LeVern & Company, then became a member of the Var-Son Community Choir, which toured extensively.

Later, he formed LeVern Durham & the Gospel Choraleers and LeVern L. Durham & Dominion, which he led at the time of his death.

He was a musician and minister of music at numerous churches in the area, including Friendship Baptist Church, True Bethel Baptist Church and Elim Christian Fellowship.

Mr. Durham was a member of the Western New York Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, the GMWA National Workshop, the SESAC Songwriters Guild and the American Choral Directors guild. He received numerous awards.

He also was an outstanding bowler and formed a choir at a bowling alley.

He also enjoyed skating and storytelling.

Survivors include his mother, Ethel M.; a sister, Odessa; and his grandmother, Margretta Monroe.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in Elim Christian Fellowship, 70 Chalmers Ave.