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Community Advocacy Organization

The Verna D. Holley Project-Helping Secure a Legacy

Courtesy Photo-The Verna D. Holley Project Community Choir


The Verna D. Holley Project aims to engage the Greater Lansing community through the power of community, mentorship, and legacy in music. Named for the legendary Music Educator and Pianist Verna D. Holley.

The Verna D. Holley Project launched on Monday, September 11, 2023, at Bethlehem Temple (The Bread House) Lansing, Michigan. The Verna Dorsey Holley choral ensemble continues a mission of preserving the tradition of the spiritual while broadening its scope to include other genres of music that have inspired the African American experience, all while honoring the legacy of Mrs. Verna Holley.

Mrs. Verna D. Holley, is a retired choral music educator, was born Detroit, Michigan well rounded education music education. Mrs. Holley's dedication to her craft led her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in music education at Wayne State University and a Master of Arts degree in music from Michigan State University.

Mrs. Holley's career in education includes her work as Fine Arts Director at J.W. Sexton High School in Lansing, Michigan, her dedication to musical education extended beyond her retirement, as she continued to impart her expertise by offering piano lessons from her residence.

Courtesy Photo-Archival picture of Verna D. Holley with the Historic Earl Nelson Singers Company of Lansing, MI


Mrs. Holley assumed the role of pianist and music director for the Earl Nelson Singers, a musical ensemble founded in 1963 by Earl Nelson. The Earl Nelson Singers Company, comprised of talented vocalists from the Lansing, Michigan region, became a platform for Mrs. Holley to curate and direct performances featuring sacred songs of enslaved individuals. Their repertoire notably encompassed the early "gospel" style, showcasing her versatility and commitment to preserving musical traditions.

Mr. LaVonte L. Heard, M.Ed, M.M. Founder & Chief Executive Officer Transcendence Performing Arts Center, founder and inaugural Artistic Director of VDHP (Verna D. Holley Project), its inaugural Artistic Director. Photo Credit: Gregory D. Productions.


J.W. Sexton High Graduate Mr. LaVonte' Heard is a music aficionado and the founder and Artistic Director of the Verna D. Holley Project (VDHP). He is also the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Transcendence Performing Arts Center (TPAC) - a 501c (3) Non-Profit Organization which is over the VDHP.

TPAC Inc, is a gateway to performing arts possibilities globally, ensuring youth, especially those in the Greater Lansing Community, have access and exposure to world-class pedagogy and opportunities. LaVonte established VDHP to respond to the imperative of preserving African American concert music within the City of Lansing, MI. His journey in music began as a student under the tutelage of Verna Holley during his childhood, and he attributes much of his career's success to her mentorship.

Mrs. Holley’s remarkable journey as an educator, musician, and community leader stands as a testament to her unwavering commitment to the arts and education, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of Lansing, Michigan and beyond.

To learn more about TPAC Inc, and the VDHP visit or stop by Bethlehem Temple (The Bread House) Church 1518 S. Washington Avenue, Lansing for the 'Behold the Star' concert taking place on December 11th, 2023, at 7:00 PM.

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