ABILENE Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Wayne White lives in his childhood home, just a few miles between Breckenridge and Cisco. He and his wife have been ranching the same land his family has had for more than a century.
“I grew up in this house. There were five or six of us kids. Boys slept in one [side], the girls slept in the other side of the house, so this was home,” White said.
No matter the decade, ranching is hard work. Through the hard work, White explained how his family always found time for hobbies.
“My dad was a singer. Just a home singer in the house,” White reminisced.
He recalls late night visits from the neighbors, eating and singing, and playing music well through midnight.
“And if we kids would sit real quiet over there in the corner, we got to stay up,” White recalled. “Otherwise we had to go on to bed.”
His childhood love for singing turned to passion when in his eight grade year he joined the Breckenridge Boys Choir, headed up by Mrs. Gwen Dean.
“I suspect she was the best teacher I ever had,” White said.
Dean was known for taking in anyone who was willing to put in the effort. Teaching them was all she knew.
“She made us sing Latin, French, English and Texan. Texan is… You really don’t have to do the vowels quite right,” White gleamed.
Three years after he joined the choir, White was presented with a unique opportunity. Mrs. Dean just happened to know a man from Anson, who was serving in the U.S. house of representatives at the time.
White explained, “she had a connection with Omar Burleson. He got with Jackie Kennedy, and said you need to bring these people up here.”
On April 16, 1962, the entire Breckenridge Boys Coir arrived on the South Lawn of the White House, ready to perform for the Kennedy’s – alongside the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. White said he couldn’t recall the songs they performed that day, but he does remember meeting the former first lady.
White laughed as he recalled, “pretty… I didn’t wash my hands after I shook her hand, for about two weeks!”
Thinking back on that day, White said he owes it all, and everything that’s come after, to Mrs. Dean.
“She just expected excellence. She was one of the people that made me go into music,” White said.
Which he did; teaching band for the next four decades all over the Big Country, and imparting the passion for song that he’d been given as a child.
“There’s no way for me to know what i would have done if it hadn’t been for Gwen Dean,” White added. “She set my life on a track.”