By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Delores Ware-Spires, the Youngstown native who advanced gospel music throughout Northeast Ohio and beyond, died Sunday in Cleveland after a long illness. She was 74.
Ware-Spires is best known for developing the Spires Method, a system for teaching people who cannot read music to play gospel music on a piano in six weeks. She recorded her methods on instructional tapes and earned a copyright for her system.
Ware-Spires, who lived in Cleveland in her adult life, created the Spires Method in 1971. It earned her a nomination for induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
“A lot of musicians took her course way back when,” said Willetta Milan of Cleveland, Ware-Spires’ oldest daughter. Milan has been on the Cleveland board of education for nine years.
Ware-Spires inspired many in both her hometown and throughout Northeast Ohio. She was honored at a 2007 event at Triedstone Missionary Baptist Church on Jacobs Road in Youngstown, which she attended while growing up in the city.
“This is her home,” the Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church told The Vindicator at that event.
Ware-Spires began singing and performing gospel music as a young girl at Triedstone. She would go on to study classical music, her daughter said.
Ware-Spires became the lead singer of the Ervin Singers of Youngstown and worked with the Raymond Raspberry Singers of Cleveland and the Argo Singers of Chicago.
She performed in various parts of the world with World Evangelism Ministries, where she was appointed to its board of elders.
In 2006, she released a CD of gospel music titled “Inspirational Songs.”
Ware-Spires also was a gospel promoter who produced musicals throughout the region. She was the first black woman to host gospel productions at Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown.
In Cleveland, she became an advocate for education in the school system. A scholarship luncheon in her name is scheduled this year with several scholarships to be awarded in her memory, her daughter said.
“She did not want flowers,” Milan said. “She always said the money needs to go where students can use it.”
Before she became ill several years ago, Ware-Spires was working on an album of her favorite songs and was planning a gospel concert with a number of regional church choirs. Neither came to fruition, but Milan said she intends to release the music that had been recorded on a posthumous CD.
A public viewing for Ware-Spires will be from 10 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Gaines Funeral Home, 9116 Union Ave., on Cleveland’s East Side. Services will be Friday at Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland.
A musical tribute to Ware-Spires is being planned to take place either in Cleveland, Youngstown or both cities, Milan added.