Renowned reed player and music educator Donald Washington was born in Mobile AL, where he spent most of his childhood before migrating to Chicago with his family. In the windy city Donald took his first serious step towards becoming a musician after his father bought him a clarinet. Upon the completion of two hitches in the army he returned to the south to attend college at the University of Southern Alabama, where he received a degree in music education in 1970. Mr. Washington moved to Detroit and worked as auto assembler at a Chrysler plant—Donald says “that was a hum dinger”—for five years. It was in Detroit that he met his wife of 33 years, Faye, and began working as music educator for the public schools.
His wife convinced Donald to stay in the motor city, and it wasn’t long before he organized the internationally known youth big band: Bird Trane Sco Now. Cassias Richmond, Roy Whitaker, Kevin Washington, and James Carter are just few of the many young people who came up in this ensemble and went on to great careers.
The Washingtons moved to Minnesota in 1987. Donald has taught in Minneapolis Public Schools, and been a staple of the Twin Cities music scene for the past twenty years. Though he has ‘officially retired’ from teaching as of 2005, Donald is by no stretch of the imagination an idle man. He recently agreed to return to teaching for the Mpls board of education on a part-time basis, and his calendar remains as busy as ever, full of gigs and rehearsals with his many friends and colleagues in the arts community.