Leslie Wilkins, who passed away on Oct. 16 at the age of 63, was a mainstay of the Local 802 Gospel Committee. Her insight and kindness helped soothe the weary musician’s soul. Even when she was buried in paperwork, she made time for you and would always return a call. Leslie was the most trustworthy person I knew. When she became sick, she told only those close to her – or maybe not even them, because she didn’t want to bother anyone. Leslie could see into your heart. She could listen to you and know if you were being truthful.
Leslie developed the Local 802 Gospel Committee along with her sister Pam Wilkins, Pedro Rodriguez and many other gospel musicians. The committee was unique because musicians didn’t have to be members of Local 802 to join. In musical terms, Leslie was the composer/arranger of the Gospel Committee, and Pedro was the composer/conductor. They were a team. Many people don’t know that Milt Hinton and other famous (and not-so-famous) jazz musicians joined the committee.
The Gospel Committee was organized to help gospel musicians win union contracts. It published its own newsletter, called Psalm 150. Leslie would give musicians advice about playing gospel venues. Whether you played in a church, produced your own gospel show, played a live event, or performed on a TV show or commercial, Leslie was there – along with Pedro – to give advice about how the union could help.
After Pedro’s passing in 2006, Leslie tried to keep the Local 802 Gospel Committee’s vision alive. It was disappointing when we lost support and meeting facilities.
At this time of loss, the members of the Local 802 Gospel Committee and friends express gratitude, love and pleasure for a wonderful angel, Sister Leslie Wilkins.
Fran McIntyre is a member of the Local 802 Gospel Committee.