Something harmonious is happening at 2812 West 54th Street in South L.A. And it has been this way for 44 years. The harmony of community was set by local resident and philanthropist Fannie White and her husband when they purchased the building in 1978, established a popular beauty salon, created space for additional businessowners to operate, and housed locals who would have otherwise faced homelessness.
Today—and ever since 2011—the Whites’ granddaughter, Tanisha Hall, a pianist and vocal teacher who spent years working on the business side of the entertainment industry with the likes of Chaka Khan and the Black-Eyed Peas, is using that same space to unite and strengthen the community by teaching the arts to people of all ages and creating jobs for local practitioners.
Classes offered at the site that is now known as White Hall Arts Academy include piano, vocals, violin, guitar, drums, and music production. Group and private lessons are available. All styles are taught from the fundamentals and classical to jazz, pop and R&B.
Hall has recently embarked on an endeavor to renovate the two-story, 6,000 square foot space, enabling the inclusion of additional teaching rooms, dance rooms, community spaces, a recording studio, as well as computer and digital media labs. Open Arts Collaborative is the architectural team working with White Hall on the project. Groundbreaking on the estimated $1.4 Million renovation is set for 2024.
This expansion is especially meaningful for Hall, who recalls, “My dad was a Marine, so I grew up all over the U.S., but my grandparents were here in L.A., so L.A. was a grounding place, a centralizing place for me, and I basically grew up in that building, visiting my grandmother when we’d be on vacation; so [it’s amazing] to now have my business thriving and to be continuing the legacy.”
Mrs. White’s hair salon was a fixture in the area for decades, and in fact, it wasn’t until the pandemic, seven years after her husband’s death, that she retired. Subsequently, plans for Hall to use the remaining space to expand her music school were put in motion. She says people still come by the nearly 100-year-old building just to ask how her grandmother is doing. The answer, for the record, is very well.
Named for her auspicious grandparents, “because without them, this wouldn’t exist,” Hall’s academy makes its mission to provide low cost and free conservatory-level music education, as well as a bridge between music education and the music industry, providing access.
“I find the kids here in Los Angeles, particularly in South L.A., are not being given the tools to participate in the leading economy in L.A., which is entertainment,” said Hall. “Everybody thinks about what’s happening in front of the camera, but there are so many different careers that happen behind the camera. I’m trying to do my part to provide access, to have our kids set up to participate in that economy.”
So far, one of White Hall’s students has won a Grammy, and others have scored national performing tours and appeared on the Billboard Music Charts.
Hall’s own musical journey started in the church, particularly Crenshaw Christian Center, and when she was offered a record deal in her early twenties, Hall discovered that, although she never consciously sought out teaching as a career path, she was most fulfilled helping others realize their dreams. “People would only hear me sing in church,” she laughed.
Another program that’s been established through White Hall Arts Academy to assist young people in the community is what Hall calls “My First Job.”
“Once kids get into high school, it’s hard for them to get a job,” she said. “They work at White Hall on Saturdays or after school. I pay them minimum wage, or they’ll intern or get community service hours. They can put that on their resume. I do this to help them enter the workforce and have a better chance of getting a job.”
Already serving over 100 students, Hall’s goal with the academy is to share the gift of music and the skills that are developed through and around it with as many people as possible.
Recent recognition such as appearances on the “Kelly Clarkson Show” and winning the Lewis Prize For Music’s $50,000 Infusion Award has helped to increase White Hall’s exposure and outreach, and online classes via Zoom now find them reaching students all over the United States and beyond. “Yesterday, I was teaching a student in China,” shared Hall.
No matter how wide their reach may grow, the primary focus has been on serving the community, particularly South L.A., Inglewood, and Watts. White Hall’s ten instructors also teach at several schools in Compton.
Things are busy for the team, including an administrative staff of four, with classes online seven days per week and in-person three days per week, but as a foster parent, an entrepreneur, a minster at church, and a teacher at her school, Hall is accustomed to juggling a lot for a greater good.
Visit whitehallarts.org to learn more about their various programs and to donate.