Herman "Tres" Whitfield III

Herman Whitfield III, known as Tres by his family, entered this life as the beloved only son of Gladys Whitfield (a former social justice attorney) and Herman Whitfield Jr. (a laboratory technician) in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1982.

Born into a spiritual, loving, and humble family capable of nurturing his evolved spirit, Tres was deeply curious about spirituality and took the initiative to develop his personal relationship with God at an early age.  His desire for spiritual understanding, growth, and connection continued throughout his life.

Tres’ characteristic sensitivity, curiosity, and willingness to explore the deeper aspects of life helped him to remain true to his authentic self – despite many stereotypes and social pressures – and openly pursue his diverse passions and interests into adulthood.

At the young age of four, Herman III expressed his passion for music and, initially, wanted to play the drums.  But, Tres was already effortlessly playing piano by ear on a family member’s piano, so his parents, Gladys and Herman Jr., encouraged him to take piano lessons.

His first formal piano teacher, Ms. Pence, expressed doubt that a four-old year was ready for piano lessons.  But, after hearing Tres play piano, she decided that he was absolutely ready.  A short time later, Ms. Pence announced that Tres had mastered all that she could teach him.  And, by the age of eight, Tres was busy composing orchestral works and writing operas – many of which were performed.  It was clear that Herman Whitfield III was a child prodigy.

For his formal education, Tres attended Indianapolis Public School #92 and Shortridge Middle School and he graduated from Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory High School – developing his musical gifts and winning many awards throughout these years.

At Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music, he pursued another passion – Political Science – but, Tres never abandoned his musical gifts.  Ultimately, he earned dual degrees in Political Science and Music with a double major in Composition and Piano Performance.  His combined passions are expressed in his work, Small Box, an opera exploring the death penalty.

Later, Tres earned a Master’s degree in Piano Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music. Thereafter, he taught Music at both Martin University in Indianapolis and Barry University in Miami and he was the Director of Music at the Ancient Spanish Monastery in Miami.  Tres also participated in the 2007 Aspen Music Festival and composed music for films, including the Columbia Motion Pictures film, Ghost Rider. Outside of work, Tres accompanied many aspiring musicians and singers - choosing to support others in the fulfillment of their musical dreams.

Tres received numerous awards throughout his life including: the Detroit Symphony’s African American Emerging Composer Award (two-time awardee), the Indianapolis Prelude Award, the NAACP-ACT-SO award, the Omega Psi Phi talent competition award, and numerous other local and national awards.

During his life, Tres’ answered the call of Spirit to create and offer beauty, emotional honesty, and kindness to reach the souls of a world of people who are quickly losing touch with their humanity.

More important than all of his worldly accomplishments, Herman Whitfield III was simply a life – a human being – worthy of care and compassion during his time of need.

May Tres' spirit now experience the liberation deprived to him in this life.

May our spirits move us to take brave action to end the state violence that killed Tres - so that we and future generations may experience liberation during our lifetime.


We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
      We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
      We wear the mask!

Paul Laurence Dunbar, "We Wear the Mask" from The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Musical Selections by Herman Whitfield III


Written by poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen.  Adaptation and piano by Herman Whitfield III and vocals by Gwen Brewer.  Recorded by Mitch Lohman at Wabash Recording Studio.

Small Box

Composed and conducted by Herman Whitfield III. "This opera, in one act, centers on the administration of capital punishment in the US."

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