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A Fine Man and His Art

A Fine Man and His Art

The Melvin K. West Fine Arts Center.

Looking Into Melvin West 

By Emmett Pennington-Guthrie 

1996, when Clinton was reelected and the Willamette Valley experienced heavy flooding, was also the year Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University) named the Fine Arts Center after Melvin K. West. [1] 

West, who had helped in the design of the building, taught the organ and music at four Seventh-day Adventist colleges (including Walla Walla College, of course), and was an organist and minister of music at several churches. [2] 

Beyond that, West had a career that spanned more than 60 years and included work as a noted Seventh-day Adventist organist, composer, music educator, and church musician. [3] 

In 1959, West accepted an invitation from Walla Walla College to be the music chair after having studied at Lodi Academy, Union College, Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University), Columbia University in New York City, University of Redlands, and Boston University. [4] 

By 1959, West had also worked at Atlantic Union College as a music teacher, and at Episcopal, Unitarian, and Congregational churches as an organist. [5] 

For the next 15 years, West continued to chair the music department at Walla Walla College. [6] 

During this time, he managed to get accreditation for the music program in the National Association of Schools of Music, as well as gain departmental membership in the national music honor society Pi Kappa Lambda. [7] 

West also expanded the size of the music department, even working to bring about the construction of the new Fine Arts Center, where he oversaw the installation of a comprehensive pipe organ system. [8] 

While at Walla Walla College, West was active in local activities, such as serving as a member of the local symphony board and as President of the Community Concert Association of Walla Walla. [9] 

Speaking of the Walla Walla symphony, West was once featured with them as an organ soloist. [10] 

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He also started a local chapter of the American Guild of Organists, where he eventually became Chairman of the Northwest region of the organization while adjudicating in festivals. [11] 

Also impressive were his contributions to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, published in 1985, which he was an associate editor of. West contributed over 30 arrangements and hymns to the work, which is still used today. [12] 

West, who died in Portland, Oregon in 2019, left an impact on many music students including Kraig Scott, our beloved music professor here at WWU, who worked with West. [13] 

Sources: 

  1. West, Melvin Kenneth. (2020). International Adventist Musicians Association. http://www.iamaonline.com/Bio/West.htm  
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Kellner, M. (2020, January 11). Melvin West, Adventist musician, professor, and composer, dies at 89. Spectrum. https://spectrummagazine.org/news/2020/melvin-west-adventist-musician-professor-and-composer-dies-89 
  1. Ibid. 

Photos: 

  1. The Melvin K. West Fine Arts Center. A building West helped create, among other contributions to the school. Photo by Emmett Pennington-Guthrie. 
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