Alta Belle Harmer Meldrum
1909 - 2002
Although Alta Meldrum served as a high school and grade school administrator for thirty years, she was an active musician who also worked as a professional accompanist. Her interest in accompanying developed at Walla Walla College, now Walla Walla University, where as a music student, she played piano countless hours, accompanying all the choirs and many performers and playing for conducting classes.
Alta was born in Idaho, the only daughter of James W. and Bertha E. Harmer. She completed a piano teacher's diploma at the WWC conservatory music program in 1930. After marrying George Meldrum, a student who also had a strong affinity for music, in June 1930, she assisted in the department as an accompanist while she continued her music studies, which included lessons with a teacher at nearby Whitman Conservatory of Music. In 1935, she received the first B.A. degree in music awarded by WWC.
Meldrum subsequently accompanied Marion Anderson, world famous African-American soprano who helped break the color barrier, when she performed in Honolulu, Hawaii, for the U. S. Armed Forces on Christmas Eve in December 1941 with over 5,000 servicemen present. For two years she was rehearsal accompanist for Yehudi Menuhin, famous violinist in the first half of the 20th century. She then accompanied a number of professional artists as they toured for two more years.
The Meldrums, who were active in music throughout their working years in the Southern California, retired in 1973. She was living in St. Helena, California, at the time of her death, at age 82.
Sources: Detailed biographical letter from Alta Meldrum to me, 16 December 1988; 1920 and 1930 U.S. Federal Census Records; Social Security Death Index.