Ben Leslie Purvis

1955 -

Ben Purvis, a pianist, trombonist, singer, and conductor has taught music in the Seventh-day Adventist school system for nearly thirty years.  He has also served as a pastor and taught Bible classes during his career.

Ben was born in Walla Walla, Washington, and spent most of his childhood in Enterprise, Oregon, the youngest of three children of Robert and Jeannie Smith Purvis. His parents were singers and all of the children were given an opportunity to study music.  Ben started piano lessons at age five and trombone in fifth grade.

He attended Gem State Academy, where he was inspired by music teacher Jack Boyson to make music an important part of his life. In the summer following his graduation from GSA in 1973, his parents moved to western Nebraska.  Ben enrolled that fall at Union College majoring in both theology and music, with his performance area in piano. In his six years at UC, he also sang in the choir and played trombone in the band. In 1975-1976 he served as a student missionary at Antillean Union College, now Antillean Adventist University, in Puerto Rico where he taught music.      

Following his graduation in 1979 from UC with a major in theology and a minor in music, Purvis married Terri Davidson, clarinetist, in August and then became a pastor in the New Jersey Conference, where he served for five years. In 1984 he was invited to teach Bible and serve as chaplain at Enterprise Academy in Kansas.  Just after the school year started, the band director resigned and Purvis added direction of the band to his load. 

Two years later he accepted a position at Indiana Academy as chaplain and Bible teacher. Four years later, the music teacher left when the school reduced the size of the faculty because of budgeting challenges.  At that time he assumed direction of the music program, this activity becoming the larger part of his load in the next four years. In 1990, the yearbook, Memories, was dedicated to him with the following message:

It is hard to believe it has been four years since you came to our campus.  Since then a lot has changed here at IA but through all the changes you have been a constant in our lives.  You go beyond the normal teacher student relationships to be our friend. You are always available and willing to listen, giving us an honest answer to our questions even when the truth hurts.

Your positive attitude and strong family commitment have both been an asset to our campus. We owe you a big thank you for putting life back into the music program.  Most of all we want to thank you for your acceptance of us where we are at in our lives while encouraging us to move on and grow in our spiritual life. These and many more are reasons why we have chosen to dedicate this 1989-1990 yearbook to you.

In 1994, Purvis accepted an invitation to teach music and Bible classes at Midland Adventist Junior Academy in Shawnee, Kansas.  In the next seven years, he taught music at all levels, and when the school became a senior academy in 1997, he taught all aspects of music for the remaining four years having developed a multi-faced program in both choral and instrumental areas. In 1997, the yearbook was dedicated to Purvis thanking him for the difference he had made in both music and Bible classes at the school. They also noted his caring approach to them as well as his “boisterous laugh” and “Santa Claus smile.”

In 2001 he accepted a position at Gem State Academy.   While at GSA, Purvis who had not previously had an opportunity to work with handbells, became known for his creative work with ensembles.  He started an annual Cool Ringings Bells Festival in his second year, which within five years included more than 100 fifth through eighth graders.

He also developed a virtuoso-level handbell ensemble called Soundwave, which toured in Florida in 2007 for thirteen days. The high-energy group played a varied repertoire from memory, using a five-octave set of Malmark handbells and a three-octave set of hand chimes. They played in a number of venues during the tour, including an invitational performance in Disney Magic Music Days in Orlando. In March 2009, they played at the Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles and in 2010 and 2011 were invited to perform in Daniel's Recital Hall in Seattle.

Purvis accepted a position at Thunderbird Adventist Academy in 2012, where he directs the choir and teaches two classes in Bible. In another year he will also direct an advanced handbell ensemble.

Through the years he has pursued graduate study and taken a number of music classes, mostly through Andrews University, to become a fully certified music teacher. The Purvises have two daughters, Amy and Heidi, both of whom were active in their academy years in all the music groups.


Sources: Interviews, 2007 and March 2103; personal knowledge.