Buren Roscoe Shryock (Schryock)

1881 - 1974

Buren Roscoe Shryock, a pianist, organist, conductor, and composer, was a pioneer music teacher in two Seventh-day Adventist Colleges. He would also gain recognition later for his work as a composer and conductor of orchestras and opera in Southern California.

Buren was born in Sheldon, Iowa, on December 13, 1881, one of ten children of Seymour and Mary Elizabeth Webb Shryock. The family moved to West Salem, Oregon, when he was seven. His father, who had fought in and been wounded in the American Civil War, had become acquainted with the Seventh-day Adventist church while the family was living in Iowa, and after the move to Oregon, he, Mary, and the two oldest children joined the church in 1890.

Two of the older children became physicians, the oldest, Alfred, becoming one of the first deans of the College of Medical Evangelists, now Loma Linda University. Buren from his earliest years was fascinated with music and had become a skilled pianist. By his teenage years he was serving as an organist at church services and decided he wanted to pursue a career in music. At fifteen he traveled to Battle Creek College, where he was inspired by his studies under Edwin Barnes, noted Adventist organist and musician.

He graduated from BCC in 1900 at age nineteen and was hired by Keene Industrial Academy, now Southwestern Adventist University, to teach music, a position he held for two years. He then studied at the Dallas Conservatory of Music for a year, pursuing additional study in piano and organ under Charles W. Langdon, author of a widely used method book for reed organ. In 1903, he was invited to teach at Union College in Nebraska, where he would serve as director of its newly established school of music until 1907.

In March 1906, he married Bertha M. Woods, a piano student of his and a cellist, who had graduated in 1905, one of the first music diploma graduates from UC. She would assist him as First Assistant in teaching piano at the college for one year.

In 1907, the Shryocks moved to Riverside, California, and established a music studio, where he served as director and taught piano and organ, and she taught piano and cello. He also served as director of the Riverside Studios of Musical Art and founded the Riverside Symphony Orchestra in 1910, serving as its conductor until 1912. In November 1910 he was elected to membership in the American Guild of Organists (AGO) and would later become an associate.

In 1912, the Shryocks relocated to San Diego, where they again established a conservatory and he changed the spelling of his last name to Schryock. He was hired as the first director of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, a position he retained until November 1920, when the orchestra became financially insolvent and had to close because of economic conditions following World War I.

In 1919, he became conductor of the San Diego Opera, a position he retained for the next thirteen years. During his time in that position, he started writing his first opera, Flavia, a work that would take final form in 1946, sixteen years after he had started it. In the next nine years, Schryock wrote four more operas, Mary and John, 1948; Nancy and Arthur, 1951; Malena and Nordico, 1954: and Tanshu and Sanchi, 1955. He also wrote a symphony and music for chamber ensembles and for piano.

When he had served as head of the music program at Union College at the beginning of his career, he made a lasting impression on many of his students, particularly on Oliver S. Beltz, a singer who was interested in church music. He awakened in Beltz an awareness of his potential and urged him to develop it. One day he cornered him and charged him to commit himself to the serious study of church music and to dedicate his life to that "demanding stewardship."

That moment became a touchstone for Beltz, who later became nationally known for his work in church music. In 1968, Beltz honored his teacher at a concert in Loma Linda with his Oratorio Singers, by dedicating a performance of the Brahm's Requiem to his mentor, who was then 87 years old.

Schryock was living in San Diego when he died on January 20, 1974, at age 92. In 2006, When the San Diego Daily Transcript newspaper celebrated its 120th anniversary, it listed him as one of the top 120 influential persons who had "played an integral part in laying the foundation of San Diego's future growth."


Sources: Pacific Union Recorder, 6 December 1928, 7 and The Review and Herald, 18 October 1928, 22 (Mother's Obituaries); PUR, 12 November 1931, 6 (Father's obituary); Old Soldiers of O'Brien County, Iowa, unknown author and date, 153 (Father's Civil War record); The Educational Messenger, 26 July 1904, 16; 1 June 1905, 10; Southwestern Union Record, 19 June 1906, 5; History of Riverside County, Elmer Wallace Holmes, 1912, 541, 542; San Diego Symphony and Symphony Hall website history; "This Week in History, November 27, 1920," San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 November 2007; Nicolas Slonimisky, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Eighth Edition, 1992, 1639; Pacific Union Recorder, 27 May 1968, 5; and other online sources.