Lynn Wheeler was a Seventh-day Adventist music educator and performer who taught for over fifty years in two academies and at Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University, and Pacific Union College. He taught at WAU for four years and at PUC for a record 45 years before retiring in 2017. He served as music chair at PUC for 24 years - the longest tenure in music chairmanship there since Noah Paulin, who had retired in 1944 after thirty years as chair.
Lynn was born on July 4, 1943, in Lebanon, Oregon, and raised on a large farm near Brownsville, Oregon, the oldest of five children and the only son of Charles Bland and W. Roberta (Bobbie) Eberman Wheeler. Although his parents were not musicians, his mother's sister, Gustin, and her husband, Don McConnel, were musically active as members of the Sojourners, a singing group from the Portland, Oregon, area. A cousin, Robert Roy, was an accomplished violinist.
Lynn started piano lessons at eight, studying with a neighbor, Ruth Lafayette. He then continued at Columbia Academy, taking piano lessons from Frankie Booth Reis, Mordent Goodnough, and Lillian Pettibone. While he had initially planned to attend Laurelwood Academy, following a visit from Archie Devitt, band director at Columbia Academy, and an offer to work as his band assistant, he went there instead. He later talked about that experience:
I enjoyed working for Archie and he soon had me playing trombone, trumpet and other instruments. I even bought my own oboe, thinking I might pursue a career as a band director. When he moved to Campion Academy at the beginning of my senior year, I followed him and graduated from there in 1961. Although I intended to go to Walla Walla College, now University, that fall ,just before the school year started, the principal at Campion asked me to teach piano at the academy, which I did for that school year before enrolling at WWC the next school year.
Lynn majored in music with piano as his performance area, studying with Blythe Owen, Bruce Ashton, and Richard Randolph. While at WWC, he met Charlaine Patricia Amey, a secretarial science major and music minor in piano. She completed a B.A. in 1965 and taught at La Sierra Academy for a year while Lynn completed a B.Mus. in piano at WWC and was honored with membership in Pi Kappa Lambda, the national music honor society.
They both accepted positions at Portland Union Academy, now Portland Adventist Academy, in the summer of 1966 and married on August 14. They would perform piano duets and as a piano duo in the years that followed in the U.S. and Canada. After teaching at PUA for a year they moved to Takoma Park, Maryland, where he accepted a music position at Columbia Union College in 1967 and she became an instructor at the college a year later.
While teaching at CUC, he completed a Master of Music (M.Mus.) in piano performance at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1970. He accepted a position at Pacific Union College in 1971 to teach piano and music history and completed a Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) in piano performance at the University of Oregon in 1976. He would later take lessons from and study in master classes with noted pianists Leon Fleischer, Charles Rosen, Lili Krause, Stewart Gordon, Francis Bittner, Bernard Abramowitch, and Julian White.
While at UO the Wheelers had a daughter, Charlynn, and Charlaine completed an M.Ed. in business education. She would then teach at Oregon State University, and Lane Community, Pacific Union, and Napa Valley colleges.
Lynn became chair of the PUC music department in 1986 and in the next 24 years upgraded its keyboard resources and gained membership for the program in Pi Kappa Lambda, a distinction enjoyed by only two hundred colleges and universities worldwide. He also served as an onsite evaluator for the National Association of Schools of Music for over twenty years, fifteen of those as team leader on the visits.
Lynn enjoyed teaching piano and music history, performing, and conducting. His wife and daughter wrote at the time of his death:
He practiced long hours preparing a concerto a year in advance, memorizing from the back of the score to the front of the music score, and spending hours in rehearsals. Audiences watched in awe as his ten fingers flew over 66 black and white keys - whether he was playing a concerto with an orchestra, accompanying a string quartet/quintet or vocal/instrumental soloist, or playing a novelty song with an orange used to play the right hand melody.
Lynn conducted master classes and concertized extensively both as a soloist and an accompanist throughout the U.S. and in several foreign countries. Many of his students won in state, regional, and national competitions and are teaching at academies, colleges, and universities, and in private studios around the world.
He is listed in the Piano Guild U.S.A. Hall of Fame because of the large number of his students who auditioned for membership in that organization. He also participated in several summer music camps sponsored by PUC, featuring noted guest artists such as Ruth Slenczynska, Lili Krause, and Adele Marcus. He also coordinated annual Spring Piano Festivals that involved the best academy-age players from Northern California academies, high schools, and home schools.
Lynn was listed in Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities, the International Who's Who in Music and Musicians Directory, American Keyboard Artists, and Who's Who in Entertainment. He served as President of both the Napa Branch of the Music Teachers Association of California and District Seven (Redwood Empire) of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers and was a charter member of the International Adventist Musicians Association (IAMA), serving as its president from 2009 to 2019.
He enjoyed gardening, birding, cooking, and hiking and over the years hiked much of the Pacific Crest Trail. He traveled widely in Europe and the U.S. and with his daughter, Charlynn, visited all fifty states and all but one of the Canadian provinces.
The music department and college honored Lynn for his service during the PUC Alumni Weekend in April 2017 with a recital featuring three of his students. The following week, he was awarded professor emeritus status during chapel. He continued to teach part-time until that fall when he suffered a stroke, the result of brain cancer.
The Wheelers were living in Roseville, California, when Lynn died on April 11, 2019, at age 75. He was survived by Charlaine, his wife of 52 years; their daughter and son-in-law, Charlynn and Curtis Cundy; granddaughter, Cassandra Lyn Cundy; four sisters; and eight nieces and nephews. He requested a family private burial at Sandridge Cemetery near Lebanon, Oregon, overlooking Peterson Butte, where he used to climb as a boy.