1933 - 2015
Dale Rhodes, a talented musician with an interest in teaching Bible, enjoyed an unusual career as conductor, Bible teacher, and pastoral assistant. He taught for forty years in nine different Seventh-day Adventist schools in the United States, Singapore, and Argentina, and, in retirement was extensively involved in church work. Throughout his career, he enjoyed a reputation for outstanding work as an inspiring teacher and conductor of musical groups
Dale was born in Ferndale, Michigan, on April 26, 1933, and raised in Holly, Michigan, one of six children of Clifford and Gertrude E. Rhodes. Music was an all-consuming activity for Gertrude, an amateur musician, and five of the children, who had lessons from their earliest years. They performed with their mother as singers and on a variety of instruments in family groups that sang and played at home and in numerous settings.
Dale, like his siblings, started with piano instruction under Gladys Gilbert, keyboard teacher at nearby Adelphian Academy. He switched to clarinet in fifth grade, taking lessons from the local high school music teacher. In his last year at AA, Burton Jackson, a talented musician with a flamboyant personality, became band director at the academy. He and Rhodes, who was leading the clarinet section, formed a friendship that continued until Jackson's death.
Following graduation from AA in 1951, Rhodes enrolled at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University. In the next five years, he studied clarinet with Paul Hamel, his first significant teacher on the instrument, and played in the first clarinet, as well as the French horn sections of the AU band. He also sang in the choir and took several music classes. In addition to his theology major, he completed three minors, including an enhanced one in music, and obtained teaching credentials.
While at EMC, he met Beverly E. Vieau, a secretarial science major, while singing in the choir. They married on June 12, 1955. Although he wanted to be primarily a Bible teacher, every invitation Rhodes received throughout his career would be for music. While his principal identity would become that of a successful band director, he taught Bible in every position he held.
When he graduated from EMC in 1956, he was offered a teaching position in Detroit, and at Mountain View Academy in California. He later commented on the inner turmoil this created for him and Beverly:
Neither my wife nor I wanted to go to California because our families were in Michigan and Wisconsin. We fought that and fought that, but I kept getting calls and pressure to go. I was never so disturbed in my whole life about knowing what God's will was for us. There was the opportunity in Detroit and the offer from California. While other students at that time thought it was a big deal to go West, we didn't. You know what? That's where we went.
For the next five years he taught music at the academy and affiliated grade school, starting a band program, eventually directing three bands at both levels; giving lessons; teaching Bible at the academy; and serving as associate pastor in three churches. He later recalled,
It was a real challenge for me, a terribly big challenge. I was learning a lot, and the whole experience turned out to be a very good foundation for what happened later in my career. I worked closely with a nearby music store where they, sensing my lack of experience, recommended I join MENC (Music Educators' National Conference) and did a lot to help me get started.
The band program flourished and eventually included an academy band of 65 students. Rafael Mendez, leading trumpet player of the time, played with the group in Rhodes' second year. He brought his twin sons, who were university students, with him and worked with the band Wednesday through Friday, before playing Saturday evening with the band in a concert that few in attendance would ever forget.
By coincidence, the performance fell on Mendez's wife's birthday and he had composed a piece that he dedicated to her and performed as a surprise at the concert. That personal touch, combined with his virtuosity, the participation of his sons, and the miracle of a band that in its second year could accompany a performer of that stature, brought the house down. This was the first of several appearances that Mendez would make with SDA academies and colleges.
It was a busy time for Rhodes as he continued to teach Bible, held weeks of prayer, and conducted funerals, in addition to giving concerts and teaching lessons. Also, for one semester, when the principal had to take a study leave, he served as acting principal.
In 1961 Rhodes accepted a position at Columbia Academy in Washington state. He returned
to California in 1963, to direct the band program at Newbury Park Academy, where his sister, Carolyn Rhodes Brummett, was directing the choir. For six of the next eight years, they worked together, before she accepted a position at another school.
While his first year at NPA was unsettling, with the band of 34 students rebelling against the more traditional band repertoire Rhodes programmed, by the second year, band membership doubled. Not only was the band larger, it was a more capable group that, in the next seven years, grew to include ninety students.
Wherever Rhodes had taught, he always tried to provide lessons and activities for students who played string instruments. At NPA, he was able to start an orchestra and gave concerts with the group, which, on occasion, featured music using harpsichord.
While at NPA, Rhodes completed all class work for a master's in music at San Jose State University. He also wrote an exhaustive and well-received thesis about the evolution and use of the clarinet in ensembles. In one of his oral exams, he was challenged about his exclusion of popular music in his programming with his band and the fact that possibly he was depriving his students of an important music experience. Rhode's response offended the questioner and he did not receive his degree. Although they later offered to correct what they came to believe was an unjust action, Rhodes declined the offer.
He instead went to Andrews University, where he participated in a number of music ensembles, while pursuing a theology degree. He completed an M.Div. in New Testament studies in 1971.
Shortly after accepting a position at Pacific Union College Preparatory School in 1971, Rhodes took a four-year leave while questions about him were resolved and he could redefine personal objectives. During this time, he had a lucrative offer for employment in business and received several invitations from SDA and public schools to direct band. He still wanted to teach Bible, however, and waited until that opportunity became possible.
In 1975 Rhodes accepted a position as band director and Bible teacher at Gem State Academy in Idaho, where he taught for the next two years with Frank Kravig, who was directing the choir. He then taught for two years at Pioneer Valley Academy in Massachusetts, shortly before it closed in the early 1980s.
Rhodes accepted an invitation to teach at Far Eastern Academy in Singapore in 1979. He was attracted by the idea of overseas service and, once there, found fulfillment in totally unexpected ways in the next eight years. As in previous appointments, he directed the band and choir, and taught Bible classes. He also got involved with and became conductor of the Singapore Polytechnic Band:
In my first year there, I noticed signs advertising a meeting for a branch of the International Clarinet Association. I went to where they were meeting and, intrigued by what I was hearing coming from one of the rooms where a clarinet group was practicing, I stood outside listening. Someone noticed me standing there and invited me to come inside. After we became acquainted, I invited them to practice at Far Eastern Academy, having cleared this with leadership of my school.
One of the players in this group also played in the Singapore Polytechnic band. An emergency situation developed with their group, and I was asked with two days advance notice to direct their group at an important event. After getting clearance from my administrators, I consented. On the day of the event, the president of Singapore died.
When I arrived there, I found it was a gigantic arena where thousands had gathered. In the midst of the ceremony, a moment of silence was announced. I was standing in front of the band and stood there with my eyes closed. The next day, on the front page of the largest Singapore paper was this huge photograph of me standing there with my head bowed.
Before I got to school the next day my wife, who worked for the Secretary of the Far Eastern Division, contacted me and asked, "What on earth is this? Everyone in the office is talking about the fact that your picture is on the front page." By the time I got to school, the administration, faculty and students were asking the same question. I was really in the soup.
"What were you doing at this event?" "How much money are you getting for doing this?" The answer to the latter was nothing. Additionally, the Polytechnic group was determined that I should be their permanent director. Half of the division office thought that my being associated with the group was the greatest thing to happen for Far Eastern Academy and our work in Singapore, and the other half opposed the idea. The principal was caught in the middle of the turmoil this created. In the end, I was given permission to direct the group and did so for the next seven years.
Rhodes' leadership of the band provided a tremendous witness for the church in Singapore and in other nearby countries in the Far East. The group participated in important functions in the city and was chosen to tour neighboring Asian countries, including Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, and others. It played in the same hall as the symphony orchestra and in other important venues to sellout crowds.
Out of his work with this group grew friendships with officials in the country's Department of Education and the Ministry of Culture. The band played often for the president of the country and other high government officials and at numerous official government events.
The Polytechnic band also joined on occasion with the Far Eastern Academy band. Whenever this happened, pictures of the two groups were featured on the front pages of the papers and a flood of TV coverage, including interviews, followed. Despite the exposure and outreach this was providing for the school, and church, there were still some who were uncomfortable with what was happening. For the FEA band students and Rhodes, however, it was an experience of a lifetime, an unparalleled opportunity for Christian witness.
A decade after Dale and Beverly left Singapore to return to the States, they were invited to return and participate in a reunion of the Polytechnic group. All expenses were paid and they were treated as royalty during their month-long stay in a penthouse. The hosts were aware of the Rhodeses dietary preferences for vegetarian food and planned accordingly. The select group of 93 former and current members rehearsed for nineteen days and, although other former directors were scheduled to share in the conducting, they deferred to Rhodes, wanting him to conduct the whole program.
When the Rhodeses left Far Eastern Academy in 1987, they worked at River Plate College in Argentina for four school years. He started an orchestra there and taught Bible, as he had done earlier at Newbury Park Academy. He also developed the band and started a Sunday night concert series in which program protocols were established that included prompt beginnings and appropriate audience behavior as well as the use of ushers.
The professionalism of the series, coupled with the featured guest artists, attracted large audiences from the region. The school band and orchestra program also helped bridge the gap that usually exists between SDA schools and their communities, when non-SDA persons in the area became players in the ensembles.
In 1993 Rhodes returned to the States to teach at Greater Miami Academy in Florida, teaching there until 1995. Although planning to retire that year, he accepted an interim one-year appointment to teach at Maplewood Academy in Minnesota. The Rhodeses returned to Miami at the end of the school year, having retained their home there, where they retired in 1996.
After he retired they were extensively involved in church work, with Dale serving as an interim pastor and assisting pastors with more than one church when needed. Both assisted the SDA churches in the area, giving Bible studies and helping in other ways. He also sang in church services for several years with a male quartet that mirrored the cosmopolitan nature of the city, including a Brazilian bass, a Jamaican baritone, Asian Indian second tenor, and Rhodes as first tenor.
Throughout his career, Rhodes played various instruments in ensembles. He continued to play trumpet, trombone, and other instruments as a soloist or in groups. Beverly, who also played piano for church services in the area, accompanied him when he performed, something she did throughout his career. Dale also developed a reputation for honest, reliable work as a handyman business in his neighborhood, where he actively witnessed for the church.
Making music at a sophisticated level continued for Rhodes, as he sang in the University of Miami's Civic Chorale of Greater Miami for nineteen years, a group that, in that time, performed numerous major choral works by composers such as Rutter, Mozart, Philip Glass, and others, as well as the Messiah every Christmas. He also sang in the Florida Opera Chorus in the summer of 1998.
Dale was living in Miami when he died on July 9, 2015, at age 82. Beverly, who had served in secretarial positions and as registrar in schools where they had lived, was residing in Miami when she died three years later, on March 5, 2018, at age 84.
Sources: Obituaries for Dale V. and Beverly E. Vieau Rhodes, August 2018, Southern Tidings, 27; 1940 U.S. Federal Income Tax, Ancestry.com; Interviews with Dale Rhodes by Dan Shultz, 2007 and December 2013, the primary source for this biography. Personal knowledge, I became acquainted with Dale while in graduate school at Andrews University in the 1960s and maintained contact with him through the end of his career.