Donald Wayne Thurber

1946 -

Donald Thurber, Professor of Music at La Sierra University, has taught there since 1975, when he was hired to direct the choral program. Since 2000 he has served as Director of Music Education. For the past 20 years, he has also served as Minister of Music at the University Church in Loma Linda, California.

One of five children and the only son of Wayne Putney and Virginia Norma Gerald Thurber, he and his siblings grew up surrounded by music and an attitude that regardless of the style of music, all music had a place in life and worship. From his earliest years he sang in choirs and when he had gained proficiency on trumpet, played in band and orchestra. His primary area of performance, however, as he obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees, was in piano.

Following graduation from Glendale Academy in 1965, Thurber attended Loma Linda University, now La Sierra University, for a year and then studied at Seminaire Adventiste in Collonges-sous-Saleve, France, before going to Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University, where he completed a B.A. in music in 1969. He then taught for two years at Valley Grande Academy in Weslaco, Texas, before starting graduate study at the University of North Texas. He completed an M.Mus. Ed. and, in 1974, coursework for a Ph.D.

At that time, Thurber accepted a deferred appointment at LLU, but taught at Mount Pisgah Academy in Chandler, North Carolina, in the interim for one year. He began teaching at LLU in 1975 and, during his first year there, completed his dissertation and all requirements for a doctorate in music education. His dissertation was a study of music programs at Adventist academies.

In subsequent years, Thurber has done post-graduate study at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, Hochschule in Graz, Austria, and the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene. He also continued to study choral and orchestral conducting, working with Herbert Blomstedt, Sir David Willcocks, Howard Swan, Josepf Flummerfelt, Jon Robertson, David Neuen, and Helmuth Rilling.

Thurber served as LLU music department chair from 1980 to 1988, difficult years for colleges and universities nationwide. In addition to financial and enrollment problems across the country, LLU was in turmoil over the relationship between the campuses at Loma Linda and La Sierra. This situation particularly affected all aspects of the program at La Sierra, including music. In spite of these challenges, he provided effective leadership.

During his years at LLU, he directed countless concerts with his university choral groups. His passion for and openness to all styles of music were reflected in programming that featured an eclectic selection of music. This same openness has enabled him to serve as an effective minister of music at the LLU Church during a time of significant change in worship music. He has strong convictions about the need for ministers of music in the Adventist church and has actively done all he can to create interest in the church at large to recognize this need.

Thurber's LLU choral groups traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, and the Eastern United States. The University Men's Chorus, under his leadership, was invited to perform at the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, in March 1991. He has conducted numerous choral clinics for all age groups, from elementary to adult.

Thurber married Donna Jean Dickson in 1969. She has taught music at Loma Linda Elementary School for over twenty years. They have three children, Jill (Dupertuis), a child psychologist; Joni Michelle, a speech pathologist; and Jeffrey Donald, a senior English literature major (2005-2006) at La Sierra University.


Sources: Interview, 1 October 2005; Faculty Curriculum Vitae, unknown date; personal knowledge.