Muriel Elaine Myers Taylor
1924 - 1978
Elaine Myers Taylor, during her career as performer and teacher in voice and piano, taught at Walla Walla, Southern Missionary, and Pacific Union colleges and at Andrews University. She was a gifted musician and superb teacher, a deeply spiritual person with an uncompromising spiritual commitment who inspired her family, friends and students.
Myers was born in Portland, Oregon, one of four children and the only daughter of Dale P. and Ruby Ellen Wilson Myers. She and a younger brother, Daniel, began music study at an early age and pursued music careers. She graduated from Portland Union Academy, now Portland Adventist Academy, in 1942 and following study in voice and piano at Walla Walla College, now University, and completion of a piano degree in 1946, returned to the Portland area where she taught both voice and piano at Laurelwood Academy for two years.
In 1948 Myers returned to WWC to assist full-time in the vocal area. She actively participated in student life on campus and was a popular teacher. She began graduate study in the summers, studying in Portland and at the University of Southern California before finally going to New York.
There she helped finance her study by working at the Faith for Today television program. Myers concentrated on piano, studying at The Juilliard School and with Madame Samarof, wife of Leopold Stokowski, noted American conductor. She completed a master's degree in piano at Columbia Teachers College, now Columbia University, in 1953.
While in New York, Elaine met Morris Taylor, a gifted pianist who had graduated from Atlantic Union College in 1951 and was now teaching there. They dated a few times before she returned to WWC. In 1953 he was drafted into military service. Following his induction, they corresponded and, during one of his leaves, he proposed to her. Taylor was offered a position at WWC in 1955 and obtained an early discharge so he could start in the fall term. He and Elaine married that September.
During the next two years at WWC they began performing as duo-pianists and were encouraged by the response to expand their repertoire in this area. One of the first works they performed was Poulenc's Sonata for Two Pianos, a composition that had been published only three years earlier.† At the end of his second year at WWC, the school made arrangements for Morris to continue graduate study on a doctorate. It was at this juncture that he was invited by Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University, to serve as chairman of the Division of Fine Arts and accepted.
The Taylorsí duo piano work continued at SMC. Following one performance, The Chattanooga Times observed: "Morris and Elaine Taylor combine superior technique and glowing musical understanding with an uncanny oneness that places them in the small and exclusive company of really fine duo-pianists." They would become inseparable musical partners as they played together for over twenty years and studied under such masters as duo-pianists Vronsky and Babbin and Gold and Fizdale.
The Taylors by now had four children, and Elaine, though still active as a performing musician, made her role as mother the priority in her life. She nurtured the children both spiritually and musically, sparing no effort to be the best parent and teacher possible. That dedication, with support and assistance from Morris, created an atmosphere in the home where the children's musical gifts flourished.
By the time the Taylors left SMC in 1965 for positions at Pacific Union College, the children, who were now practicing for an hour on a string instrument and the piano each day, and then practicing together as a string quartet for a third hour, were all achieving at remarkable levels.
During the next six years, the precocious playing of the children and the excellence of their work as a string quartet stunned audiences and music critics alike. The Palo Alto Times described this response to the Taylor String Quartet, following a performance of the family for the annual conference of the Music Teachers' Association of California in 1971: "When 300 music teachers rise to give a performing group a standing ovation, the players can be sure they have received quite a tribute."
The move to AU in 1971 marked Elaine's return to full-time teaching. A tireless teacher, she taught hundreds of students and performed countless workshops and master classes. In spite of this heavy schedule, she always found time for practice and performance and continued study in music. She began and almost completed work on a doctorate at Indiana University.
In the midst of her busy life, Elaine always found time for personal devotions, a practice she had followed since childhood. Students, colleagues, friends, and family sensed her spiritual depth, witnessing it in her kindness and gracious nature. She was always giving of herself, whether it be time, a listening ear, or a simple gesture or gift.
In the final year of her life she took a three-week tour with her children, traveling as The Taylor String Quartet from California to Texas, to Mexico, and then to Washington, D.C. At the University of Monterey, the audience responded to their concert with a prolonged standing ovation, shouts of bravo, and a cascade of flowers on the stage. Perhaps Taylor's finest performance, her last, was given in the month of her death when she played the Faure Piano Quartet at the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago at the Music Teachers National Convention with three of her children, the only guest performers invited to play at the meetings.
A few days later, while returning to the campus on a Friday afternoon, Taylor was in a car accident that claimed her life. It was a devastating blow to the family and shocking news on the campus and to others who had known her through the years. Nine college and academy campuses sent floral tributes for the service commemorating her life. The following is from a life sketch given on that occasion by AU President, Grady Smoot:
Occasionally you and I meet those whose lives enrich ours so unmistakably, so genuinely, so consistently, that just to contemplate their friendship is an exercise in inspiration. Elaine was like that.
She moved with equal grace among the rich and poor. She was regal and modest. Whether she was hugging Indian children in a village in the mountains of Mexico or chatting with the masters of her art, she was equally at ease.
Elaine was perhaps above all else, a Christian. Her neighbors knew it. Her students knew it. Her family knew it. And if you heard her music or spoke with more than a few minutes you couldn't help but know it.
Sources: Life Sketch, Grady Smoot, AU president, provided by Lyndon Johnson, 16 March 2004; Obituary, Lake Union Herald, 9 May 1978, 6; Obituary, AU Focus, 1983; Pacific Union Recorder, 15 May, 1978; Her mothers, obituary, North Pacific Union Gleaner, 18 November 1968, 14; WWC school paper, The Collegian, 1955-1957 issues; personal knowledge. ††