Elsie Landon Buck

1922 - 2012 

Elsie Landon Buck, accomplished pianist, teacher, unflagging supporter of and leader in music education and numerous other endeavors, made a significant difference in all that she did. Her enthusiasm, vision, and persistence inspired and benefited many, two examples being her work on projects related to her alma mater, Andrews University, and her leadership as president of the International Adventist Musicians Association (IAMA) from 1992 to 2009.

Born in Brazil, Elsie studied piano briefly with her mother before her death when Elsie was six and then with family members, including her aunt, Corina Salse, and noted Brazilian composers and orchestra conductors Francisco Mignone, Camargo Guarnieri, and Frutuoso Vianna. She started her music teaching career giving piano lessons at age seventeen while attending the Adventist academy in that country and would continue to teach piano for over sixty years.

Following graduation from academy in 1939, Elsie enrolled at Southern Junior College, now Southern Adventist University, where she studied for two years before transferring to Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, completing a degree in 1943. She and Edwin Francis Buck married in June of that year, and he completed a B.A. in theology the following year. At that time, they began a twenty-year career in teaching and service in the Seventh-day Adventist church.

During those two decades they and their three children traveled to India, where they taught at the Adventist school for six years. A piano student from that time, Ted Mackett, now a surgeon in Portland, Oregon, would later write about his and his brother’s experience in studying piano with Elsie:

Elsie was the one that got us on our way musically.  She was a great motivator. My mother in particular saw the opportunity there for us and how music could be an added dimension in our lives.  I was six or so and Leslie was four when we started lessons.

Ted is still an active musician and his brother, Leslie, a pianist, became an award-winning music teacher at two Adventist colleges and at Redlands University in California.

That ability to motivate was also coupled with a vision about what might be done not only in her students’ lives, but also in other projects she would be involved in for the rest of her life.  She was diligent and organized and had a penchant for detail and the ability to mobilize others to assist in accomplishing seemingly impossible projects.  She would become the ultimate volunteer, known for her insights, wisdom, enthusiasm, and remarkable gifts in leadership.

The Bucks returned to the Andrews University campus in the 1960s, where he completed an M.A. and she an M.Mus.Ed. in 1964. He later completed a Ph.D. at Michigan State University, and Elsie took additional study in music at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and AU. She was chosen as AU Alumna of the Year in 1973 and awarded an honorary doctorate by AU in 1991.

Prior to her retirement in1984 as an elementary music teacher in the St. Joseph Public Schools, where she taught for twenty years, the Bucks had worked at Cedar Lake Academy and Greater Miami Academy, in addition to their years in India. She also served as an adjunct professor of music at AU.

Highlights from an array of committee positions Elsie held over a period of several decades include fifteen years as a member of the Board of Trustees for AU, chairing the Committee for the restoration of the Sutherland House on the AU campus, and chairing the AU Inaugural Committee in 1984. She also served as AU Alumni President from 1977-79. These activities, plus with numerous others in the community and region, led to many honors for unusual accomplishment.

During her presidency of the Berrien Commission on Beautification and Development, Berrien Springs received a National Clean Up Award, presented to her in Washington, D.C., in 1971. Other honors include membership in the National Guild of Piano Teachers Hall of Fame, recognition in 1988 from Music Educators National Conference (MENC) for her "Contributions to School Music Programs," and recognition in 1990 for her music achievements and contributions from the Michigan Music Teachers Association. She was nominated for membership in Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society in 2000.

A frequent adjudicator for the National Guild of Piano Teachers, she served as chairman of its Southwest Michigan Chapter for eight years. She was an active member in other music associations, including Music Educators National Conference and The Hymn Society of the United States and Canada.

A charter member of IAMA, Buck served as its president for seventeen years. She worked tirelessly on behalf of the association, informing church leaders about its work, promoting it at gatherings of musicians and non-musicians alike, and maintaining contact with the board. She and her husband were very generous donors, providing funding for the operation of IAMA when normal sources of income were not adequate.

Buck's concern about all things musical as they relate to the church was evident in the over forty President's Messages she penned in IAMA's magazine, Notes, and in the articles she contributed. She worked closely with its editor, Dan Shultz, making countless encouraging and informative calls as he prepared Notes and met with the board when she was unable to attend the IAMA board Annual Meetings. In those many calls he got to know her as a thoughtful and informed person as they talked not only about music but theology, world events, and politics, as well.

A solo performer in a variety of settings over many years, she worked with Blythe Owen, noted Adventist pianist and composer, in presenting numerous duo-piano recitals in the 1970’s and 1980’s. They produced a recording during those years, a second for Buck who had earlier made a solo record.

The Bucks traveled extensively around the world. The parents of three children, Evonne P., Edwin L., and Elizabeth, and grandparents to five grandchildren, they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in 2008. They were residing in Niles, Michigan, at the time of her death at age 89.

ds/2008/2012

Sources: Numerous conversations, 1992-2009; Ronald Knott, "Tribute to a Trustee," Andrews University Focus, Winter 1987/1988; "Edwin and Elsie Buck celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary with family and friends," The Journal Era, Berrien Springs, MI, 2 July 2008, 16; 65th Anniversary celebration program; Tribute by Dan Shultz at her memorial service, 9 September 2012; email from Loreen Davis Townsend, December 1, 2016.