George Baker Miller
1875 - 1956
George B. Miller began his career in early Adventist music education with an appointment at Healdsburg College, forerunner of today's Pacific Union College. An organist, he began teaching at the school in 1899, when he was 24 years old. A year later, he married former HC student Delpha Sheffer, who then taught at the elementary level at the college there and at other schools where he would be employed.
George had been born in Michigan, the second oldest of five children of Henry Carpenter and Martha Baker Miller. He attended Battle Creek College, where he studied under Edwin E. Barnes, a well-known and respected organist and then transferred to HC. He so impressed the faculty that he was hired to run the department when he completed his music studies.
The president of the school wanted to involve more male students in the program and so, working with Miller, chose to replace departing women teachers with men, hoping to change the image of the music department. Subsequently, John Beardslee, voice teacher, and William Wallace, a violinist were hired.
During his time at HC, Miller proved to be a good organizer with a penchant for detail. He created careful outlines of music programs and established an organized department. He left when HC closed in 1908, accepting a position as head of the music department, teacher of voice and keyboard, and director of the orchestra at Walla Walla College. During his three years there, he and the carpentry teacher, Sam Hanson, working with some students, built WWC's first pipe organ around two manuals Miller had brought with him from California.
HC reopened in 1909 as Pacific Union College in Angwin, California. Three years later, Charles Irwin, president of PUC and a singer and clarinetist who sang solos and performed in the orchestra, invited Miller to come and organize a music program at the new school. During the next three years, Miller taught organ and music theory, established detailed three- and five-year courses in voice and keyboard, and led the orchestra until a qualified director could be found.
The year he arrived, the first pipe organ, a Murray M. Harris, was installed in the chapel of a newly-constructed administration building. Miller, who had some experience in organ building and had in the last year been working in Los Angeles, facilitated its purchase and installation.
In 1918, the Millers returned to Southern California, where he taught privately and she taught at Southern California Junior College, now La Sierra University, from 1936 to 1956. They were living in Riverside when he died at age 81.
Sources: Melvin S. Hill, A History of Music Education in Seventh-day Adventist Western Colleges, a dissertation submitted by Hill in June 1959 to the University of Southern California, 41, 56-58; Dan Shultz, A Great Tradition, Music at Walla Walla College, 1892-1992, 25-28; Joe Humble, “First WWC Pipe Organ Home-Built and designed by Local resident, WWC Collegian, 27 April 1961, based on an interview with Sam Hanson, who had worked with Miller on the project; 1880, 1900, 1920, and 1930 U.S. Federal Census Records; Mitchel Tree, Ancestory.com; Obituaries, Pacific Union Recorder, 17 December 1956, 13; Review and Herald, 31 January 1957, 26 and 27 April 1961, 25 (Delpha). Although both 1875 and 1876 are given as birthdates, since he was born in January and is listed as age 5 in the 1880 census, it is more likely he was born in 1875 since the census was usually taken later in the year.