Herbert Archie Work
1904 - 1982
Herbert Work, an accomplished saxophonist and clarinetist, music teacher, and composer, taught at two Seventh-day Adventist colleges and two academies and, in later years, assisted with music programs at an academy and three self-supporting Adventist institutions. One of his hymns, O Shepherd Divine, was included in the 1985 Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.
Work was born in Santa Rosa, California, and was raised on a farm. Both his mother and grandfather taught him and his brother during their grade school years at Lewis School. Although he excelled in athletics while attending Santa Rosa High School, music was his real passion and, at age sixteen, he was making a living playing clarinet and saxophone and arranging music for a variety of soloists and groups.
By his late twenties, Work had taken four trips as a musician on ships, playing in dance bands for cruises that included destinations such as Samoa, Australia, and the Panama Canal. On the last of these trips, he read two books, The Marked Bible and The Bible Made Plain, which led to his becoming a Seventh-day Adventist at age 29.
Work studied with Noah Paulin, a teacher at Pacific Union College, who had come from a similar background before becoming an Adventist. While in the area, he led a band at the St. Helena Hospital for ten years. He then taught music at Gem State Academy in Idaho until 1949, when he became band director at Southwestern Junior College, later Southwestern Adventist University. Under his leadership, the band doubled in size to over 40. He also formed a number of smaller ensembles, in some instances joining the students, playing either the clarinet or saxophone.
Work returned to California in 1953 to direct the band at Modesto Academy, a position he held for many years. His saxophone playing at a concert he gave in Glendale during this time led to an offer from a university for him to travel and perform on their behalf; however, he turned it down. He did make a record for Chapel Records, which featured both sacred and secular music.
In 1954, a year after making the move to California, Work published Sanctuary Songs, a collection of sixteen of his works. He also wrote the music for Abel, a cantata with Bible-based lyrics prepared by Ella Robinson. His wife, Anice, observed in a biography of him prepared for Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (1985):
Herbert never sat - he was either writing missionary letters or music! Mostly he had his music in his head and just wrote it down, quicker than I can write this - in the car, doctor's office, bus depots, anywhere and everywhere. Then he'd take it to the piano and correct it. He never thought [of] his talent [as] anything special.
After retiring, though plagued with respiratory problems, Work assisted in music programs at Thunderbird Academy in Arizona and three self-supporting schools in Arizona, Tennessee, and Georgia.
He was residing in the Napa Valley when he died at the St. Helena Hospital at age 78.
Sources: Wayne H. Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, 1988, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 238-40; Herbert Work, “What do you think of Jazz?” The Youth’s Instructor, 5 March 1936, 9, 10; Numerous references in the Pacific Union Recorder and North Pacific Gleaner; Obituary, Pacific Union Recorder, 21 March 1983.