James A. Kempster

1936 -2016

James Kempster, professor of music in voice and choir at Pacific Union College for 34 years, retired in 2001 with the rank of Professor Emeritus of Music. After graduating from Portland State University in 1965, Kempster taught for a year in The Dalles, Oregon, before going to the University of Oregon for graduate study as a teaching assistant in voice. Following completion of a M.Mus. degree in 1968, he accepted an invitation to direct the vocal/choral program at PUC. He subsequently completed a D.M.A. at UO in 1976.

An active and sought-after singer, he was the tenor soloist in the highly regarded Oregon Bach Festival conducted by Helmut Rilling in the summers of 1970-72. During his time at PUC Kempster frequently sang as soloist in San Francisco area performances of significant choral works. He also conducted the PUC touring choir, Pro Musica, which took extended tours to Asia and performed in the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York.

Beginning in 1973, he served as music department chair for six years. An effective administrator, he chaired PUCís Curriculum Committee for many years and served as Associate Academic Dean from 1996 to 2000. A successful classroom teacher, Kempster assisted in the collegeís honors program. He received the Zapara Excellence in Teaching Award in 1999.

He claimed as his favorite accomplishment a three-month sabbatical spent in Russia as a singing evangelist in 1992. He stayed connected to the choral world by serving as one of the Choralist Moderators on Choralnet, a world-wide bulletin board for professional choral directors and teachers.

Kempster and his wife, Jeannie, who owned the beauty salon in the St. Helena Health Center, continued to reside in the area following his retirement. They were living in the area when died on May 2 following his 80th birthday on April 23.


Sources: Interviews on 2 and 16 February 2005; James Kempster, Echoes in the PUC Church, PUC alumni magazine, Viewpoint, Winter 2005 and reprinted with permission in the IAMA magazine, Notes, Winter/Spring 2005; email, Charlaine Wheeler, 25 May 2016.