John Wheeler Boyd, Jr.

1947- 2022

John Boyd, chaired the music department and taught theory and composition and voice, piano, and organ at Southwestern Adventist University, from 1998 to 2001. He then served as minister of music at the Keene SDA church, from 2001 to 2006. He rejoined the music department on a full-time basis in 2006 before retiring in 2012.

Boyd, an only child, was born in Superior, Wisconson, on September 13, 1947 to John Wheeler, and Katheryn Elizabeth Parker Boyd. His father, was the oldest of three brothers, the youngest having six children, among them being several gifted singers. John\\\'s music study began with piano lessons at age seven. He would later relate how he was exposed to orchestral music:

When I was in the fourth grade, Dad bought a set of classical music records from Reader\\\\'s Digest. I wore those things out. From that point until now, my favorite symphony is Franck\\\'s D minor Symphony. Another work that I listened to a lot in my grade school years was Stravinsky\\\'s Rite of Spring. Those early listening experiences led me to be pretty open-minded about all types of music in later years.

Although he enrolled as a theology major at Walla Walla College, now University, in 1965, by the end of his first year, he changed his major to music. He studied piano under Robert Hunter, Bruce Ashton, and Dan Myers; organ with Melvin West and Judi Myers; and music theory and composition with Ashton, Glenn Spring, and West. At that time, all of these teachers were young, having recently completed degrees, and Boyd remembers his experience with them as an important preparation for later graduate study.

Following graduation from WWC with a B.Mus. in music education in 1969, he began his teaching career at Sheyenne River Academy, now Dakota Adventist Academy, conducting band and teaching instruments and piano. Two years later he accepted a position at Laurelwood Academy in Oregon, where he taught for the next fourteen years, until it closed as an academy in 1985. He had completed an M.Mus. at Lewis and Clark College in 1974.

The experience at LA, ending as it did in controversy within Oregon church membership, was a difficult one for Boyd. He later recalled how it affected him at that time:

When Laurelwood closed, I took the option of retraining and picked up a math minor. I intended to get out of music and as far away from Adventist education as I could after what had happened at Laurelwood. It had been a painful experience, and I intended to go into public school teaching. Hal Hampton, who had been the principal at Laurelwood, had become principal at Campion Academy in Colorado. He contacted me about doing the band and teaching algebra, and I decided to stay in the system.

He began teaching at Campion Academy in 1986 and taught there until 1994, when he reduced his teaching to part-time in order to complete class work on a doctorate in music theory and composition at the University of Northern Colorado in nearby Greeley. While at UNC, he taught music theory, tutored graduate music theory students, and was a frequent accompanist. Secondary areas of study included accompanying and choral work.

While writing his dissertation, he taught piano and instrument lessons at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, from 1996 to 1998, completing his doctoral degree, a D.A., in 1998. His dissertation was a composition titled Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble. He accepted the position at Southwestern Adventist University that autumn.

Boyd composed music and did extensive arranging for choirs and instrumental groups. He responded to a commission for a composition for the 2002 South Texas Band Festival by writing Fiesta, a work he conducted during that event.  He wrote Fantasia: an Ode to Joy, which was performed in February 2008 at the SWAU music festival in their annual Night at Myerson program, held in the Morton Myerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas.

Boyd continued to teach part-time at SWAU and compose and arrange music following retirement. He created a website in 2014 where he could share his music and solicit commissions for unaccompanied solos to full ensembles. He also developed a series of videos teaching playing music by ear from a classical music perspective, an updated version of Music, Speaking the Language, a practical syllabus he had written for a workshop at Sunnydale Academy (Missouri) in 1990.

John died on November 13, 2022, at age 75 and a memorial service was held in the College View Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, on November 27. He was survived by his wife Helen (Mittleider), a son, Jeff and his wife, Charissa; and daugthter, Lisa (Todd) Bowen and four grandchildren.  He was preceded in death by his parents. 


Sources: Interviews with and information provided by John Boyd, 2007, 2008, and 2013; Charlotte Henderson, "Great Talents Combine," Southwestern Spirit, SWAU alumni magazine, Fall 2002, 4,5; Obituary, Roper and;Personal Knowledge.


John Wheeler Boyd


Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble (conceived for the graduate pianist and wind ensemble)


Suite of Traditional Forms in Modern Style

Stretching Out (12-tone jazz)

Quartal Ragtime

Polytonal Blues


Psalm 34

Psalm 136


Fiesta - composed for Raul Aguilar and the 2002 South Texas Band Festival (challenging for 3 solo trumpets, woodwinds, and percussion; not hard for 2nds and 3rds; last section incorporates La Cucaracha.)



Meeting at Night

My Heart Leaps Up

Psalm 23

Winter Wheat




Prelude in Romantic Style


Suite for Flute and Piano




Fractals - A Tone Poem


Heavenly Music (also in available in a sextet version)  performed on CD for Toronto General Conference in Toronto, Canada, 2000.