John J. Hafner


John J. Hafner, pioneer band and orchestra director in Adventist music, directed orchestras and bands in five Adventist colleges, beginning when he was still a student at Atlantic Union College. He would eventually do the same at Washington Missionary College, now Washington Adventist University; Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University; Pacific Union College, where he also chaired the department; and Walla Walla College, now University.

John was born in Manhattan, New York, on March 5, 1909, the oldest of five children of Frank S. and Julianna Hafner, immigrants from Austria-Hungary. Hafner began study on violin at age ten, eventually receiving instruction at the Juilliard School of Music. While a student at Greater New York Academy, where he served as senior class president, he met Charlotte Briggs, and they married on August 10, 1930.

Hafner enrolled at AUC in 1930, paying his way by working in the press and the bindery and giving lessons and conducting the school orchestra.  After three years there as a student and teacher, he accepted a position at WMC, where he worked for a year before teaching at Mount Vernon Academy in Ohio, from 1934 to 1936. He then left MVA to direct the band and orchestra at EMC and in 1941 completed a B.A. in music while teaching there. Noted particularly for his work with both orchestra and band, Hafner was also known for his expressiveness as a performer on the violin.

He accepted a position at PUC in 1947 as director of the band and orchestra and then also served as chair of the music department from 1951 until 1955. While at PUC he completed a master's degree in violin performance from the Chicago Musical College, now Roosevelt University, in 1949.

He left in 1955 to direct the band and orchestra at WWC. Throughout his career, Hafner enjoyed a reputation as a highly successful teacher who loved both music and young people. He was described by WWC's school paper, The Collegian, as a "phenomenally good-natured person" whose never-failing sense of humor [kept] aspiring musicians in a matching mood."

While at WWC he served as concertmaster of the Walla Walla Symphony for five years. He also directed the Walla Walla Symphonic Choir, a community organization, for most of the years he lived in the area. After retirement in 1971, he continued to teach and direct, his final position being at Taiwan Adventist Academy.

In 1985 he was named an emeritus professor at WWC, where an endowment in his name now provides an annual scholarship to string students. He was living in Loma Linda, California, at the time of his death on March 1, 2001, at age 81. He was survived by his wife, Charlotte; three daughters, Jeanne Shafer, Eunice Sackett, and Donna Joyce Burdy; 18 grandchildren and 42 great-grandchildren; and two brothers and two sisters.  Charlotte was living in Chico when she died on April 24, 2010, at age 100.


Sources: "Director Hafner, Tells of Career," Walla Walla College newspaper, The Collegian, 17 January, 1957; Marilyn Ellison, "Violinist Enjoys Printing, Conducts Choir, Orchestra," The Collegian, 14 May 1964. Atlantic Union Gleaner, 30 April 1930, 3; Emmanuel Missionary College yearbooks, The Cardinal, 1937, 44; 1940-1947. The EMC school paper, Student Movement, 27 April 1945, 4; Dan Shultz, A Great Tradition . . . Music at Walla Walla College 1892-1992, 109-111; 146; Interview and conversations with Hafner in June1985; Obituaries, Pacific Union Recorder, September 2001 and Advent Review, 14 June 2001