John W. Read

1933 -

John Read, music educator, choir director, and composer, was born and raised in Texas. He and his three brothers and two sisters lived in a home where music was an important part of life. Both parents were amateur musicians who enjoyed performing when friends and family visited.

John, like his siblings, learned to play an instrument, becoming proficient both on the baritone horn (euphonium) and trombone. He also learned to play piano at an early age, but did not take lessons on a regular basis until he attended college.

In his sophomore year in high school, he informed the band director that he would not play at the football games because they were on Friday nights. Although this meant that he sat in the bleachers all during band practice in the fall, he did play in the pep band and on booster trips during the season when Friday evenings or Saturdays were not involved. He also participated in thespian activities during his high school years and had a part in the senior play.

He and his brother attended Madison College, a self-supporting Seventh-day Adventist school in Tennessee, where music was an important activity. Read was active in all the music organizations, studied piano with Sarah Ann Goodge and Sylvia Mitzelfelt, and worked as student assistant with the band director, Harold E. Mitzelfelt.

Following graduation from MC in 1953 with a B.S. degree in music education, Read taught instrumental music and directed the band for a year at Campion Academy in Loveland, Colorado. At the end of that year, he accepted an invitation to teach both band and choir at Shenandoah Valley Academy in New Market, Virginia. That summer he took a choral workshop conducted by John Finley Williamson that was both a help and an inspiration when he assumed leadership of the SVA choir that fall.

Read taught at SVA for the next seven years, an experience he would later refer to as one of the most satisfying in his career. During that time, the program grew, leading to the hiring of a teacher to direct the band. By the time that happened, Read had made a decision to pursue choral work as a career. He completed a master's in music at the University of Texas at Austin while at SVA.

Read also served as sponsor of the SVA classes of 1959 and 1961. Additionally, he wrote the lyrics for all of the class songs while he was there, finding that the task of creating lyrics from class aims and mottos came easily.

Following a year at Collegedale Academy teaching band, Read was invited in 1962 to direct the choral program at Southwestern Junior College, now Southwestern Adventist University, in Keene, Texas. Like his predecessors at SJC, Read was interested in promoting good music and upholding high standards in performance. Changes in the college's status and student body during his nearly two decades there would facilitate an even higher performance level for the choirs.

Beginning in his first year, the school took steps to become an accredited four-year college. In October 1962, the board approved the name change to Southwestern College and, in March 1963, the new name and plans for an expanded academic program became official at the Southwestern Union Conference constituency meeting.

The General Conference endorsed the college's standing as a senior college in 1966 and four years later, in December 1970, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granted full accreditation. By the end of the 1970s, the school had been renamed Southwestern Adventist College and the campus totally transformed by an extensive building program.

Read and his wife, Aquila, a musician who taught voice and music appreciation at the college, were witnesses to and participants in changes that transformed the school from a small institution with equal numbers of academy and college students to one with an enrollment of over 700 college-age students by 1980. This shift in the size and age of the student body created a larger, more-mature group of students.

Read, who had completed a doctorate at the University of North Texas in 1968, had also been named chair of the department in 1967 and would continue in that position until 1975. For several years, his students participated in the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) auditions. In 1979-1980, his last year at SWAC, two of his students were semi-finalists and one was a finalist in regional auditions.

While chair, Read presided over the introduction and development of a rigorous music education degree program patterned after the one at UNT, the installation of a twelve-rank, two-manual Casavant organ in Evans Hall, an auditorium on campus, and an expansion of the music faculty to four full-time teachers.

When Read left the music department in 1980, he continued as minister of music at the college church, a part-time position; served as minister of music at a nearby Methodist church, and taught elementary music methods as an adjunct faculty member. He then served as Coordinator of Church Music for the Texas Conference from 1982 to 1984, and, following ordination, pastored a district with two churches in North Dallas.

Read was active in the SDA Church Musicians Guild, a group that had officially started in 1970 and become a national organization in 1976. He served as president of the Keene chapter, and vice president and president of the national association. During his two-year term as CMG president, from 1984 to 1986, he arranged for a national convention that was held on the campus of Southwestern Adventist College in the summer of 1986.

In this leadership role, Read brought with him an enthusiasm and a practical perspective about the realities of working with worship music issues in Adventist churches and with conference leaders. He represented the Guild when it attempted unsuccessfully to establish a Department of Church Music at the General Conference level.

Because of his work in church music, Read served on the General Conference Church Hymnal committee from 1982 to 1984. The new hymnal, released in 1985, was the most successful publishing project ever undertaken by the church. By 2000, just under a million copies had been printed.

In 1984 he started a music publishing company called Clarion Call Music. CCM has published a number of choral anthems by Adventist writers, including Perry Beach, Melvin West, and Read, who has written over 120 works during his career. Additionally, Read prepared and published A Chapel Hymnbook, a small hymnal that has sold 30,000 copies and was reprinted for the fourth time in January 2008. A Spanish version, Himnario de Banzas, was also printed.

Dallas Central SDA Church hired him to be associate pastor and minister of music in 1988 and then invited him to serve as principal of Greater Dallas Academy. When a decision was made at the end of that year to reduce the status of the school to a junior academy, Read and his wife accepted an offer to go to Valley Grande Academy in Weslaco, Texas. During two years at VGA, Read served as principal and directed the band, and she taught history and directed the choir.

Following an interim year teaching in a public school in Weslaco, the Reads returned to Keene, where they both worked as music therapists at a residential treatment center for children, and John also served as chaplain. The Reads worked there for four years, until they retired. During that time, John formed a very successful children's choir of over forty, a venture that he was told could not succeed.

When the Reads had returned to Keene, John started selling real estate out of his home a year before he retired. He opened an office in 1999 and now owns and runs one that employs several agents.

The Reads have four children, three sons and a daughter. Although all were musical and participated in music throughout their school years, they have not pursued music careers.

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Sources; Interview with John Read, 24 September 2007; John Read, an Interview, The score, publication of the Church Musicians' Guild, February 1982, 9-10; Wayne H. Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, 1988, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 311. Personal Knowledge.