John Tweed Hamilton
John T. Hamilton, Seventh-day Adventist music educator, noted for his work in voice and as a choral director, taught and worked in a variety of roles for over thirty years at both La Sierra and Loma Linda University campuses.
Hamilton graduated from Washington Missionary College, now Columbia Union College, in 1937 with a degree in history. Oliver Beltz, an Adventist musician who chaired the church music and choral program at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, encouraged him to get a degree in music at NWU, where he completed a B.Mus. in 1941.
That year he married Arlene Winsor and for the next five years taught at Walla Walla College, now University, while completing an M.Mus. in the summers at NWU. During his graduate study he served as associate conductor of the NWU Summer Festival Chorus, preparing them for performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. After leaving WWC, Hamilton taught at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, for one year before going to LSU.
In 1948 Hamilton founded the La Sierra Collegians, a well-known eighteen-voice choral group which continued for the next thirteen years, becoming the La Sierrans in 1955. He founded the John T. Hamilton Chorale in 1976, which continued until 1990. The group became internationally known, performing concerts in Hong Kong and in Canterbury, Exeter and Winchester Cathedrals and Westminster Abbey, in England. The Chorale was the first American choir ever invited to perform at the prestigious Three Choirs Festival in Worcester, England.
Hamilton attended the Festival thirty-two times and was asked to contribute articles to the Festival Book and the 250th Anniversary Book. He took the Chorale on a special tour of Paris, Brittany and Normandy in 1992, giving concerts in the cathedrals of Harfleur, Tours and Chartres, and at the Madeleine Church in Paris.
Earlier, at the invitation of Sir David Willcocks, noted British choral conductor, Hamilton had spent two summers at Kings College, Cambridge University, observing rehearsals and performances of the choir. Following this, he established the Sir David Willcocks Choral Workshop, which was held for nine years at LSU.
While serving as Director of Public Relations at LSU, Hamilton founded Adventist Colleges Abroad, which he directed for fourteen years. He traveled in more than seventy countries, including China and the Soviet Union. In 1955, he began conducting student tours of Europe and other areas of the world, doing over thirty. These were the first student tours for credit in Adventist higher education.
He loved great music and poetry and could recite a vast number of poems at length. He is also remembered for his sense of humor and wonderful anecdotes. Hamilton retired in 1980 and was given Emeritus Professor of Music status in 1982. He received the LLU Distinguished University Service Award in 1987 and was awarded an honorary D.Mus. by LSU in 1998. A John T. Hamilton Endowed Scholarship Fund provides an annual scholarship for students in voice at LSU.
Sources: Interview, 5 July 1990; Dan Shultz, A Great Tradition, Music at Walla Walla College, 1892-1992, 1992, 85-86, 88-89; La Sierra Today, Fall 1997, 18; Summer or Fall 2002, 22.