John Walter Neumann
1945 - 2019
John Neumann, choir director, singer, and pianist, taught for 35 of his 40 years in denominational service at seven Seventh-day Adventist academies. A highly regarded choral director, he conducted many music festivals and choral clinics during his career and assisted as a choral consultant. Neumann also served with distinction in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
The only child of John E. (Jim) and Marjorie Heiser Neumann, John was born in San Francisco, California, on August 14, 1945. When he was six, the family moved to Lodi, California, where his maternal grandparents lived and where his parents had graduated from Lodi Academy in the 1930s. His father was a mortician, having been introduced to that profession when attending academy and residing in the Salas home, a family that had a mortuary business. The Neumanns returned to Lodi to work for that same family when John was about six, knowing it would be a good place to live and to educate their son.
Music was an important activity in the Neumann home. His mother, whose voice was like that of internationally known singer at the Voice of Prophecy Del Delker, had sung in vocal duets and trios while in academy and then had continued singing in a number of choirs while they were residing in San Francisco. Although his father was not musical, he enjoyed music and served for many years as head of the Lodi Community Concert Series.
John started piano lessons in third grade with Lola B. Wilkinson and continued with her until he graduated from Lodi Academy in 1963. In his junior year he was invited to sing in the Lodians, a select choral group at Lodi, directed by William Murphy. He served as student conductor of the group in his senior year.
Although earlier in his academy years he was thinking of being a meteorologist, by the time he enrolled at Pacific Union College he had decided to pursue music teaching as a career. He enrolled in the music program with piano as his performing area and graduated in 1968 with a B.S. degree in music education.
In 1969 he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he distinguished himself as a medic in the Vietnam War. For his service he was awarded a Silver Star, Purple Heart, and Combat Medical Badge. In 1997 he was presented with his burial flag, a rare honor given to only a few.
He married Janet Lundeen, an accomplished singer, in 1972. Janet had attended Lodi and Rio Lindo academies before enrolling at Pacific Union College. She then transferred to Walla Walla College, now University, where she completed a speech major and music minor. While she has since worked in public relations at two Adventist hospitals and at Auburn Adventist Academy, she chose primarily to be a stay-at-home mother to their two sons, John and Jason.
Neumann had been directing the church choir at the Canoga Park SDA Churc and in 1974, he was asked to teach music at San Fernando Valley Academy. He remained in that position for the next three years. While there, he completed an M.Mus. in choral music at the University of Southern California in 1977. He particularly enjoyed his work with Chares C. Hirt, later observing,
I cannot thank the good Lord enough for this man. USC isn’t known as a Christian university, but this man was a fine Christian influence. He was the major influence in my musical life, my approach to music, my interpretation of music, my methodology of achieving choral tone, etc. It was Dr. Hirt who introduced me to the concept that when we sing and make music, we are joining with the countless multitudes of God’s created universe in an unending flow of praise to Him. We have the opportunity of doing something heavenly while here on earth.
While at SFVA, the Neumanns sang under Robert Shaw, performing the Verdi and Berlioz Requiems at the Hollywood Bowl.
Following two years at the PUC Preparatory School, where he taught music, photography and Bible, Neumann directed the choral program and taught lessons and photography classes at Blue Mountain Academy in Pennsylvania from 1979 to 1983. During this time, he was hired as bass section leader at Trinity Lutheran Church in nearby Reading.
Neumann and his family returned to the West Coast, where he directed the choral program at Upper Columbia Academy in Washington state for four years. He was invited to Singapore and taught at Far Eastern Academy for two years and then stayed a third year to present music seminars for the Singapore Mission. During these three years, he guest conducted the National Symphonic Band of Singapore and did some choral consulting for the National University of Singapore.
Upon returning to the U.S., he taught music in the elementary school and the academy for a year at Armona Union Academy in California and then accepted direction of the choral program at Auburn Adventist Academy as well as the church choir at Auburn First United Methodist Church in 1991. For the next eighteen years, he directed an outstanding program, concentrating during the last fifteen mostly on sacred choral music. His groups were praised for their collegiate sound and were invited to sing every Christmas in the rotunda of the Washington state capitol building. Neumann received the Zapara Excellence in Teaching award for his work at AAA.
His choirs toured and performed in Thailand, Singapore, Canada, Alaska, California, Florida, and throughout the Pacific Northwest. In choral adjudications they consistently received highest ratings. He recently observed, "I chose to eliminate the word 'performance' from our vocabulary as it tends to focus on the person singing rather than on the message. I preferred to refer to what we did as 'ministry,' focusing our attention on the needs of a congregation, to convey the text and the spiritual/emotional meaning of its message."
Hymns had a central place in Neumann’s life. A hymn by his paternal great-grandfather, Johannas Rheinhardt, an amateur musician/hymn writer, "Komm Heim" (Come Home) was published in the German hymnal Zionslieder. "We Give This Child to You," No. 379 in the current SDA Church Hymnal, with verses by Carol Mayes and music by Wayne Hooper, was written for and dedicated to Neumann’s first-born son, John.
Neumann retired at the end of the 2009 school year and resided in the College Place, Washington, area. In his retirement, he served as a mentor for beginning music teachers, devoted more time to photography, and learning wood working, and getting reacquainted with his family. John was living in College Place, when he died on June 26, 2019, at age 73. He was survived by Janet and their two sons, John and Joel.
Sources: IAMA Biography Information Form provided by John Neumann and e-mail exchanges with Dan Shultz in 2010 and December 2013, Personal knowledge. I was a friend and colleague of John for many years