Leland F. Quinn

1929 -

Leland F. Quinn taught music for 22 years in a forty-year teaching career. An adept player and teacher of brass and woodwinds, all of his music teaching happened in the Northwest.

Quinn was born in Hagerman, New Mexico, and spent his childhood in southern Oregon. Although his mother played piano and sang and his father played violin, they were not accomplished performers. His father loved music and arranged for the children to take lessons.

Leland started piano lessons in the second grade and practiced on a folding organ at home. In the sixth grade, he had a couple of lessons on the baritone (euphonium) and then taught himself until the family moved to Bend, Oregon, where he studied with a retired band director.

He attended Columbia Academy in Washington and played in the band, a group directed by the Bible teacher. Because the same easy music was played from year to year, he started playing on an old trombone someone had given him part way through academy, wanting to "spice up" the experience.

After graduating from CA in 1948, he enrolled at Walla Walla College, now University, hoping to major in music on the baritone. He was told ahead of time that it was not a major instrument and he needed to play the trombone. Hoping to improve his ability on that instrument, he joined a city band that summer.

He studied with Clarence Trubey, band director, and played in the band and a brass ensemble. He later talked about that experience, a problem that developed, and how it was resolved:

In switching from the baritone with its smaller cup mouthpiece to the trombone with its larger mouthpiece with a sharp rim, I ended up with problems. I had been taught to play with pressure to get high notes, and in earlier lessons I had never been told to play differently.

When I got to college I practiced four hours a day and played in a very fine brass quartet. This much playing proved to be my undoing and before the end of the second semester, I was unable to play. After a summer of rest, I still had a problem. That was the end of my trombone playing.

I switched to clarinet and graduated a year later than planned because of the earlier problems. I ended up joining with two other majors to give two recitals to satisfy the recital requirement. In my senior year, the music teacher in Pendleton got sick, and I directed the band for the rest of that year. Although I was hired to teach there the next year, I was drafted into the army and ended up playing clarinet in the band at Fort Lewis.

He was discharged from the army early in 1955. He drove a lumber truck for Harris Pine through the summer and started teaching that fall at Gem State Academy in Idaho. In 1957 he returned to WWC, funded by the GI Bill, where John J. Hafner, who was now directing the band, had him teach the brass and woodwind lessons for the college and academy. He also directed the band in three nearby elementary schools, and the academy choir, the latter being an ensemble with a track record for troublemaking. It was an impossible assignment, and by the end of the year, Quinn decided he never wanted to teach again.

He turned to painting that summer, a family trade, but in late summer, the principal in one of the grade schools he had been teaching at in the previous year approached him about teaching third, fourth, and fifth grades and continuing to direct their band. He found that experience enjoyable and continued for another year. Although invited to teach seventh and eighth grade and serve as principal the next year, he declined.

He instead went to Seattle Junior Academy, where he taught for three years, doing classroom music in grades one through six, directing the band, and giving private lessons. He recalls,

Shortly after I arrived, the Home and School leader came to me and asked if I could do something for one of their meetings. I told her I would have the beginner's band, a group that had only started one month earlier, give a concert. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the sight of students who had just started playing actually giving a concert. From the beginning of their instruction, I insisted on in-tune playing, so the overall sound was really pretty good.

By the time I left Seattle, the spirit and morale in the band was very high. Rehearsals were held in the chapel. If two students arrived early they would begin to play one of the songs and others would join in so that when it was time for the start of the warm-up in rehearsal, they were already enjoying themselves. The whole experience in Seattle was one of the most rewarding of my career.

During his last year at SJA, Quinn had to take over the band at Auburn when its regular director was drafted into the army. He traveled to AA two evenings a week and did well enough that he was invited to direct the group beginning the next year. Although he at first declined, they persisted and he eventually accepted the invitation. He started teaching in the fall of 1963 and stayed there for the next six years.

When he left AA, he became full-time music teacher at nearby Buena Vista Elementary School, teaching classroom music in the first six grades and directing the beginners and advanced bands. The direction of the bands had actually been part of his load at AA.

While taking graduate study in the summers, he had become acquainted with the Kodaly Method of instruction and now used it in his classroom music classes with great success.

The work at Buena Vista proved to be a tremendous experience. By using the Kodaly method I had all the first graders singing in tune and with some harmony within three months. Each of the first four grades was in a different room, so learning differences were easily accommodated. In the fourth grade I introduced the students to recorders.

With the Kodaly method I could stand up there with my hands and give them a certain signal and they would respond with the correct sound. They could also take the songbooks they used in worship and play music in them with their recorders. Having learned to read rhythm in the Kodaly Method, they could read at sight songs they did not know. I was looking forward to having these students in my beginning band, where all I would have to do is teach them an instrument since they already knew the rudiments and could play in tune.

During his fourth year at BVES, however, the conference decided it was not fair that only one school should have this experience and told him he would have to add two schools to his teaching in the next year. That meant that for two days a week he would not be at BVES, which would weaken what was happening there. Troubled by that reality, and not being able to buy another car to do the traveling, he decided to leave in 1972.

While attending school at WWC that summer, where he was taking education classes to satisfy certification requirements, Tri-Cities Junior Academy asked him to come and do their band and choir. After three years TCJA, the school decided that no band lessons would be allowed during school hours, and he left.

That summer, he accepted an elementary school teaching position in Farmington, Washington. When they went to Farmington, relations between the community and SDAs were not the best. He and his wife, who started to assist him by teaching grades one through three, reached out and began doing good deeds for others, and a real bond developed between them and the community.

The music program flourished, and some of the non-Adventist community started coming out to the music programs. They had a talented group and were able to develop a good music program, even performing Johnny Appleseed, an operetta which was good enough that the Farmington church thought it should be done at Upper Columbia Academy. The Quinns were in Farmington five years, the longest tenure to that time of any teacher. They left because his mother-in-law's health necessitated that they be nearer medical care.

They then taught in the elementary grades in schools in Oregon, Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, before retiring in 1993 and returning to the Northwest where they now reside.


Sources: Interview, 2008; personal knowledge.