Margaret Grace Moline (Yakovenko) Young
1915 - 1999
Margaret Moline Young was a talented pianist and choir director who taught in three Seventh-day Adventist colleges during her career. She was known for her musical sensitivity and ability to inspire students to memorable performances of significant choral masterpieces.
Margaret was born in Tofield, Alberta, Canada, the youngest of four children of Peter Olaf and Anna Paterson Moline. Anna had grown up in a cultured home in Sweden and was a nurse in Stockholm when she accompanied her aunt one summer on a visit to Canada. While there, she met Peter, a young Swedish homesteader, and they married soon after. Anna wanted her children to have piano lessons, and in spite of living on a farm far removed from cultural opportunities, she transported them forty miles into Edmonton each week for lessons, regardless of the weather.
Margaret attended Canadian Junior College (later Canadian Union College and then Canadian University College), where she received first-class honors when she passed the intermediate music history examinations at the Toronto Conservatory. She transferred to Pacific Union College, completing a B.A. in music in 1943, and subsequently completed an M.A. in speech at the University of Southern California.
While completing her master's degree, she also studied piano in Los Angeles with Ethel Leginska, an experience paid for by Margaret's sister, Astrid, a nurse at the White Memorial Hospital. In later years, she would describe her experience with Leginska as a frightening one. Although she was very strict and preparation for a lesson with her would sometimes lead to tears over perfecting a technical passage, Leginska could become ecstatic over a passage played perfectly. Even though the experience was often stressful, Margaret felt it was a privilege to have studied with her.
To earn money to pay for her school expenses, she started canvassing (selling Adventist books) on horseback at age sixteen and continued canvassing for ten summers while attending CJC, PUC, and USC.
Moline returned to CUC as a faculty member in 1946, where she taught music appreciation and speech, gave lessons on piano and violin, and conducted the choirs for the next three years. Yvonne Bechthold Tetz later remembered her as "such a genteel lady with such talent, composure (tact and patience!). The latter is prompted by memories of our CUC church school choir and Gr 9 music appreciation class!"
Many of the college students were older, having returned from the war to finish school, and more than one young man had his eye on this new choir teacher, described many years later in a recollection by Joanne Herman Oliver: "I remember her young beautiful face, how her eyes gleamed when she smiled. . . . She had a lot of class - by any era’s standards."
Of course, tradition and protocol of the day prohibited any chances of romance. However, when CUC president E.E. Bietz learned that Alex Yakovenko’s favorite aunt was his cousin, Bietz encouraged Alex to pursue his interest in Margaret, and they were married in 1948.
Ralph Coupland, a high school student then at CUC and later her successor as choir director at Oshawa Missionary College (now Kingsway College), attributes his appreciation for the power and beauty of choral music to "the inspired and artistic performances of the CUC Choir" under her direction. Any who sang in her choirs still carry in their ear the songs "There is a Balm in Gilead," "A Song of Heaven and Homeland," and "My God and I."
While at CUC, Margaret also played an important role in overcoming the prejudice against Adventists and CUC that existed in that region at the time. In 1959 an article by J. M. Hnatyshyn on the front page of the Canadian Union Messenger related the following:
Ten years ago the Canadian Union College choir under the direction of Margaret Moline-Young was able to sing over the air in Red Deer, Alberta. This was Red Deer's first and recently established radio station. It was the owner's policy to sell no time for religious broadcasts. An hour on Sunday was given to religion and that time was donated to the Council of Churches. The Seventh-day Adventist Church was refused permission to take part in these broadcasts.
Elder Don Neufeld and Gordon Balharrie were anxious to gain entrance on this station, which was located near our college. . . . Together with Mrs. Young they interviewed the manager and requested him to broadcast a choir concert to be sung in the United Church in Red Deer. They were not aware that the owner was the former manager of one of Alberta's largest radio stations over which the Canadian Union College choir had sung three years earlier. Immediately, the manager recognized her and said they would be happy to handle the broadcast.
The program was advertised heavily, and when it was over, they were told they had performed for the largest audience ever to attend a concert in that community. Soon after that the radio station established a remote control station at the college and gave them free time on a weekly basis.
In 1950 Margaret and Alex moved to Angwin, California, so that Alex could complete a degree at Pacific Union College. During their first year there, she assisted J. Wesley Rhodes in the choral program. In the fall of 1951, William Sowers, a teacher at CUC who had just accepted the presidency of Oshawa Missionary College in Ontario, Canada, and who had been impressed with Margaret's work with the CUC choirs, prevailed upon her to come to conduct OMC's choir and also offered Alex employment as manager of the College Woodwork furniture factory.
In November, with first-born daughter, Patricia, only six weeks old, the Yakovenkos left California and drove across the United States to Oshawa Missionary College, braving the cold winter weather and taking turns running in to eat at roadside diners while the other stayed with the baby in the warm car with the engine running. Now grown, Patricia recently related an incident on that trip east which she had heard told many times since:
The characteristic kind and unselfish ways of my mother were again demonstrated when, driving through Detroit, my hockey-player dad found out that the Red Wings were playing his favorite team, Toronto Maple Leafs, in Olympia Stadium that day. Knowing how badly he wanted to see the game, mother cheerfully insisted he try to get in. They found a parking spot on a side street near the stadium, and yes, he got to watch a couple periods while she stayed in the car with me (again keeping the engine running to stay warm) in an apparently much safer 1950s Detroit!
For the first several years at OMC they lived in a small apartment in the girls’ dorm where little "Patsy" would sometimes wander the halls of her extended home, making friends with all the girls. Several former OMC choir members have remarked to Patricia how they remember her sitting on her daddy’s lap on the front row in church while her mother directed the choir, her ever-watchful eye on Patsy from the platform during the sermon. Four years later their second child, Richard, was born, and it was then they changed their name from Yakovenko to Young.
For eight years Margaret directed the choirs, firmly establishing a choral legend at OMC which would continue with her successor, Ralph Coupland. When Coupland took over the choirs, Patricia relates:
My brother, Richard, was about four years old, and as was our custom, we continued to sit on the front row every Sabbath at church. He was an observant little boy and liked to watch Mr. Coupland direct the choir. Richard would try to copy his conducting, saying, "Look mommy! I can make my pants wiggle like Mr. Coupland’s!" Ralph was Richard’s inspiration, though later, in his elementary through college years at Pacific Union College, Richard’s musical forte turned out to be violin - and also percussion under the expert tutelage of Carlyle Manous, who invited him, as a grade five elementary school student, to join the college’s outstanding percussion ensemble. Often he was hidden on stage behind the large instruments, but he was one with the college kids, not at all fazed by the intricate timing and rhythms. It was violin by fate; percussion by choice.
In 1960 the Youngs returned to California, where Alex completed his degree in industrial arts at PUC. For a short time, Margaret worked nights at the St. Helena Sanitarium and Hospital as a nurse aid. Later, when Alex could be home with the children, she canvassed part time in the evenings with fellow Canadian Eva Easterbrook, wife of former OMC student and later Kingsway College president Bill Easterbrook.
Margaret also shared shifts with Della Bigham, wife of former CJC student Ervin Bigham, as a nighttime companion and aid to Miss Sara Peck, Ellen White’s secretary, then in her late 90s. These jobs helped support the family during the time that Alex continued with graduate study.
Alex subsequently taught wood shop for thirty years at a junior high school in Vallejo--a much-loved teacher in his own right - and commuted eighty miles round trip so that the family could continue to live in Angwin where the children would have access to music at PUC and its supportive schools. During that time, Margaret assisted for a couple of years in the PUC elementary school choir program, but because of the commitment involved, she limited her teaching in their early school years so that she could stay home with her children.
Impressed by PUC violin teacher Ivylyn Traver's work as a teacher of young children, Margaret started both Patricia and Richard in violin lessons with Miss Traver and worked closely with them as they practiced. When they were older, she gave more time to coaching Ivylyn Traver’s students, sharing a studio in PUC's Paulin Hall with Anita Ford, an adjunct faculty member, and also teaching a few piano students gratis in her home when their parents couldn’t afford to pay for lessons otherwise.
Patricia would later recall their childhood musical experience with Ivylyn Traver, commenting on how playing the violin became an important part of her life:
In the fall of 1960, shortly after we arrived in California, my parents attended a Canadian reunion on the PUC campus where part of the entertainment was a string ensemble of young students who played remarkably well. Mother, being very perceptive, was so impressed with their playing and the obvious quality of teaching which had led to that level of performance that she went to the teacher, Ivylyn Traver, the following Monday and signed up both of us to start violin lessons.
Mother would become a very important part of the lives of many of Ivylyn's students. She and Ivylyn worked together for years, with mother coaching and assisting in that program. She had a talent of being able to verbally communicate to the children the mechanics of playing and how to get the many tonal qualities and sounds that Ivylyn would encourage in their lessons. Mother was the coach and Ivylyn was the teacher.
Even though music is not the career path I chose, I can’t imagine life without playing the violin. My childhood ensemble-playing experience with Ivylyn Traver turned out to be invaluable in my subsequent years of orchestral and chamber music playing. From the youngest of students, she taught us the art of ensemble playing. When I came to Andrews University as a student in 1974, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study with LeRoy Peterson, who helped me significantly in improving my tone and sound. I have played in ensembles and orchestras for over forty years, the last 37 of which have been at Andrews University, where I am privileged to be the longest-standing member of its university orchestras.
In 1987 Margaret and Alma Lushik Kravig, accompanist for the choirs in 1947, were invited back to CUC for Heritage Homecoming to conduct a reunion choir, an annual event for alumni and also in that year a celebration of the school's 80th anniversary. She was invited back for another Heritage Homecoming a decade later, in 1997, but was unable to attend.
Margaret and Alex were living in Angwin when she died two years later, at age 83 - her life ending on the same day that her first grandchild, Annika Young, was born. As her former CUC student, Joanne Herman Oliver, said in a tribute written to Margaret’s family:
She was able to make us sing like angels even though none of us had background. And when she taught us choral music, . . . she always emphasized the spiritual message to us - not only the ‘how’ of choral music, but the ‘"why." The memory of singing on the hillside by the lake on Sabbath - "The Song of Heaven and Homeland" - an outstanding experience . . . . How influential are teachers in the lives of the young. She did well, there.
Sources: Interview with and additional information provided in response to initial copy by Patricia Anna Young, August 2011; Canadian Union Messenger, 8 April 1953, 83 (Peter Olaf Moline obituary); 2 April 1935, 7; 3 October 1945, 11; 22 June 1949, 7; 4 March 1959, Hnatyshyn, "Music Opens Doors," 1; 9 November 1960, 359; September 1987, 10; February 2000 , 27 (Margaret Moline Young obituary); Letters to the Youngs from Yvonne Bechtel Tetz, and Joanne Herman Oliver, at the time of Margaret Young's death, December 1999; Pacific Union Recorder, 18 July 1966, 6 (Peter Yakovenko obituary, name change); The Youth's Instructor, 10 July 1948, 13; Nicolas Slonimsky, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, eighth edition (Leginska), 1028.