Margarita Leonor Dietel Merriman

1927 -

Margarita Merriman, Professor Emeritus of Music at Atlantic Union College, received her B.Mus. from the University of Chattanooga, now the University of Tennessee, in piano performance and both the M.Mus. and Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music in music theory.

The only child of Victor Ernest and Mary Belle Holder Dietel, Margarita was born on November 30, 1927 in Barcelona, Spain, where her parents had been serving as missionaries. Because health problems necessitated her mother returning to the U.S., from eighteen months until she was ten, Margarita lived in Takoma Park, Maryland, where her mother taught Modern Languages at Takoma Academy and Washington Missionary College, now Washington Adventist University.  Both of her parents were musical, her mother being a pianist and her father a trombonist and string bass player.

In 1937 her mother was invited to teach Modern Languages at Southern Junior College, later Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University, in Collegedale, Tennessee. Margarita attended grade school and academy there, continued her study in music on piano and cello, and started music study at SJC. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Chattanooga in 1948. She recently talked about her experiences in music and the teachers that inspired her during that time:

When I was twelve, my mother made arrangements for me to study with Elsie Landon, later Buck, who was finishing her diploma at Southern. Although I had started piano earlier, Elsie’s enthusiasm and instruction proved to be truly inspiring and led me to pursue music as a career. She praised my progress in playing and also encouraged me when I shared with her short compositions I had written.

When she left at the end of that first year of study, I studied with Harold Miller, who was an inspiration both as a person and teacher. At the end of a year with him, he left for three years to teach at Pacific Union and Union colleges.  When he returned, I again studied with him for another year. During Miller’s absence I had studied with Harold Cadek, who taught at the music conservatory affiliated with the University of Chattanooga. After graduating from the two-year program at Southern, I transferred to the university and resumed lessons with Cadek until I graduated. All three of these persons were critically important in guiding my musical development. 

Following graduation from UC, Dietel served as director of music at Shenandoah Valley Academy for three years before joining the music faculty in 1951 at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, where she taught piano and some classes until 1956. After her marriage to Houston Merriman in 1956, she was an adjunct theory teacher at Southern Missionary College for three semesters before returning to Eastman to complete the doctorate she had started before her marriage.

In 1959 Merriman joined Atlantic Union College, where for four decades she taught theory, composition, and other classes in music and the humanities. For six years she served as music department chair and later was Honor Core Program Coordinator for another six years. After officially retiring, she continued to assist the college and the Thayer Performing Arts Center in various capacities. She also currently serves as organist at a Lutheran church, a position she has held for over a decade.

While working on graduate degrees at Eastman, Merriman took most of the offered composition courses. Her teachers included Louis Mennini, Herbert Elwell, Wayne Barlow, Bernard Rogers, and Alan Hovhaness. For her doctoral dissertation she composed a symphony which was read under the baton of Howard Hanson and later performed by the Thayer Symphony and the Redlands Symphony orchestras under the baton of Jon Robertson. Other major works include a second symphony; an oratorio, The Millennium; and a piano concerto.

Merriman\'s creativity led her to oil painting and poetry during her teenage years. Her poem "Collegedale Forever," written in her freshman year of college, served as lyrics to the school song as long as Southern Missionary College went by that name. She has written three books, Unleashed, a novel written under the pseudonym Leon Orr; A New Look at Sixteenth Century Counterpoint;  The first was printed in 1979 by the Southern Publishing Association and the latter in 1982 by the University Press of America. Her most recent book, Musical Musings of a Nonagenarian was published in1990. She has also penned a number of articles for Adventist publications.

The Merrimans, who resided in Lancaster, Massachusetts, ran Atlantic Funding, a commercial brokerage firm for loans, privately held notes, and accounts receivable. It was an A+ rated organization with the Better Business Bureau in Massachusetts.

They have two children and three grandchildren. Their son, Harold L. Merriman, a graduate of Atlantic Union College, Andrews University, and Loma Linda University, is a tenured associate professor at the University of Dayton in Ohio, where he is the General Medicine Coordinator for the doctor of physical therapy program. Their daughter, Merri Lynn Braman, is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant who works at the Clinton Hospital in Clinton, Massachusetts.


Sources: Information provided by Margarita Merriman, 2003 and 2012; U.S. Consular Reports of Birth, 1910-1949; New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957; 1930- Washington Missionary College student newspaper, The Sligonian; Personal Knowledge.



Music by Margarita Dietel Merriman

CHORAL [Minutes]

Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Dwelling Place (1951) [3]                                  

Psalm Twenty-four (1964) TTBB [3]                                                                              

Behold, the Tabernacle of God (1967) [5]                               

What Is This Lovely Fragrance? (1971) [6]                                                     

To Him that Overcometh (1972) SSA [10]                                                        

Millennium (1973) Oratorio [42]                                                               

In Memorium (1988) [3]



Music I Heard with You (1955) [3]                                                                                  

Dearest, It Is Spring (1956) [3]                                                                            

I Hoed and Trenched and Weeded (1958) [3]                                                 

The Night Is Freezing Fast (1958) [3]                                                                

Expectation (1965) [6]                                                                                           

Tunnels and Sidewalks (1974) Cycle [13]                                                       

What Are Years? (1988) [3]                                                                                  

Soarings (1990) Cycle [9]                                                                                     

Ah! Seigneur, qu\'ai-je? (1996) [3]                                                                      

A Sabbath Prayer (2003) [5]



Stylistic Variations on "Three Blind Mice" (1950) [5]                                               

Currents (1969) [8]                                                                                                 

Piano Sonata (1974) [14]



Variations on “Victory” (1971) [6]

Fantasy on St. Anne (1997)[3]

Postlude on “O God, Our Help” (1982) [2]                                                                                           

Meditation on “Repton” (2005) [2]         

Meditation on “Rustington” (2006) [2] 

Service on “Laast uns Erfreun” (2006) [9] Prelude, Offertory, Postlude                                                                                                            


Sonata for Cello and Piano (1973) [12]

Dialogue for Cello and Percussion (1976) [5]  

Quinary (1976) Brass Quintet [7] 

Introduction and Rondo for Four Cellos (1980) [11]

The Excluded (1981) Sop, Vln., Vc., Pf. [7]       

Lament for the Peacekeepers (1984) [11]        

Trio for Piano, Cello & Double Bass (1984) [13]



Andante for Strings (1953) [5]    

Pavane and Galliard (1955) [8]   

Piece for Chamber Orchestra (1957) [4]

Adagio for Small Orchestra (1958) [5]

Symphony No. 1 (1958) [20]

1776 Overture (1975) [10]

Concertante for Horn & Chamber Orchestra (1976) [8]

Symphony No. 2 (1981) [25]

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1993) [25]