Marilyn Jean Anderson-Jorgensen

1928 - 2021

Marilyn Jorgensen, a woodwind player and conductor, taught music at six schools in a career that spanned more than sixty years. An award-winning teacher, she was known for her success in building thriving music programs at both the elementary and academy level.

Marilyn was born December 20, 1928, in Janesville, Wisconsin, one of three children of Elmer and Helen Kidder Anderson. She began piano lessons at an early age and started playing clarinet in elementary school, in each instance studying with teachers at Milton College, paying a dollar for each lesson.

Although Marilyn would be the only child to pursue a career in music, all of the children had opportunities because of their father's interest in and support of music. Marilyn would later write about his efforts on their behalf and her early experiences in music:

We had a good church school but no music was offered, so my dad arranged that those of us who wanted to join the high school band program could leave school to play with its band. We had an unusual situation since the town was predominately Seventh-day Baptists and Adventists. So all the foot ball games and music contests were held on Thursday, making it possible for us to get involved in marching band and contests.

I spent several weeks at a music camp at the University of Wisconsin while in elementary school. My dad had had some music but wanted his kids to be more involved. He was very supportive of a Sabbath School orchestra and made sure we were in it. We had a lot going on for a small town and also had a very good church school with a supportive church. Many denominational leaders would come from this small school.

My church school teacher, May Brodersen, let me accompany on the piano when we sang. I first started with the right hand and then added the left. We also had a rhythm band and I was the director! I was the only student in my fifth through eighth grade years. It was a wonderful time in my life and undoubtedly great for learning!

I took up oboe in eighth grade but played clarinet at Bethel Academy, now Wisconsin Academy, where we had a wonderful music teacher, Louise Larmon, who encouraged me in a very personal way. The Hamels lived down the road and lent their musical influence. When Lyle Hamel returned from military service, he came and played in the band with us. His father, M. [Mahlon] G. Hamel, who directed bands in the district, invited us to play solos in the music competitions for the public school bands.

Marilyn's interest in being a music teacher started early, and following graduation from Bethel Academy in 1946, she planned on taking a two-year college program. Her father, however, insisted she take a four-year program and earn a degree so that she could teach music. She attended Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, and graduated in 1950 with a B.A. with majors in music, English, history, and education. She married classmate Carl Warren Jorgensen that summer.

The Jorgensens' first appointments was at Oak Park Academy in Iowa, where he served as boys' dean and she taught music. During their five years there she built a flourishing band program that involved fifty students. In 1955 they accepted positions at Broadview Academy in Illinois, where he served as principal and she conducted the band program and gave piano and organ lessons. During their seven years at BVA, she attended the Vandercook College of Music in Chicago, where she completed an M.Mus.Ed. in 1962.

In 1962 the Jorgensens moved to California, where he again served as principal and she was in charge of the band program and taught organ at Monterey Bay Academy. Seven years later they accepted an invitation to work at Auburn Adventist Academy, where he would serve as principal and she as director of the choral program for the next ten years.

When Carl became education director of the Upper Columbia Conference, headquartered in Spokane, Washington, in 1979, Marilyn was hired by nearby Sandpoint Junior Academy to direct its choir, band, and handbell programs and also by Spokane Valley SDA Elementary School to lead its choir, band, and handbell program. Music programs at both schools flourished under her direction.

Even though Jorgensen retired from her work at SJA in 2001, she continued to direct the ensembles at the Spokane school. She was highly praised for her work throughout her career and received a Zapara Excellence in Teaching Award and the Alma McKibbon Sabbatical Award. The latter enabled her, accompanied by her brother, Paul Anderson, to take a trip to Europe, where she visited famous composers' homes. Following her retirement and while still teaching part-time, she observed,

I wanted to be a music teacher from my earliest years. When my dad insisted I should go to college for four instead of two years, I decided then to be a music teacher and have never regretted that decision. I like to tell people I have never worked a day in my life - for I love what I do!  And that is why I am still teaching part time.

She was living in Irvine, California, when she died on October 7, 2021, at age 92. She was survived by a daughter, Barbara Thomason; son-in-law, Gary Thomason; and two grandchildren.


Sources: Information provided by Marilyn Jorgensen, September 2011; Online Sources; NPU Gleaner, January/February 2022, 51; personal knowledge.