Marvin Vincent Ponder
Marvin Ponder, a tenor, is an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister who has also enjoyed a successful career as a singer of both folk and religious music. He is widely known within the Adventist community, having sung on college and university campuses and for numerous evangelistic and other church meetings as a soloist and as a member of several quartets and vocal ensembles.
Marvin was born in Galveston, Texas, one of three children born to Bernard W. and Ethel Mae Vincent Ponder. When he was five, his family moved to La Marque, Texas, where he spent most of his childhood. Marvin recently recalled the influence his father had on his musical training:
My Dad had grown up playing the guitar and singing in East Texas with his three brothers in the Ponder Brothers Band, a country music group. Although they never became professional, they sang all over east Texas. He brought music into our home when we were just children and taught me to play the ukulele when I was six. I began performing with him and my sister, Patsy, at various church and civic gatherings.
When I became a teenager, I graduated to the guitar, and played and sang with a local teen rock n' roll band, "The Markees." We sang in the south Texas area for a short time and while in this group I had my first experience with recording music. It was a "one-hit wonder" type of group that didnít last very long when everyone started separating to go off to college.
Marvin attended the local high school until the end of his junior year, when he went to the academy on the campus at Southwestern Junior College, now Southwestern Adventist University, in Keene, Texas, to complete his senior year. During that year he had his first experience in choral singing. He recently observed,
I joined the college choir and The Choraliers, the traveling choral group for the college, directed by Paul Hill. Paul had a tremendous influence in my life during my time at Keene, opening up all kinds of new possibilities in music, sacred and otherwise. Although I never took any formal voice lessons from him, he helped me develop in my solo performance as well as ensemble singing. It was during this time that I joined the college quartet, The Knights of Harmony, as their second tenor. We sang all over the Southwest, representing the college, and later we all went to Union College, where we continued to sing.
When we arrived at Union College in 1963, the choir director refused to let us join any of the choral groups on campus unless we disbanded the quartet. So we opted to keep the quartet. Unfortunately, the result was I never really sang in any of the formal choral groups at Union, which was a real loss to me in terms of further vocal training and experience. In an ironic twist, the college public relations department recruited us to travel throughout the Northern and Central Unions to sing and promote the college. Although we sang mostly gospel music, we also sang barbershop music as well, as we visited churches and academies.
In 1961 Ponder joined with Herman Harp, baritone in the quartet, to form a folk-singing duo, The Discords. Folk music was popular at this time in the U.S., and they traveled and performed on college and university campuses in hootenannies and folk singing festivals, modeling their presentation of music and banter after that of the then popular Smothers Brothers duo. They would continue as a folk-singing duo until the early 1970s.
When Ponder had enrolled at SWJC in 1962 following graduation from academy, he had pursued a major in theology and a minor in Biblical languages. Following his transfer to UC in 1963 and graduation in 1966, he continued his education at Andrews University, where he completed an M.Div. in 1968. For the next four years he pastored churches in the Texas Conference, working in youth evangelism, conducting weeks of prayer at Adventist schools, and participating in youth rallies, Bible conferences, and evangelism. He was ordained as a minister in the summer of 1972.
That fall, he became campus chaplain at Union College, a position he held for the next five years. While at UC, he and Harp began collaborating with Gene and Marie Jennings of Nashville, Tennessee, becoming known as Ponder, Harp & Jennings. From 1974 to 1996 they gave concerts nationwide and recorded ten gospel music albums. Two of these, Unmerited Favor and Newborn Feeling, won Angel Awards, the first as Best Gospel Group and the second as Best Gospel Album. In 2006, ten years after they had ended their ministry, they reunited for a farewell reunion concert tour.
Ponder has continued singing as a soloist and as worship music leader at the Loma Linda Church, where he has been a member of the pastoral staff since 1977. He has appeared in several of the Family Reunion music videos produced by the Voice of Prophecy and briefly sang in a southern California quartet, Called IV. He also recorded a solo album, Steps.
Ponder married Shirley Huffman, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, in 1966. They have two sons, who are both active as musicians. The older, Christopher, is a bass who sang in the La Sierra University Octet under William Chunestudy and has studied vocal performance with William Carey in New Hampshire. He is an active participant in musicals and opera in that region.
The other son, Jonathan, a tenor and performer of several string instruments, resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is very involved in folk music in that area and is well known as a folk singer and songwriter.
Sources: Information provided by Marvin Ponder, September, 2011; Southwestern Union Record, 1 March 1972, 2; Central Union Reaper, 11 July 1972, 3; Other Online Sources.
Ponder, Harp, and Jennings
Heaven Has Joys, Chapel Records, 1977
All in the Name of Jesus, Chapel Records, 1978
Glory in the Cross, Chapel Records, 1980
Highest Praise, Chapel Records, 1982
Anticipating Good Things, Chapel Records, 1985
Only Jesus, Chapel Records, 1988
Unmerited Favor, Chapel Records, 1990
Best of Ponder, Harp, and Jennings, Chapel Records, 1992
Newborn Feeling, Chapel Records, 1994
Ponder, Harp, and Jennings Live, Reunion Concert, DVD/CD, Loma Linda University Church Media Ministries Department, 2006
Steps, Chapel Records, 1977
Marvin Ponder and Herman Harp +
Homesick For Heaven, Knights of Harmony Quartet, 1962
Green Leaves of Summer, folk music album, 1964
God is So Wonderful, Chapel Records, 1973
Songs of Faith, Book 10, Christian Record, 1975
Songs of Faith, Book 12, Christian Record, 1977