Melia Dinesen Williams
Melia Williams, a singer, flutist, cellist, and conductor, has taught music in Seventh-day Adventist secondary schools for over thirty years. She has enjoyed a distinguished career as a member and conductor of ensembles and as an organizer and director of numerous festivals.
Melia was born and raised in Harlan, Iowa, the youngest of three daughters born to Raymond Christian and Jacqueline Christensen Dinesen. While her father played saxophone in the Harlan City Band, neither parent sang or played the piano. All three of the children were given permission to begin piano lessons at an early age, Melia starting at age six, on the condition that they would not quit.
Although she stopped taking lessons at age fourteen, she had made unusual progress and played as the accompanist for the middle school choir in public school and later, while attending Oak Park Academy in Iowa, accompanied the choir, small ensembles, and soloists. Beginning in the fifth grade, she began study on the flute with the same conditional commitment for continued study.
Melia was a member of the Harlan public school band program for four years, eventually serving as principal flute of the 120-member concert band and as the drum majorette for the marching band in eighth grade. She continued to play flute in the band and was a member of the select choir during her high school years at OPA. She also studied voice with Betty Woodland during her first year there. While at OPA, she was principal flute in both the Northern Union and Union College music festival bands.
While still in grade school, she had decided to be a music teacher. She later recalled how that decision happened:
I clearly remember that the defining moment was in third grade. My oldest sister came to our church with the Oak Park Academy choir, under the direction of Donald Duncan. I remember thinking as I watched and listened, "I want to do that someday." The thought was not that I wanted to sing, but to be the conductor!
Following graduation from OPA in 1974, Dinesen attended Union College, where she registered as a music major in piano and became a participant in the choir and band programs. She started voice lessons with Lynn Wickham in her freshman year and by the end of her third year changed her performance area to voice. She also proved adept at learning other instruments, a talent that has continued throughout her career.
In the summer of 1978 she married fellow music major Christopher Dale Williams, a trombonist and singer. Both were members of the Unionaires, the premier college choral group, and major players in other aspects of the college music program.
Following their graduation from UC in 1980, the Williamses were hired to teach at Dakota Adventist Academy in Bismarck, North Dakota, where she led the choir and he directed the band for the next eight years. They subsequently taught at Platte Valley Academy in Nebraska for three years and at Maplewood Academy in Minnesota for four years, before accepting positions at Campion Academy in Colorado in 1997. For the next five years, she directed the choir and led out in other aspects of the music program while he directed the band.
Beginning in 2002, she assumed direction for the entire academy music program. During her time at CA, she completed a master's degree in music education (MME) at the University of Northern Colorado. In 2012 she accepted a position at Auburn Adventist Academy in Washington state, having taught at Campion for fifteen years, longer than any other music teacher since the school had been founded.
One of her major accomplishments at CA was the expansion of the Rocky Mountain Fine Arts Festival, a program that had been started the year before she arrived as a weekend experience for choir. Under her leadership it grew to include over 400 elementary, intermediate, and secondary students from Adventist, public, and home schools in Colorado who participated in band, choir, handbell, orchestra, and piano ensembles as well as in an art show.
Williams is active as a performing musician, accompanying and playing in chamber ensembles and flute and piccolo or cello in the Loveland Orchestra during her last five years at CA. Additionally, she has been a guest conductor and clinician in festivals in California, Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado. She also recently conducted the Union College Music Festival orchestra.
The Williamses have one son, Brandon Michael, who plays trumpet, string bass, and guitar, as well as other brass instruments. He is presently pursuing a business degree in accounting at UC.
Sources: Information provided by Melia Dinesen Williams, August 2011; Online Sources; personal knowledge.