Melvin S. Hill


Melvin Hill spent most of his career at Union College where he chaired the music department from 1960 to 1969. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Hill began French horn study at an early age. After graduating from Withrow High School, he attended Andrews University for two years before serving in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He enrolled at La Sierra College (now university) in 1945 as the war ended and completed a B.A. in music in 1947.

That fall Hill started his teaching career at Newbury Park Academy in California, where he taught for the next four years. While there he worked on a master's degree in music at the University of Southern California, completing it in 1953.

The year before he completed his master's degree, he had moved to Lodi Academy, where he taught until 1957. At that time he accepted a position at Pacific Union College to direct the band program. Two years later, he completed a DMA at USC and was nominated into Pi Kappa Lambda, national music honor society. His dissertation was "A History of Music Education in Seventh-day Adventist Colleges."

In 1960 Hill was invited to conduct the band and chair the music department at Union College. Aware of Melvin West's efforts to gain accreditation for Walla Walla College's music program with the National Association of Schools of Music, Hill immediately set about to do the same at UC. In 1965, he succeeded, when UC, after WWC, became the second Adventist college to achieve that distinction.

While at UC, he increased the music faculty, oversaw an expansion of the music facility, and updated and expanded the department's inventory of instruments. In addition to conducting the band, he participated and led out in chamber music activities and started a French Horn Ensemble. An organized and efficient administrator, Hill was a pragmatist, known for his candor and for his follow-through with projects. He was highly regarded at UC for his accomplishments.

In 1969, he and his wife Jean Moncrieff, a gifted artist with a master's degree in art and an accomplished violinist and pianist, moved to Pacific Union College, he to chair the music department and she to teach art. Hill immediately set out to gain NASM accreditation for PUC's music program. He accomplished that goal in 1971, becoming one of a select few music administrators to have successfully led two schools to accreditation with NASM.

Hill was particularly interested in foreign and ancient music instruments and did extensive research on Basque recorders. A woodworker, he also constructed a harpsichord.

For several years, Hill served in the summers as the music director of a camp in Ohio. He also directed and adjudicated bands and orchestras in numerous festivals, both in the Adventist school system and in public schools.

In December 1973, he and his wife were enroute to Australia, where he was to conduct a music festival at Avondale College, when they stopped for a visit to the Fiji Islands where he had served in WW II. While in a boat traveling between two islands in that group, 100 mile-an-hour cyclone winds suddenly arose, capsizing the boat in shark-infested waters. Although 41 of the passengers survived, 54 others, including the Hills perished.

In the memorial service held at PUC, the Hills were praised for their high ideals and friendliness, and for their dedication to their two children, Douglas and Pamela, their friends, and the arts. His ability to listen and his eagerness to help solve problems were noted, she was singled out for her cheerfulness and sense of humor.



Sources: National Association of Schools of Music Faculty Record Report, 1972 (Pacific Union College); Union College1974 Music Clinic Festival, February 6-9 printed program, Memorial Tribute; "Two Teachers Feared Lost in Storm," Pacific Union Recorder, 7 January 1974, 7; N.P. Clapham, "Two Talented Lives Lost in Fiji," Australasian Record and Advent World Survey, 1; 25 February 1974"Cargo Ship Sinks, 2 Locals Missing," unknown source; Memorial Program, Pacific Union College, 12 January 1973; Personal Knowledge.