Orland and Joan Ogden
Orland and Joan Ogden, owners of Ogden Music in Portland, Oregon, were given the Global Award in Adventist education in 2001 for the outstanding support they had provided for music programs in Adventist schools. The award was presented to them by Humberto Rasi of the General Conference Education Department in April at Walla Walla College.
Since 1998 the Ogdens had donated over fourteen organs and thirty pianos, including three 9-foot concert grands, and other instruments worth over $ 1,000,000 in retail value, to three of the Adventist universities in Central and South America. Additionally, many Adventist colleges and academies, as well as churches, have also benefited from the generosity of the Ogdens by being able to purchase instruments at near wholesale cost.
Orland, who died in 2002, spent the early years of his life playing clarinet and saxophone in theater bands, becoming widely known for his playing abilities. Subsequently, he would establish a beauty parlor business in the Salem/Portland area of Oregon, which prospered throughout the Depression years and, with his wife assisting, would engage in a number of other business endeavors. The success of these ventures and in buying and selling real estate enabled them to assist schools and churches in a philanthropic way. Although primarily a businessman, Orland's first love was music.
Mrs. Joan Ogden continues to run the business and since his death assisted schools in South America and Australia. She resides in Aurora, Oregon.
Orland Ogden, whose lifetime spanned the 20th century, began and ended his journey through those years with music. He was born four years after the first airplane flew, when few persons in America had a car and most homes in this country were lit at night by kerosene lamps. The first model T Ford was built and General Motors was formed in the first year of his life; there were five telephones for every 100 people in the United States, and radio did not exist. It was an amazing century, and his journey through that time and how he rode the waves of change is a remarkable story.
It was just another concert in a small town in the Northwest for the John Philip Sousa band during a tour in 1919, but seated in the audience was a short twelve-year-old boy who was totally transfixed by what he was hearing. Within a few days he began study on clarinet, determined to make music his life. Within two years, by the time his parents had moved to the Seattle area where his father would be in charge of the SDA work in the Northwest, he was playing both the clarinet and saxophone.
Since he was the only one who could drive, he was assigned the challenge of driving his parents and a sister through the deserts of central Washington and over the Cascade mountains to their new home. The trip was made in an open Buick with a black canvas fold-down roof. And it was a difficult trip, with numerous flat tires and swirls of dust as they chugged down the road and every so often waited for oncoming cars to pass at one–way sections of the highway.
Although Orland was supposed to attend Western Washington Academy, now Auburn Academy, when he went to enroll, hoping to play both his instruments, the principal told him that the school did not have instrumental groups because these would create problems and encourage a tendency towards sin. Shortly after, he went to a theater in nearby Seattle, where he met the director and asked to audition for a position in the band which played for Vaudeville programs and accompanied silent movies.
He was told to come to the rehearsal at midnight, immediately following the last show. When he arrived, he was told that he would rehearse with the group, but he should be prepared to leave within five to ten minutes. They let him play the entire rehearsal, though, and at its conclusion offered him a job with the group.
After playing for a few months, he successfully auditioned for what was known as a jobbing band, a group of musicians who performed for different occasions in the area. His reputation grew, and in time he was in demand as one of the best lead saxophone players in the Northwest. Eventually, he established his own group, known as Ory Ogden and His Band.
During this time he started working as a salesman in a furniture store during the day. It soon became apparent that he had a gift for choosing furniture in colors and styles customers preferred, and eventually Orland was entrusted with the purchase of furniture for the store . . . and the running of the business.
Following the financial crash in 1929, he got into the beauty business, starting with a beautician school in Eugene, then a beauty salon in the Salem area. By the early 1940's, his business had expanded to include several salons and training schools for beauticians in Oregon, all of which prospered and were highly regarded. He met and married Mary Joan Jungwirth during this time.
Orland had made a promise to his mother when she had in the late 1920's that he would return to the Adventist church. The two busiest times for the beauty business, however, were Friday evenings and Saturdays. When Orland told the owner of the upscale Bidell's Department Store in which the Portland salon was located that the salon would not be open at those times, because he was now keeping Saturday as the Sabbath, Bidell was furious. The salons were subsequently sold to Bidell.
Shortly after this, In 1948, Orland and Joan moved to Mira Monte, an historic farm in the Willamette valley with a beautiful view of Mt. Hood, where he and his wife developed a number of successful farming-related businesses. In one of the areas where the customers waited and transacted their business, Orland created a display area for furniture and appliances and, in time, a few organs. This endeavor flourished also and led in time to a furniture, appliance, and music business, which, after they moved from Mira Monte in 1968, continued out of their house.
An intense high-energy person, Orland lived life with gusto, to the fullest. Adventure and risk-taking were a way of life for him, whether it be chugging over dusty roads as a teenager driving the family to a new life in Seattle, audaciously auditioning for a music position as a fourteen-year-old after studying music for only two years, or taking his first commercial airplane ride from Oregon to California in a wicker seat strapped to the inner framework of a Ford Tri-star, an airplane that could fly only in good weather and during the day.
From his early years, when he made a living as a freelance musician, through numerous ventures in business and real estate, Orland relished the challenge of the unknown - and prospered, assisted in the office by his wife. When he was 76, on returning from a trip to nearby Portland, he informed his wife that he had just bought a building and that they were now going to conduct their furniture, appliance, and music business from that location. The inventory of music instruments soon crowded out the furniture and appliances. And that was how Ogden Music, now the biggest music store in Portland, with over 100 pianos and organs on the floor, none of them on consignment, started nineteen years ago.
Beginning in 1995, with a donated organ to Montemorelos University in Mexico, the Ogdens began giving what at last count added up to over fourteen organs and thirty pianos, including three 9-foot concert grands and other instruments, to three Adventist universities in Central and South America, instruments with a retail value of nearly a million dollars. Three Adventist colleges in the U.S., as well as a number of academies, also benefited by being able to purchase instruments at near wholesale cost.
One of the schools in South America, River Plate Adventist University in Argentina, was a project especially dear to the Ogdens because of the pioneering missionary work done there by Orland's parents a century ago. The school, in turn, responded by naming their music building The Ogden School of Music in 1998. In April 2001, the General Conference Education Department presented its highest award, the Global Award in Adventist Education, to the Ogdens for their important role in promoting music in Adventist education.
At the funeral service for Orland, representatives from two of the South American universities were present. Tributes and notes of appreciation for the transforming effect the donated instruments had made in the music programs of those schools were the centerpiece in a service which celebrated the life of a man whose love of music has made, and will continue to make, a significant difference in the lives of thousands of music students and worshipers.
Sources: Conversations with Orland Ogden, 1980s and 1990s; personal knowledge.