Patricia Mitzelfelt Silver
Pat Silver, now semi-retired and living in Collegedale, Tennessee, taught music in Seventh-day Adventist schools for over forty years. Noted for her work in band and with brass ensembles, she directed bands in two academies for thirteen years and at three colleges for 24 years. An accomplished clarinet and trumpet performer, she continues in retirement to give lessons in brass and flute, clarinet, and saxophone. She also plays clarinet in the Southern Adventist University Wind Symphony and brass ensembles and directs a community brass ensemble.
Born in Madison, Tennessee, Silver grew up surrounded by music. Both of her parents, Harold E. and Sylvia Straw Mitzelfelt, were professional musicians and members of larger musical families, many of whom taught and provided music in schools and churches (see biographies for Leland and Walter Straw and Harold E. and Sylvia Straw Mitzelfelt). From her earliest years, she participated in the numerous musical activities of her parents. Whether it was playing clarinet in her father's bands and French horn in his orchestras; singing in choirs, trios, or quartets; or playing solos or in brass ensembles, public performance was an enjoyable way of life for her.
Silver majored in science and completed minors in music, English, and education at Madison College, a self-supporting college in Tennessee, completing a degree in 1960. While completing her degree, she directed the band and gave lessons during her last year there and then continued to do so for a year following graduation. In 1961 she accepted a position at Shenandoah Valley Academy in New Market, Virginia, as wind instrument instructor and band director.
In the summer of 1959, while still a student at MC, Silver began studying music at George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville. She would continue taking classes there in the summers until the fall of 1963, when she took a year's leave of absence from teaching to enroll full-time, completing an M.A. in music education there in 1964.
Silver resumed teaching at Forest Lake Academy in Maitland, Florida, that fall, where for the next eleven years she chaired the music department, led the band, and developed a superb professional-level brass ensemble. The FLA brass ensembles during those years performed frequently in churches in the nearby Orlando area and traveled throughout the Southern U.S. and to Jamaica and Western Europe.
While at FLA, Silver chaired and hosted the annual Florida Conference Elementary and Intermediate School Music Festival and was guest conductor of the band during three of those years. She also chaired and hosted the annual Southern Union Music Festival three times, an event that includes students from seven southern states.
Silver was invited to serve as band director and instructor in brass at Andrews University in 1975. She made such an impact on the students and the instrumental program there during her first year that at year's end she received the Outstanding Teacher Award. During the next six years she toured with the AU Band to Romania for three weeks, in cooperation with the Friendship Ambassadors; traveled with the AU brass ensembles to the 1981 General Conference Session and played throughout the Eastern U. S. and in Brazil and Mexico. She also conducted numerous clinics and band festivals.
In 1982 Silver accepted an invitation to direct the band and wind instrument program at Southern College of Seventh-day Adventists, now Southern Adventist University. For the next fifteen years she traveled extensively with her band and brass ensembles, playing mostly in the South, but also touring to the Northeast, Pacific Northwest and Western Canada, and to the Caribbean and Mexico. She organized and hosted the first SDA Intercollegiate Band Festival, held in 1986, with nationally noted band composer Alfred Reed, and ten years later in 1996 the third SDA IBF, with Jared Spears as guest clinician.
Throughout her years at Southern, Silver was a frequent guest conductor and clinician and continued to perform on both the trumpet and clarinet. When the Southern Singers toured to Russia in 1997, the year of her retirement, she traveled with them as clarinet soloist, providing a jazz obligato for the choir's singing of When the Saints Go Marching In, a performance greatly appreciated by the Russian people.
During the Southern Alumni Homecoming that year, Silver was honored for contributions in music education that had spanned four decades. Former band members from all over North America came to pay tribute to her. She and her husband, Bob, were presented with a travel package of over $4,000, which they used to travel to China in 2001. During the social hour following her last concert that weekend, former and present band members as well as her music colleagues spoke of the effect she had had on them.
Marvin Robertson, Dean of the school of Music at SAU, has observed: "Mrs. Silver's long and distinguished career can be summed up with two key thoughts. First was her pursuit of excellence in musical performance, and second was the encouragement she gave to students, particularly women, both on and off campus to push forward in what had been a male dominated profession."
Sources: Information provided by Silver and an Interview with her in 2004; Interviews with Silver in 1990 and 2013 as well as conversations with her and Marvin Robertson from the 1980s to 2013; personal knowledge.