Ralph M. Coupland

1930 -

Ralph Coupland, now retired and living in College Place, Washington, conducted choral groups and taught voice for many years before retiring in 1999. A conductor of award-winning choirs, he taught at Kingsway College, Andrews University, and Walla Walla College, now University. A fine singer with a rich baritone voice, he has performed frequently as a soloist and been an adjudicator and clinician in many workshops.

Ralph was born in Moberly, British Columbia, Canada, the sixth of seven children of Alma, a U.S. citizen, and Emerson C. Coupland, a teacher and native of Canada. He recently talked about his childhood and how he started his music study:

We grew up in the country, where my dad was my first teacher.  For some reason he bought a piano, a rectangular grand, for our home.  It came in a crate that was placed on its side when it was delivered, and I remember as a kid climbing up on a chair and looking inside to see what it looked like and trying to play on the keys.

At the end of my first year in school when I was 6½, my mother walked me into nearby Golden every week during that summer for a piano lesson.  Even though my instruction was limited, I ended up playing all of the hymns for the small Adventist company where we lived.  That was all of the music background I had until I went to Canadian Union College [now Canadian University College] in Lacombe, Alberta, as a high school student.  

While attending there I developed a profound appreciation for the power and beauty of choral music. The outstanding artistic performances of the CUC Choir under the direction of Margaret Moline Young inspired me and nurtured my developing interest in music. My memories of the choral sound she created are still vivid today.  I have yet to hear another choir that compares with the choral sound in my memories from my teenage years. 

As his voice matured and its resonant baritone beauty became more apparent, his CUC voice and choral teacher, William A. Haynes, strongly encouraged him to continue his studies in music. He eventually attended Pacific Union College, where he completed a music degree in 1958. 

A scholarship student at PUC, Coupland studied voice with Gerald Ferguson and then with George W. Greer. A member of the famed PUC a cappella choir under Greer, he was regularly featured as baritone soloist, performing frequently as they toured extensively throughout California and beyond. He also appeared as soloist on PUC’s commercially produced Chapel Record Through Doors Ajar (1958).  He particularly enjoyed singing duets with Greer.

Upon completion of his degree at PUC in 1958, Coupland accepted the vocal/choral position at Kingsway College in Oshawa, Ontario. For the next twelve years, his voice students and choirs concertized widely throughout Eastern Canada and the U.S. They frequently participated in and won numerous competitions and awards. He also conducted the General Motors Male Chorus (Canada), which performed extensively in the region. In recognition of twelve years of excellence in service and music at KC, he was chosen as the Kingsway College Alumnus of the Year in 1985.

During his time at KC, he met Astri Hestdalen, a physical therapist who had graduated from Skodsborg Badesanatorium in Denmark in 1957 and then had immigrated to Canada, where her family, who had come there earlier, was living. They married in 1962 in Lamming Mills, British Columbia, where her parents were living.  They would have two sons, Todd, who is a Stock Analyst in Toronto, Canada, and Mark, who is an IT specialist in Melbourne, Australia.  

While at KC, Coupland also began advanced studies at the University of Toronto, Indiana University, and Andrews University. He studied voice with Madame Irene Jessner, Aksel Schiøtz, William Schreiner, and Lyle Jewel.  In 1966 he received an M.A. in voice from Andrews University and in1972 and 1981 completed an M.A. and Ed.D. in Educational Administration. While studying at AU, he taught in the music department, giving voice lessons, teaching music classes, and conducting the university choral groups.

In 1986 Coupland accepted the vocal/choral position at Walla Walla College, now University. In his three years with the music department, the select choral group, I Cantori, under his direction traveled extensively and performed often. A frequent popular performer on campus, he was also featured as a soloist with the Walla Walla Symphony in 1988. He joined the faculty of the WWC School of Education and in 1995 was appointed its Dean, a position he held until he retired in 1999.

In retirement, Coupland continues to be involved in music and singing. He is also active in pursuing his research and writing for publication, focusing on linkages between philosophy, education, human development, and the arts. He has been particularly active locally in working on the Board of Directors for the Walla Walla Symphony.

In 2008 in recognition of his mentoring, choral conducting, vocal coaching, and administration, Canadian University College dedicated and named their newly developed music department choral room and recital hall the Ralph Coupland Choral Room.


Sources: Interviews, 2004, 2013; professional resume( 2004); review by Coupland of the proposed biographies; personal knowledge.