Terry Lee Koch


Terry Koch was the Music Specialist at Rogers Adventist School in College Place, Washington, from 1986 to 2013, when he retired. In addition to his teaching at RAS, for 27 years he was an adjunct instructor at Walla Walla College, now University, where he taught elementary music education classes and voice. He also taught voice at Whitman College in nearby Walla Walla.

Koch was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the oldest of four sons born to Norman and Ella Siplics Koch. His father is a tenor-baritone, who had started singing as a child and has sung frequently throughout his adult life, most recently performing in his eighties at nursing homes and in other places. His mother sang in the church choir for many years.

Koch's paternal grandfather, Clarence Koch, was a popular music band director and composer. His maternal grandfather was a bass who was a singing leader in the Lutheran church.

With music as a focal point in the Koch home, it was only natural that Terry had an early start with music lessons on the piano, beginning at age six with a Miss Kleckner. When the family moved to Massachusetts when he was eleven, he began piano study with Margery Davis Hemenway, an inspiring experience he thoroughly enjoyed. He continued with her until he left home to attend college.

Koch attended public school, graduating from Framingham South High School in 1964. He spent that summer working at Atlantic Union College to earn money for the autumn when he would register as a student. He later talked about that time and the uncertainty he had about what major he would pursue:

As September and the time to register got nearer, I was in a real quandary about what to major in. I was interested in theology, English, history, music, and Latin. I was so frustrated about what to take that one day, while I was lying in my bed and we were having a huge thunderstorm, I decided to put out a fleece. I said, "OK, Lord, if the next thunder comes double, I will know you want me to major in English," or whatever it was. When the next thunder happened, I couldn't tell whether it was single or double, so I just finally gave up.

My Dad came up to help me register. When I told him about my uncertainty, he said to me, "Terry, what interests you most in your life?" I thought for a while and then said "music." He said, "I think you've answered your question." When we walked into the gym on registration day, seated at the first registration table inside the door was Dr. Sterling Gernet from the music department. Although I was a piano major during my first year, I switched to voice at the beginning of the next year.

Norman J. Roy became my primary voice teacher and an important person in my life in so many ways. He was the one who encouraged me to go into elementary school music teaching. He became a cherished friend and mentor.

Prior to his position at Rogers Adventist School, Koch taught music on the elementary and junior academy level in Massachusetts, Maryland, Hawaii, and western Washington state. He has also taught band and handbells on the academy level. A Nationally Registered Music Educator with the Music Educator's National Conference (1991), he received the Zapara Excellence in Teaching Award in 1990 and has been listed in several editions of Who's Who Among America's Teachers.

Koch completed a B.S. degree in music education at Atlantic Union College and an M.Mus. at Andrews University. He studied voice under Norman Roy at AUC, Rudolf Strukoff at AU, and Jane Gartner in Vienna, Austria. He met Teresa (Terri) Hansen, a music graduate of Walla Walla University, while both were pursuing graduate music degrees through an Andrews University summer quarter in Vienna. They married in 1971 and have since collaborated in teaching music wherever they have been. They have two sons, Brenden and Lorin.

A tenor, Koch was a member of the select choir, the Aeolians, at AUC and, in subsequent years, has been a member of numerous choirs and a soloist in presentations of the Lord Nelson Mass, Messiah, and the St. Matthew Passion. He has also played roles in productions of Fiddler on the Roof, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The King and I, and My Fair Lady.

While living in Hawaii, he directed and produced, with a cast comprised entirely of junior high and elementary students, a full-stage version of the Sound of Music that earned him commendations from the Lieutenant Governor of the state and from the Mayor of Vienna, Austria.

Koch's handbell and treble choirs have been showcased in several high profile venues, including the 1997 American Guild of Handbell Ringers National Convention in Spokane, Washington, and the 1998 festivities honoring the 150th anniversary of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Additionally, his choirs have been featured in several performances by the Walla Walla Symphony Orchestra, beginning in 1989 with the national premiere of John Verrall's The Legend of Chief Joseph for symphony orchestra and adult and children's choirs.

Two more recent appearances with the WWSO have included premieres of two of American composer Gwyneth Walker's works, both commissioned by the orchestra. In 2007, his treble choir, the Singing Scholars was featured in a performance of Voices in Song and in 2010, Blessings from the Children.

The 2010 work, inspired by the quality of the 2007 performance by Koch's group, is dedicated "to the Singing Scholars of Rogers Adventist School, Walla Walla, Washington - Terry Koch, Music Director." The dedication was motivated by the admiration of the composer for the work of the ensemble under Koch's direction, the respect she has for him as a musician, and the delight she had experienced in working with him during the composing of both this and the earlier 2007 work.

An active participant in community choral groups and church music programs, Koch has both sung in and directed choirs wherever he has resided. As well as singing in the Mastersingers of Walla Walla, directing the choir and Grace Notes Handbell ensemble at the Village SDA church, and singing with the Village Voices Men's Quartet, he is co-choral director at the Walla Walla First Congregational Church and Assistant Director with the Walla Walla Choral Society.

A charter member of the International Adventist Musicians Association, Koch chaired the Elementary Subdivision of IAMA until it, along with other subdivisions, was discontinued in 1996. He has contributed a number of articles for IAMA's publications.


Sources: Interview and conversations with Terry Koch, 2011; Email update, November 2012; Curriculum Vitae, 20 October 1999; Faculty Record Sheet, Walla Walla College Music Department, 30 October 1996; "On Morning Wings," Winter/Spring IAMA Notes, 8a, 8b: Personal Knowledge.