Theodore Mackett

1942 - 

Theodore (Ted) Mackett, a surgeon, also plays piano and trombone. As a child growing up in India, he and his younger brother, Leslie, received extensive training in music.

Ted was born in Mussoorie, U.P, India, one of two sons born to Norma (Mattison) and Walter Mackett, missionary teachers at Vincent Hill School. Norma's father, Milton, had gone to India as a self-supporting missionary in 1912, and she had been born two years later in Bombay. He established a church and later a boarding school in Hapur, near Delhi, but would die at age 42 in 1928 while on furlough in the U.S.

Following Milton's death, his wife, Nora Kinzer Mattison, returned with their two daughters to India, and to Vincent Hill School, where she served as dean of girls (matron). Norma completed her high school education there and first met her future husband, Walter, who was also attending the school.

Walter's parents were from England; his father was employed as 'Division Builder' and was involved with the construction of Vincent Hill School and several churches. He was also involved with the early construction at Salisbury Park, Poona (now Pune), and built the Oriental Watchman Publishing House, where he later served as manager. He was musically talented and played the organ.

Music was an important activity in Walter and Norma Mackett's home. Both enjoyed playing the violin and had participated as students in the Vincent Hill School string ensemble. Shortly after returning to India and Vincent Hill in 1948, following a trip to the U.S., Norma purchased a spinet piano in Mussoorie, which then had to be carried by coolies to their home at the school.

The two boys started piano lessons under the tutelage of Elsie Landon Buck, who with her husband, Edwin, was also teaching at VHS. Ted later recalled their musical training at the school:

Elsie was the one that got us on our way musically. She was a great motivator. My mother in particular saw the opportunity there for us, and how music would be an added dimension in our lives. I was six or so and Leslie was four when we started taking lessons. There also were other music teachers at VHS who were inspiring. Hillary Robinson, a Canadian, was very involved in the music program. Helen Watts Boykin in particular was a wonderful motivator and very influential in Leslie's life.

In 1946 and again in 1954, when the family traveled to Pomona, California, Walter took graduate work at the University of Southern California, completing a master's and Ph.D. degrees. Following the first trip to the U.S., Walter served as principal at VHS for four years and then accepted a position at Spicer Memorial College in India before returning to the U.S. for a second time to complete his Ph.D. in history.

During the second trip to the U.S., both boys attended Pomona Junior Academy. When the family returned to India in 1957, the parents taught at Spicer Memorial College, and the boys attended Vincent Hill School. Ted's recollections of his school years offer an interesting insight into schooling in the British system of that time:

Our teacher in Poona at the English Grammar School was Miss Esther M. Feltus. She brought out all the naughtiness in me because of her teaching style and her use of "special lessons," a unique punishment that entailed sitting in the classroom the last half of recess either "meditating" on your wrongdoing or writing lines. The latter was probably great for my penmanship since she employed the "Palmer method" and I had to write seemingly hundreds of lines of verses such as "He that keepeth his spirit is better than the mighty" . . . . I also memorized whole chapters of Scripture, which probably was good for the "long haul" but not exactly the best way of encouraging a ten-year-old to develop a love for the Word!

These "lessons" were cumulative, and I think I succeeded in filling a whole school year's worth of recess within the first week of school. Punishment was engendered by the usual school-boy pranks, but I also remember having been caught with my eyes open in prayer! (How could she have known except her own eyes were open?!) Bruce Johannson, now a theologian and professor of religion at Walla Walla University, and I were the usual miscreants. Leslie was considered Miss Feltus' "special little lamb," a seeming partiality that didn't endear him to his older sibling and proved a "friction point" even after school!

Both Leslie and Ted continued their music study during winter vacations, November to March, when they would take lessons in Poona, near SMC. Ted later observed,

It had been obvious very early on that I was not cut out to be the musician he was. I don't think I ever learned a piece that he did not pick up by ear and play before I had learned it. I will never forget coming home one day to hear him playing the Pathétique Sonata by Beethoven, a number I had been struggling with for several weeks, and he was doing it from memory. We also studied at a music school in Poona that was affiliated with the Trinity College Music program based in London and conducted by a Professor Bell and his two spinster sisters, who had come to India from Germany.

Ted enrolled at Pacific Union College in the fall of 1960 as a pre-medicine student. While there he studied organ with Lowell Smith, served as organist on occasion for men's worship, and played trombone in the Wind Sinfonietta and the college band. When Leslie joined him two years later, enrolled as a music major, he also participated as a clarinetist in those two groups and the orchestra as well.

Following graduation from PUC in 1964, Ted entered Loma Linda University where he completed his M.D. in 1968. After two years of surgical internship and residency, he served in the United States Air Force for two years. He returned to LLU in 1973, where he completed his surgical residency in 1976, and then served as a "junior" surgical faculty member at Riverside General Hospital in Riverside, California, for two years.

Mackett then returned to LLU, where he was on the teaching faculty and practiced surgery until 1994. At that time, he joined Wesley Rippey in a surgical practice in Portland, Oregon, where he presently resides.

Leslie, who had completed a degree in music and French at La Sierra College, now University, and a master's in music at Andrews University, taught at Canadian Union College and then eventually at Kingsway College in Oshawa, Ontario. In the 1970s, Ted surprised him with a visit that coincided with a Kingsway Symphony concert that featured Leslie as piano soloist. Ted recalls,

I was at a meeting in Chicago and thought I would surprise him, knowing he had a concert in Oshawa. It was an all-Gershwin night, and he played Rhapsody in Blue in the first half and accompanied a chorus doing a fair amount of Porgy and Bess in the second half. He was totally unaware that I was in the audience.

I found the concert to be very enjoyable and went up afterwards to where he was signing programs to get his autograph. He looked up at me and just blanched. "What are you doing here? If I had known you were out there, I would have been nervous!"

I spent several days in Oshawa with him and saw where he was teaching and eavesdropped on some of his classes. It was the only time I was able to observe him as a teacher and came away from that visit impressed with his ability to teach and relate to these high school kids.

Leslie completed a doctorate in music in the 1980s and taught at the University of Redlands not far from Loma Linda University, where Ted was teaching. When Leslie died suddenly in 1992, following a lengthy illness, Ted, who had maintained a close personal relationship with his brother, was dismayed about how little he knew about Leslie's work at UR and the recognition he had received until after his death.

I had no idea about the impact he had on the students at Redlands until I attended his funeral. It was in the main auditorium where they have concerts, and the place was packed. There were more students there than I thought were attending the university. Even though I was living in Redlands at that time, I was totally unaware of his work.

Ted had earlier accepted a position at the Adventist Hospital in Portland, Oregon, but when he had become aware of his brother's illness, he had continued in his work at LLU for two more years.

His daughter, Bonnie, a cellist and guitarist, is active as a performer. While attending Walla Walla University, she played cello in the Walla Walla Symphony. His son, Edward, attended Pacific Union College, where he majored in music with French horn as his performing area.

A student of Mary Lee Keays in Redlands and Ellis Olson, a French horn performer and former teacher at Union College, Edward was particularly inspired by his work under Kenneth Narducci, his major professor at PUC and a major influence on his life. He had made a decision to return to PUC to get his teaching credentials in music before his unexpected death at age 26 from meningitis, shortly after the family moved to Portland.

Through the years Ted has continued to play piano for his own pleasure and has been involved in a number public events, generally as an accompanist for his daughter, Bonnie. Shortly after his move to Portland, he joined the Advent Trombone Choir and studied trombone with H. Lloyd Leno, founder and conductor of the group, until Leno's death in 1998. He continues as a member of the ATC, an experience he enjoys, and also plays in ad hoc brass ensembles.


Interviews and email exchanges with Ted Mackett, November 2010 and March 2011.