Wava Holm Anderson

1917 - 1994

Wava Anderson, an organist and pianist who also sang and played cello, taught music for thirty-four years, in both Seventh-day Adventist and public school systems. She enjoyed a reputation as a loving and gifted teacher who inspired and guided many students in their musical journey.

Wava was born in Roseau, Minnesota, the only daughter of Mike and Bessie Holm. At age three, she and her family moved to St. Paul, shortly before her father became the Secretary of State for Minnesota in January 1921, a position he held until 1952, when he died in office. His tenure of 31 years is the longest in that office in the state's history.

She and her three brothers grew up in a musical family. Wava's father, who was from Sweden, had played violin and been an orchestra conductor before he became a judge and then entered politics. Her mother was a piano teacher who taught all of her children to play. They also learned to play other instruments, Wava studying cello and becoming proficient enough by age seventeen to play in the St. Paul Junior Symphony.

Following high school graduation, Holm entered Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1936, where she attended for two years. She then returned to the Minneapolis area, apparently to care for her mother, who was having health problems. It is likely that she also continued to study music at the MacPhail College of Music in Minneapolis.

A year after her marriage to Eric Anderson in the mid-1940s, the Minnesota Conference, lacking funds, approached her about teaching music without pay at Minneapolis Junior academy, now Minnetonka Christian Academy. She consented and, while also teaching classes in English and business, developed a first-class music program, eventually establishing it as a paid position during her seventeen years at the school.

In 1963 Anderson was given advanced standing and a B.Mus.in music education at MCM on the basis of her music study at that school over the years and her experience as a music teacher. Three years later she completed an M.Mus.Ed. at MCM. Her master's thesis was titled "A Current Assessment of Transposition." Following completion of her master's degree, she accepted a music position in the Neillsville, Wisconsin, school system, where she taught for another seventeen years while still maintaining residence in St. Paul, before retiring.

Anderson endeared herself to countless students. Her musical gifts, including perfect pitch, and her multiple talents as conductor, pianist, and organist, as well as her dedication, inspired her students. She insisted on detail and precision, yet was always courteous and affirming when students succeeded.

Gretchen Rohlf Pike, a piano student of Anderson who eventually served as an amateur church musician, later recalled her experience with her in the 1950s:

Although I had studied piano for several years before I took lessons from Wava, she taught me more in the one year I had with her than I had learned in all of my previous study. I found her to be an encouraging and caring person at a critical time in my life. I think one exceptional quality she had regardless of how many people she knew, was a special love in her heart, put there by God, that caused each person to feel they were special to her.

For one short year she was my teacher, but in that time she made an impact on me that over forty years has not erased. Shortly before her death, she told me that when we get to heaven, I was one of ten persons she wanted to play piano with. I was honored by that remark and took it as an ultimate compliment.

During her years of teaching music, Anderson also served as organist and choir director for the Stevens Avenue SDA Church in Minneapolis, then the largest Adventist church in the Northern Union Conference, now a part of the Mid-America Union Conference. Following retirement and the death of her husband, she moved to California, where she continued to serve as a church musician in the Sun City SDA church and the local United Methodist church. When she died in 1994, both churches joined for a service in her memory.


Sources: This biography is based primarily on information provided by Gretchen Rohlf Pike, Shirley Devine (Wava's step-daughter), and an article, " A Teacher Who Loved and Cared," The Mid America Outlook, November 1994, 14.