Wayne H. Hooper

1920 - 2007

Wayne H. Hooper, a talented musician, was associated with many aspects of the Seventh-day Adventist church’s music for over four decades. Following three decades at the Voice of Prophecy, where he played an outsized role in guiding the evolution of its music program, he became a pivotal person in helping create a landmark hymnal for the church, a fitting capstone in the evolution of its hymnody. By the end of his life he had become a legend as a performer, composer, and arranger who had created a vast legacy in music for his church.

Wayne was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on July 4, 1920, one of seven children of Thomas Jefferson and Ethel Robinson Hooper. His father was publishing secretary for the Arkansas Conference and a noted camp meeting song leader and singing school teacher

From Wayne Hooper's earliest years, family hymn singing in four parts was a daily activity that created an unusual closeness within that talented family as they moved frequently during the Great Depression . He was raised in a home where music and service to the church were both important aspects of life. After graduating from Gem State Academy in Idaho, Hooper attended Southern California Junior College, now La Sierra University, for three years, leaving there in 1941 to teach music at Portland Union Academy (now Portland Adventist Academy) in Oregon.

In 1944, following extensive singing in evangelism, he accepted an invitation to sing in the King’s Heralds Quartet on the Voice of Prophecy radio broadcast, where he continued until 1947. That fall, due to turmoil in the quartet (see George Greer biography), he and two other members of the quartet were released. He viewed this as an opportune time to continue his education and enrolled as a music major at Union College.

When Hooper arrived at UC, he was part of a huge influx of students, many being men who had fought in World War II and were now being sponsored by the government to obtain an education. Over 500 students were enrolled in music lessons and ensembles that fall. While his primary identity was that of a student, because of his prior experience he was also hired to teach voice, coach male quartets, and direct the lower division choir and male chorus.

It was an exciting time for music on the campus, with a new music building and teachers such as Harlyn Abel, who had just come from SCJC, where he had earlier known Hooper as a student, directing the choirs; Opal Miller teaching theory; and Raymond Casey, a talented former Navy bandsman, directing the band, in which Hooper played as one of eight trombonists. He thoroughly enjoyed his studies and reveled in his role as a teacher during those two years.

As Hooper was completing his music degree in 1949, he was invited by the VOP to return and form a new quartet and choose the music they would sing. The quartet he assembled, with its unique blend of voices, sang together for the next twelve years, providing a stability in music at the VOP that enabled H.M.S. Richards to focus on other aspects of the program. Additionally, the group's singing of Hooper's arrangements, coupled with recording innovations and the subsequent release of numerous quality records, would define the King's Heralds sound for millions of listeners.

Hooper became noted for both his arranging and composing talents. Bob Edwards, a member of that quartet, wrote in a 1991 article in Adventist Heritage:

He set the style of the VOP music with his unique and spirited male voice arrangements. Budding male quartets around the world wrote for copies of Wayne's arrangements. No matter where I travel . . . I still hear male quartets singing Wayne's arrangements.

These and others of his arrangements, as well as his song “We Have This Hope” are still widely used.

Hooper sang with the quartet until 1962, leaving it to become musical director of the broadcast. Aside from his specific duties of arranging and directing, he was in charge of development and marketing for Hosanna House, a VOP venture in music publishing, served as an arranger and orchestrator for Chapel Records, and assisted H.M.S. Richards in recording the King James Bible. He retired in 1980.

Even following his retirement, Hooper continued to work on special projects for the VOP. Also, as he had done during his many years with the program, he continued to serve as a gentle mediator during moments when, due to changing times and difficult decisions at the VOP, misunderstandings developed.

Most recently, he and Del Delker accompanied members of the VOP, traveling to Adventist colleges and universities in 2004 to join with campus music groups in celebrating the radio program's 75th Anniversary. Although he enjoyed the experience, he was uneasy about the drift in VOP music to the Country and Western style of music.

Hooper had completed a master’s degree in music in 1957 at Occidental College while still singing in the quartet. In 1986, Andrews University honored him with an honorary D.Mus. and in 2002, La Sierra University awarded him another honorary doctorate. As satisfying as this recognition was, Hooper was inclined to view two other projects, the composing of musical settings for memory verses used in Sabbath School and his part in creating the new SDA hymnal, as two of the most rewarding experiences of his career.

Beginning in 1977, he began to set the memory verses to music, eventually doing the complete three-year cycle of 156 verses. These were arranged and recorded by singers such as Bob Edwards, Maurita Thornburgh-Phillips, Edward's sister Coleen, and Pat Taylor, who were accompanied on piano by Calvin Taylor. Recorded on cassettes, they were distributed as Sing a Bible Verse for use in Sabbath Schools worldwide. They became very popular and, when later the memory verses were changed from the KJV to the NIV, they were rewritten and re-recorded starting in 1995.

In 1981, he was invited by the General Conference to coordinate the development of a new hymnal. He served as executive secretary of the working committee and, with Mel West, worked as a musical editor for the project. He and his wife, Harriet, who assisted him in his work with the committee, helped keep the group on track so that they could complete their task in time for the printing of the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal and its introduction at the 1985 General Conference World Session.

With the completion of the hymnal, he and Edward White immediately began another related project, the compiling and writing of a resource book with information about each hymn and biographies of writers and composers who were represented by five or more hymns. The resulting reference, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, was released in 1988.

At a time in life when most persons were content to relax and reflect on the past, Hooper continued his ministry in music. He was active as an arranger, utilizing the latest in computerized resources in his work. One of his last projects was the restoring of older King's Herald quartet recordings to pristine quality for release in CD format.

Hooper, with his talents and commitment to service, provided an exceptional ministry in music to the Adventist church. His leadership in promoting quality music through the years has continued to be felt during a time of challenging changes in sacred music.

He was living in Newbury Park, California, when he died following a prolonged illness on February 28, 2007, at age 86. He was survived by his wife, Harriet; children Jim, Jan Lind, David, and Dan, and their families; numerous grandchildren; and siblings Norma Phillips, Alma Tucker, Colene Schwandt, and Tom Hooper.  


Sources: Interviews with Wayne Hooper, 10 and 14 February 2005; Wayne H. Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, 1988, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hooper biography, 640-42; Robert E. Edwards, Hello America!, 1961, 40, 43-46; Roy Cottrell, Forward in Faith, 1945 49, 50; Robert E. Edwards, H.M.S. Richards, 1998,196, 197, 202, 226-228.

All of Wayne Hooper's published and unpublished compositions and arrangements are available at the Voice of Prophecy website, www.vop.com/hoopermusic, and can downloaded without charge for public use. Of special interest is music written to assist in remembering the three-year cycle of Sabbath School memory verses for children, a project that was completed in the late 1970s and redone in the late 1990s.


Wayne Hooper's Final Life Sketch and Eulogy

Memorial Service

May 5, 2007

Wayne Hooper was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, July 4, 1920. (He always enjoyed having the whole country celebrate his birthday.) His mother, Ethel Robinson, and his father, Thomas Jefferson Hooper, were both children in families that staked out homesteads in the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1899. The U.S. government offered land to white settlers. Some of the land was taken from the Native Americans of the South who had first been forcibly settled in Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears, then stripped of their Oklahoma land. There is to this day a large annual Hooper gathering in Oklahoma.

Wayne had an overly-eventful childhood and youth. He came close to death twice: once with mastoiditis when he was four years old, and again when his chest was run over by both wheels of a car at age 10. His family suffered greatly during the depression. He had three older siblings (Ivan, Norma, and Vira) in addition to two who died in infancy, and three younger (Alma, Colene, and Tommy). One winter he slept on a small open porch, sharing a single bed with Ivan, with temperatures below zero.

Wayne stayed home all through what would have been his seventh-grade year, working full time shelling pecans to raise money to pay the schoolteacher, focusing all his powers on doing the job quickly and efficiently. The family entrusted the entire year’s product to a friend for him to take it to market; they never heard from him again. After several years of struggling to get enough food and shelter, they came home from a weekend away to find their house burned to the ground. They embarked on a trip much like the one immortalized in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath: first to Idaho for three years, where he attended Gem State Academy and worked in its bakery; then on to Southern California, where he continued in school and worked as a house painter and plumber.

Wayne's father, T.J. Hooper, was renowned among SDA’s as a song leader, and taught Wayne to lead congregational singing at a young age. By age 12 Wayne was singing for evangelistic meetings, often in duets with his sister Alma. At Gem State Academy he sang in quartets, and made his first arrangements for men’s voices. At La Sierra College (a junior college at the time) he majored in music, and devoted most evenings and weekends to singing for churches and evangelistic meetings, both as solos and as part of a quartet he led.

While at La Sierra he saw Harriet Schwender on the tennis court, and, for him, the search was over. She took a little convincing. When asked last year what was his favorite age of his life, he said: "The year I was 20 and Harriet had just said yes." After a somewhat challenging courtship (she was still in high school, and "protected," and he was overscheduled with work, schoolwork, and singing), they were married on July 21, 1941. The ceremony was recorded on a wire recorder. It began with Wayne singing "I Love You Truly" from the front of the church while Harriet waited to come down the aisle with her father. She always did her part to keep him in a romantic mood, almost all the time, for 67 years. Their children saw them hug and kiss each other thousands of times.

Upon graduation from La Sierra California Junior College, now La Sierra University, in 1941, he was called to two full-time jobs in Portland, Oregon. He accepted both: music evangelist for the conference, which included a daily half-hour radio show of the Quiet Hour with J.L. Tucker; and music and shorthand teacher and choir and band director at the local SDA Academy. J.L. Tucker pioneered the use of verses ending with "Have faith, dear friend, in God", later made famous by H.M.S. Richards. Wayne wrote dozens of these verses during the live radio broadcasts, composing the verse as he listened to J.L. Tucker’s sermon, handing it to Tucker in time for him to read it aloud at the end of the program. He enjoyed telling people that since he was being so handsomely paid ($20/week), Harriet as his spouse needed to be paid only $0.18/hour as an executive secretary. Even so, they saved 10% of every dollar, in addition to paying a double tithe, beginning a life-long habit of careful stewardship.

After a year and a half in Portland, during which time a son, Jim, was born while they shared a house with Henry and Miriam Bergh, he was called to be conference music evangelist in Virginia, working with his uncle Roy, the conference evangelist. While there, he received a call from the Voice of Prophecy (VOP), to sing baritone in the King’s Herald’s Quartet beginning in late 1943. The family moved to Eagle Rock, where a daughter, Jan, was born in 1944. He purchased a new Ford, paying over $600 cash. Beginning with that purchase, he never again paid a dollar of interest on borrowed money, except for the $54/month mortgage on their first house in 1949.

The next four years found Wayne traveling 4 to 5 months per year, visiting churches, camp meetings, and campuses, and holding evangelistic series all over North America with the King’s Heralds and H.M.S. Richards. He assumed more and more of the responsibility for selecting songs to go with the sermons, making arrangements, coaching the other singers on vocal technique, and overseeing the production of recordings.

Wayne learned to fly an airplane, got his pilot’s license, and with other members of the quartet had several hair-raising adventures in small planes, providing stories which he delighted to tell for the rest of his life. He eventually quit flying in deference to Harriet’s well-justified anxiety about the danger.

In 1947 officials of the General Conference, insisted, over H.M.S. Richards’s objections, that Wayne be fired so the style of music on the broadcast could move in a different direction. Neither Hooper nor Richards ever complained publicly, but for both it was a painful blow.

The family then moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he accepted a call to join the music faculty and complete his Bachelor of Arts degree. During the two years he was at Union College he was amazingly productive. As a full-time student, he was active in sports intramurals, was the official photographer for the yearbook (with a darkroom in the family’s basement), and received his B.A. as Valedictorian of the class. As a full-time faculty member, he taught classes, directed two choirs, coached many soloists and several quartets. He toured the South with the Hub of Harmony, a 9-member group of African-American male students, riding with them in a station wagon and sharing their accommodations and the discrimination directed toward them in the pre-Civil Rights era.

By this time the Voice of Prophecy was ready to have him back. He again sang in the quartet from 1949 until 1962. He resumed traveling 4-5 months each year, the members of the quartet taking turns driving the station wagon. He did not enjoy traveling, or revel in being a celebrity. He felt called to do this work, and blessed to have found an institution that could employ him full time to do the work he loved. But it was a sacrifice for him as well as for Harriet and the children to have him gone from home so much. He wrote home every single day of his travels, telling the details of his life on the road and expressing how much he missed her and the kids. She wrote back almost as often.

Wayne was ordained to the SDA ministry at the Lynwood camp meeting in the Southern California Conference in 1955. Over the course of his ministry he preached several dozen sermons and conducted many marriage ceremonies for family, friends, and other admirers. He also somehow found time to build a house for the family, completed in 1950, with very little outside help. He was a determined handyman, delighting in maintaining house and cars in top shape. He enjoyed studying technical manuals and following their instructions for projects, including overhauling an auto engine and restoring several old cars — often with a bit of technical advice from Harriet. He made the rounds of his siblings, and later of his children, fixing things at their houses. In 1970 he finished, some more building again, with a little help, a mountain home in the Sierras, which was immensely enjoyed by children and grandchildren and friends for 25 years.

He was a naturally gifted athlete, though he never seriously trained for any sport. He won several tennis tournaments at the Glendale YMCA. He was renowned for hitting a home run every year at the VOP annual picnic. He and the other members of the Kings’ Heralds often defeated college all-star volleyball teams during the fifties. And he became a legend for golfing with a cross-handed swing; he came close to scoring his age in recent years.

And, as if he were not busy enough, he enrolled in graduate school at Occidental College. He graduated in 1957 with an M.A. with three (instead of the usual one) concentrations: Composition, Choral Conducting, and Radio Production. He also served as Minister of Music at Vallejo Drive SDA Church for many years, where he not only directed the choir and worked on the construction of the new church, but spearheaded the drive to acquire its magnificent organ.

As Jim and Jan were becoming teenagers, Wayne and Harriet decided that they didn’t want to be without little children quite yet. So they planned two more, David (1956) and Dan (1958).

From 1962 until 1978 Wayne led the VOP music department, making arrangements by the hundreds and producing dozens of albums by the professional VOP musicians. He also became producer of the Sunday broadcast. He served frequently on the music committees for SDA General Conferences and Youth Congresses; led hymn festivals at a wide variety of venues; engineered and produced the recordings of H.M.S. Richards reading the entire Bible (in their spare time); formed a publishing company, Key Music, to print and distribute his arrangements for quartets and choirs to sing all over the world; founded a publishing company, Hosanna House, as part of the VOP’s ministry; and initiated a wide variety of other projects which provided not only music for people to listen to, but more importantly music for people to sing.

One of his most appreciated projects was the Memory Verse Songs. He composed tunes to go with each verse (156 of them) in the three-year cycle of memory verses for children selected by the SDA denomination, published the music manuscripts, engineered and produced recordings of all the songs, and distributed them. He focused his photography hobby on flowers and landscapes, and developed a number of programs of nature slides accompanied by recorded music, usually shown as a Friday night program at churches.

During the last two years before he retired, he directed the trust department of the VOP, for which he had to become educated in a whole new profession. He mastered it quickly, and enjoyed the work. He retired in 1980 before turning 60, having spent 40 years in service to the Voice of Prophecy and the SDA music ministry. He and Harriet moved to Thousand Oaks to continue to be close to the VOP headquarters.

Wayne is best known for the hymn "We Have This Hope." The Music Committee for the 1962 General Conference in San Francisco solicited songs which might serve as the theme song for the conference, and "We Have This Hope" was chosen. Hard work combined with inspiration resulted in this masterpiece, which was selected not only in 1962 but again and again for more than half the subsequent General Conferences. The current GC President, Jan Paulsen, wrote in a note of tribute to Wayne and his music that as he travels the globe it is this song, more than any other single thing, that SDA’s have in common. It appears that more than a million people have memorized it.

After retirement Wayne continued his work at about the same pace, until illness slowed him down in late 2006. The list of his volunteer work projects is long. Best known among them was his work as executive secretary (in other words, mastermind and coordinator) of the committee that edited and produced a new hymnal for the SDA denomination, the first in 40 years. He, with Harriet as his secretary, drove back and forth to Takoma Park in their simple motor home during four years, attending meetings, corresponding with dozens of committee members and musicians, checking every detail of words and notation, leading discussions about each text and tune and arrangement until consensus was reached.

He maintained Key Music, responding to requests for manuscripts and recordings with meticulous care and patience. It was important to him to reinforce the principle that church musicians should be paid for their work, just as other ministers are. So he sent out invoices, usually for very small amounts, with every order, even though by then he and Harriet were financially secure. He filled many orders for Mennonites. He had been invited to one of their national conventions during the 1950’s to conduct a hymn festival and a workshop for male quartets. It made such an impression that his arrangements are prominent to this day in the repertoires of Mennonite singers.

Wayne also worked on the following projects, among many others:

1. Primary author of the Companion to the Hymnal, with commentaries on tune and text for most of the 695 songs.

2. Many months’ full-time work providing various SDA institutions with copyright permissions, including It Is Written, Andrews University Church’s broadcast ministry, and the editors of the Korean SDA Hymnal.

3. Several hundred compositions and arrangements, including being commissioned at age 85 to provide a full album’s worth of new arrangements by two very different full-time professional male quartets.

4. Traveling in 1992 to South America with the other members of the 1962 King’s Heralds, where they performed to stadiums overflowing with tens of thousands of excited fans of their Portugese-language broadcasts and recordings from the distant past.

5. Being awarded honorary Doctor of Music degrees by both Andrews University and La Sierra University.

6. Preserving the entire VOP music recording library, which was on vinyl tape and deteriorating, by re-mastering and making CD’s of 130 albums, after teaching himself the required computer technology.

7. Making a spreadsheet catalog of his arrangements and compositions, which turned out to his surprise to number over 1500 (he was guessing about 700).

8. Traveling with Del Delker and Lonnie Melashenko and the current VOP staff to 75th Anniversary Celebrations all over North America.

9. Writing several hundred single-spaced pages of an account of his life, making full use of all those letters home, but unfortunately getting only to the mid-1960’s before his illness prevented him from completing the story.

Throughout his 70-year career, Wayne made a habit of offering suggestions and coaching to other musicians and public speakers: sometimes vocal coaching, sometimes observations about interpretation or stage presence or microphone technique. Often he was doing the job he was being paid for. But more often he was just being helpful, sharing with the world the gift God had placed in his trust.

Wayne was a perfectionist. But over the years he became more skilled at nudging others toward perfection without making them feel bad about their remaining imperfections. He often expressed gratitude that he was able to work mostly with professionals. But when he worked with amateurs, he consistently pretended to be patient.

Throughout his life he helped people in need, always behind the scenes. Many family members, friends, and others received loans or outright gifts when most needed. For years he and Harriet spent part of nearly every day collecting day-old food from markets and distributing them to churches and other agencies that fed needy people.

Wayne died in the healthiest possible way. In the spring of 2006 his doctors discovered that his prostate cancer had returned and spread to his bones. When his oncologist said it was time to begin weekly transfusions, he and Harriet signed up with Hospice. He had no fear of death; he knew his sins were forgiven. His only fear was of terrible pain such as he had seen friends suffer as they died. But beginning in September he was kept comfortable, with only a few hours of severe pain, by Hospice. The skill of the Hospice team at making just the right intervention at just the right time to keep him comfortable was amazing. Often, when asked how he was feeling, his answer was "Terrific!" And the nurses, especially Theresa, seemed like loving granddaughters. (She half-jokingly asked if he would adopt her.)

David took off the month of July, and from that point on Wayne was surrounded by admiring family and friends. Family gathered for a week in July, another week in August, a weekend in September, then Thanksgiving, and Christmas. One Sabbath, having been told he had only a few weeks left, he spent most of the day away from the rest of us. It turned out he was working on the computer, writing for each of his four children a patriarchal blessing. He read each one aloud to each child, before the gathered family, detailing a long list of ways in which he appreciated and admired each one.

Church members in a constant stream brought food and love. After tumors caused Wayne's left arm and leg to be paralyzed, Jim and Dan took turns caring for him 24 hours a day for his last five months. He was nurtured daily by visits and phone calls from friends and family. His only distress was that he could no longer do productive work. Harriet was there comforting him and whispering sweet nothings in his ear every day of his illness, sleeping in the same bed with him to the end.

Wayne was consistently affectionate, appreciative, considerate, and nurturing toward those around him. The Hospice staff expressed amazement at the joy and love and absence of tension in the home. He passed away peacefully at home on February 28, 2007, full of faith in the message of his song "We Have This Hope."

As devoted as he was to his calling as a minister of music, he often said that what was most important to him was family. He was the natural leader of both his family of origin and the family of his descendants.

He is survived by his wife Harriet Schwender Hooper; his children Jim Hooper, Jan Lind, David Hooper, Dan Hooper and their families; nine grandchildren and five step-grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren and several step-great-grandchildren; siblings Norma Phillips, Alma Tucker, Colene Schwandt, and Tom Hooper; and dozens of cousins and nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews. Admired and loved by all, as patriarch of the Hooper family.