William T. Drever
1882 - 1935
William Drever, an accomplished singer, organist, trombonist, and trumpeter, was one of the best known musicians in Battle Creek, Michigan, in the opening decades of the 20th Century. Although highly regarded for his work as a church musician in different churches in the city, he was best known for his work as a director of various bands and director of music activities at the Battle Creek Sanitarium.
William was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, one of two children of Thomas D. and Hester Ann Bond Drever. He started singing at an early age in the boys' choirs in his hometown and became a member in the Christ Church Cathedral fifty-member boys' choir, in which boys with ordinary voices were paid 10c each week to sing and those with exceptional voices were paid 15c. Drever was one of eighteen members paid the higher amount. As his voice matured, he became a member of the Choral Society in the cathedral.
He also started study on the trombone and became a member of the Hamilton Sons of England Band. He paid for his lessons on trombone and organ by pumping the bellows for the organs played by his teachers, who both played pipe organs in local churches.
Upon graduation from high school in 1900, Drever had an experience that led him to abandon music and enroll at Battle Creek College, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Michigan. At the end of that year, the college closed and was relocated to Berrien Springs, Michigan, where it was renamed Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University. Drever stayed in Battle Creek and resumed playing his instrument, working at the Battle Creek Sanitarium to support himself.
He was invited to rejoin his old band from Hamilton and go with them on a world tour, an offer he decided to accept. When he tendered his resignation, W. K. Kellogg, director of the sanitarium, refused to accept it, and urged him to change his mind.
Drever decided to stay, and shortly after that, musical entertainment at the sanitarium was established as an ongoing program. At first, Drever was a member of the resident ensemble, the Wilde Family Orchestra. When this group disbanded in 1904, he was placed in charge of music at the sanitarium and organized a small employees' band, which he directed under the auspices of the hospital until 1909, and then independently for several years thereafter, when it became known as the Sanitarium Ensemble.
The SE appeared regularly at the sanitarium and on two occasions, in 1928 and 1930, accompanied world famous composer and pianist Percy Grainger when he played at the hospital. In his ongoing work as director of music at the sanitarium, Drever became friends with many of the prominent musicians of that time, including noted pianist Leopold Godowsky, music publisher Theodore Presser, and world famous John Philip Sousa.
Drever also formed and directed a small choir of 25 and played organ for worship services on Saturday in the Sanitarium Chapel. His work there led to his appointment as choir director and organist, first at the Presbyterian church, where he served for sixteen years, and then at the First Baptist church in Battle Creek, where he served for the last six years of his life.
More public exposure came about through his work with other bands in the city and for his work as founder and director of the high school band in 1917, a position he held until 1930. During that time the band became known as one of the outstanding high school bands in Michigan.
In 1931 Battle Creek College (no longer an SDA school and not connected with the earlier BCC) awarded Drever an honorary B.Mus. He had served as a teacher of brass instruments at the school for several years and written its school song, Alma Mater.
In 1932 he organized and directed the Postum Band (named after a popular substitute for coffee invented by C. W. Post, student of J. H. Kellogg). This ensemble played at the Chicago Century of Progress celebration in 1933, and at the Angola, Indiana, music festival in that same year. The band won first prize in the band competition at that event.
In late summer of 1935, immediately following a very successful outdoor concert by the Postum Band to a crowd of over 3,500 on the Postum Company's grounds, Drever collapsed from a stroke and died the following morning at the sanitarium. The band played His Honor march as the crowd walked to the cemetery following his funeral service and then played the second movement from the New World Symphony by Dvorak at the graveside.
Throughout his career, Drever was widely regarded as one of Battle Creek's best known musicians, the other being Edwin Barnes, a church musician and educator who had died five years earlier.
Sources: Information from records of unknown origin provided by Garth Stoltz, numbered 21-292 to 299, that include handwritten notes by anunknown writer and numerous articles from Battle Creek, Michigan, newspapers (none identified) dated from 22 May 1906 to 23 August 1935, preserved in IAMA biography project files; 1920 and 1930 U.S. Federal Census Records; One World Tree (William T. Drever), Ancestory.com.