Harold (Gottlieb) Amadeus Miller
1891 - 1966
Harold Amadeus Miller was a nationally noted gospel song writer in the first half of the 20th century with over 200 published songs and choruses to his credit. He taught at an academy and four colleges in the Seventh-day Adventist school system for 37 years, teaching for most of his career at Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University.
Harold Gottlieb Miller was born in Tonawanda, New York, on November 14, 1891, the second-oldest of five children and one of four sons of Fred Godleipt (R.) and Mary Elizebeth Nugent Miller, members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Although he was initially named after an uncle, Gottlieb (German for for "God-loved"), he disliked the name and later changed it to Amadeus, the Latin equivalent.
Harold was musically talented and his father, a trained musician and pianist, was his first music teacher. He was an apt student and when his father traveled to Europe to play for and briefly study with Theodor Leschetizky, celebrated pianist of that time, Harold, who was sixteen, taught his father's advanced students.
His parents became concerned about the lack of contact their children were having with other Adventist youth of their age and decided to move to Syracuse, New York. At this time, Harold became friends with students who were attending South Lancaster Academy, later Atlantic Union College, and enrolled there in 1911. At this time, he learned in one of his music classes about Mozart's middle name change from Gottlieb to Amadeus and did the same. He was baptized at the end of that school year by SLA President C.S. Longacre, following a week of prayer, and became a member of the Syracuse church.
He completed a B.Mus. at Otterbein College and later an M.Mus. at Eastman School of Music. He started teaching as head of the music department at Mount Vernon Academy in 1916, where he met Grace Virginia Purdham, an English and Latin teacher. They married on May 24, 1917, and would have a son, Harold Amadeus, Jr. six years later, on August 12, 1923. While his son was still an infant his father wrote the words and melody for "Slumber Song," dedicated "To my little boy, Harold Amadeus, Jr." which was published in the Youth's Instructor in June 1924.
In 1929 Harold was invited to teach at Washington Missionary College, now Washington Adventist University, where he taught for the next five years. By this time he was known as a talented composer whose output included the melodies for a growing number of gospel songs. While at WMC he received notice in 1932 that several of his songs had been published in a Hall-Mack hymn collection.
Following the acquisition of Hall-Mack by Homer Rodeheaver's publishing company in 1936, several of Miller's songs were published in their gospel songbooks. Ten were included in The Church Hymnal, published by the SDA church in 1941 and seven in Gospel Melodies and Evangelistic Hymns, issued by the church in 1944. He also published Songs Along the Way in 1951, a collection of eighteen choruses he had written. Only one of his hymns, "Like Jesus," #492, was included in the 1985 Seventh-Day Adventist Hymnal.
Miller was a frequent contributor of articles on the important role of music in culture and education, as a spiritual force, and the value of making good choices in all aspects of life on the personal level. He also wrote poems which, along with his articles and actual copies of some of his music, were published in several SDA publications, including The Review and Herald, The Ministry, The Youth's Instructor, The Journal of True Education, and newspapers at schools where he taught.
When Miller went to Southern Junior College, now Southern Adventist University, in 1935 at the age of 44, his arrival as a formally trained musician and published composer at the school signaled the beginning of a new era in music on that campus, the real start of today's music program. An inspiring teacher and choral conductor, Miller immediately expanded touring activities and introduced the choir to more challenging works. Soon after his arrival he arranged for the choir to begin participating in annual performances of the Messiah with the civic chorus and orchestra in Chattanooga, a tradition that continued for many years.
The widespread use of piano in worship in the period between the decline of the old reed pump organs and the introduction of electronic organs, which happened during his lifetime, led to an article, "Piano Pointers for Church Musicians," in The Ministry in 1939. In a detailed and lengthy essay, he cautioned about overcompensating for the limitations of the piano when compared to the organ by playing too loudly, and adding flourishes, syncopation, and sweeping arpeggios.
In 1942 he left SJC, only to return in 1945, after chairing the music departments at Union and Pacific Union Colleges. It is likely that contact with the programs at these schools affected Miller's perspective about what should happen in music as SJC became a four-year senior college, a step taken by the end of his first year back on campus. The school, now named Southern Missionary College, would offer a B.A. degree in music beginning in 1946, and a degree in music education in the 1950s.
By the time of his return Miller had become a legendary figure on campus because of his success as a published composer and writer and the inclusion of his music in the 1941 SDA Church Hymnal. He had also written a school song in his second year at SJC, Come on Down to Collegedale, which had been a hit on campus and was sung with unbridled enthusiasm by the students.
Moreover, Miller had become an important part of life at the school. Students from his early years at the college recall with fondness his Friday evening song services, which he would lead while seated at the piano, and his illuminating comments about classical works he played at the beginning of chapels.
When the school gained accreditation as a four-year senior college in 1950, plans were made for a music building that was completed in 1954, the year after Miller's retirement. An attractive brick building in Georgian-Colonial style, it had seven studios, seventeen practice rooms, a rehearsal room, and a recital hall, and was a source of pride for the school. Dedicated in 1954, it was named the Harold A. Miller Hall. Items placed in its cornerstone included a song, "Someday He'll Come Again," with words and music by Miller.
He was living in Orlando, Florida, when he died on December 6, 1966, at age 75. He was survived by his wife, Grace, his son, Harold, Jr., a granddaughter, Susan, and two brothers and a sister.
Sources: 1900 and 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry.com; Wayne Hooper and Edward E. White, Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988), 479. Although It is mentioned in the biography by Hooper and White that his parents left the church at one point, Harold Amadeus Miller, Jr. in an email to me, December 27, 1912, stated, "I have no memory of my grandparents, Fred R. Miller and Mary Nugent Miller ever leaving the SDA church or beliefs;" Clara Nosworthy Wright, "Teacher-Musician-Composer," The Youth's Instructor, July 31, 1956, 15, 16; Nicolas Slonimsky, Baker's Biographical Dictionary, Eighth Edition, (New York, Schirmer Books, 1992), 1042,1043; "College of Music Will Give Fall Program Saturday Night," the Sligonian, November 7, 1929, 1; Hooper and White, 479; "South Lancaster Academy," Atlantic Union Gleaner, May 22, 1912, 1; Harold A. Miller, Jr. email, mentioned his father completed a master's at Eastman. A check by me on September 12, 2018, with The Academic Dean's office at Southern Adventist University confirmed that its records list Miller as having a degree from Otterbein College and a master's from Eastman. A photograph caption in Southern Tidings, November 3, 1948, 5, also lists both degrees. No dates were listed; Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993, Ancestry.com; Ohio, Birth Index, 1908-1964, Ancestry.com; Harold Amadeus Miller, "Slumber Song," The Youth's Instructor, June 24, 1924, 5; "Music Head's Songs Published in Hymnal," The Sligonian, March 17, 1932, 2. This publisher was acquired by the Homer Rodeheaver Company in 1936. Several of Miller's songs were subsequently published by Rodeheaver; Talmage W. Dean, Twentieth Century Protestant Church Music in America, (Nashville, Tenessee, Broadman Press, 1988), 130, 131. Rodeheaver was later purchased by Word, Incorporated, in Waco, Texas; Gospel Melodies and Evangelistic Hymns, (Takoma Park, Maryland, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1944); The Ministry, August 1944, 43; "Music in Worhip and Evangelism,"
The Ministry, April 1951, 39;Harold A. Miller, "Cultural Values of Music and Art," The Journal of True Education, December 1940, 13; "The Cultural Value of Music," TJTE, February 1942, 15; "Music as a Spiritual Force," TJTE, February 1946, 15; Harold Miller’s influence at Southern is detailed in Elva B. Gardner, A School of His Planning: A Narrative of Seventy Years of Growth and Development of SMC, 1892-1962, (Collegedale, Tennessee, Southern Missionary College, 1962), 156, 157; Elva B. Gardner and J. Mable Wood, Eighty Years of Progress, (Same as previous listing, a revision of Gardner’s 1962 book, 1975) 184; Dennis Pettibone, A Century of Challenge: The Story of Southern College, 1892-1992 (Collegedale, Tennessee, The College Press, 1992), 127, 128; H.A. Miller, "Piano Pointers for Church Musicians," The Ministry, August 1939, 23-26; "Union College News Items," Northern Union Outlook, October 6, 1942, 2; "New Teachers Joining Staff," Pacific Union Recorder, June 28, 1944, 2; "Music Week," Pacific Union Recorder, May 16, 1945, 8; "Come On Down to Collegedale," (actual copy of the music), Southern Tidings, July 6, 1938, 8; Dennis Pettibone, 127, 128; J.D. Bledsoe, "Cornerstone Laying at Southern Missionary College," Review and Herald, January 1, 1953, 20; Harold Amadeus Miller obituaries, Review and Herald, February 2, 1967, 30, and Southern Tidings, January 20, 1967, 17.