Harold A. Miller
1891 - 1966
A noted gospel song writer in his time with over 200 published songs and choruses to his credit, Harold Amadeus Miller spent most of his career at Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University. His father, Fred R. Miller, a trained musician and pianist, was Miller's first music teacher. Harold’s talent became apparent at an early age, and while still in his teens he began teaching.
Encouraged by some students who were attending what is now Atlantic Union College, he went to school there and during that time was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He would eventually attend Eastman School of Music and obtain a master's degree in music.
At age 25 he began teaching music at Mount Vernon Academy in Ohio, a position he held for thirteen years. Miller then taught at Washington Missionary College, now Columbia Union College, until going to Southern Junior College, now SAU, in 1935 at the age of 44. His arrival 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.
In 1942 he left SJC, only to return in 1945, after teaching briefly at Union and Pacific Union colleges. This contact with the music programs at these schools probably 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, began offering a four-year degree in music.
Miller by this time was a legendary figure on campus because of his success as a published composer and the inclusion of ten of his songs in the 1941 SDA Church Hymnal. A representative from Rhodeheaver Music Company regarded him as the "greatest writer of sacred melodies he had ever known." One of his songs, "Like Jesus" (492), is in the church's 1985 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. It is an attractive brick building in Georgian-Colonial style. With its seven studios, seventeen practice rooms, rehearsal room and recital hall, it was a source of pride to the school. When dedicated in 1954, it was named the Harold A. Miller Hall.
Sources and notes: Information found in the Companion to the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, Wayne Hooper and Edward White, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 478-79; A School of His Planning, Elva B. Gardner and J. Mabel Wood, 1972; and an article, "Music at Southern Adventist University," by Dan Shultz, published in the Winter /Spring 2004 issue of Notes, quarterly magazine of the International Adventist Musicians Association. According J. D. Bledsoe, student and close friend of Miller, Miller's original middle name was Gotlieb, German for "Love of God." Although Miller never gave a reason for doing so, he changed it to Amadeus, which is the Latin word for the same phrase. It should be noted that Hooper's assertion that the parents of Miller left the church, was challenged by his son and their grandson, Harold, Jr. (Hal), in an email dated 27 December 2006." I have no memory of my grandparents, Fred R. Miller and Mary Nugent Miller ever leaving the SDA church or beliefs."