John Delma Edison
John Edison, string bass player and his wife, Nancy, a pianist and organist, spent their entire careers teaching music at Blue Mountain Academy in Pennsylvania. Starting in 1959, following their graduation from Atlantic Union College, they taught at the school, founded four years earlier, for 43 years, developing and presiding over a highly regarded music program.†
John was born in Middletown, New York, one of three sons of Grant Jay, a chiropractor, and Mabel Delcena Gustin Edison. He started piano lessons at an early age and then took lessons on violin beginning at age twelve. He and a twin brother, Jay, attended church school at Middletown until their junior year and then transferred to South Lancaster Academy, graduating in 1955.
They attended Atlantic Union College, where John majored in music with string bass as his performance area and took several math and science courses, and Jay, a saxophonist, was a pre-medicine student. †While at AUC, John studied string bass with Georges E. Moleux, principal double bassist in the Boston Symphony and a graduate of the Paris Conservatory with gold medals in clarinet and solfeggio as well.†
In 1958 John was given a scholarship to attend Tanglewood Music Festival, where he played in the festival orchestra for six weeks. He recently talked about that summer:
It was a great experience. For instance, in traveling from the dormitory to the Tanglewood Center, other riders in the bus included persons who would become noted figures in classical music, such as Zubin Mehta and Claudio Abato, who won the Koussivitsky Award in conducting. Guest conductors of our festival orchestra included Charles Munch, then conductor of the Boston Symphony, and Seymour Lipkin, noted pianist and conductor. It was inspiring to hear the Boston Symphony when it performed at Tanglewood during my time there.†
I had to attend a composition class under Aaron Copland, in which it was interesting to observe that dynamic that existed between him with his use of melody and Lukas Foss whose interest was in chance music and who believed we should start with nothing. Copland tolerated this as long as he could and finally said, ďYouíve got to start with something.† Even Jazz starts with a tune.Ē
John and Nancy K, Sharpe, an AUC music major, married in August of that summer and later had one child, Jane Margaret (Stevenson).† Although Jane was extensively involved in music, playing piano, organ, and cello, she majored in elementary education and now works as an executive consultant internationally. She is primary co-author with Bilal Kaafarafi of the book Breaking Away (How great leaders create innovation that drives sustainable growth and why others fail).††††
John directed the band and orchestra at BMA for thirty-one years. He also had teaching credentials in math and science and taught in these areas during the last seven of those years. In his last twelve years he was officially a full-time science and math teacher, but continued teaching the academy string instrument lessons and string ensembles. He was honored with the Alma McKibben Sabbatical Award in 1992, a financial award underwriting continued professional study for the recipient.
He pursued graduate work at Ithaca College, where he completed an M.Mus.Ed. in 1963. Subsequent graduate work for certification purposes was taken at Kutztown State and Pennsylvania State universities. He also studied composition privately for two years with Robert Hall Elmore, who at that time was the organist at the Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Nancy, a popular and inspiring keyboard teacher who always carried an overload, performed regularly as a recitalist in American Guild of Organists events and as a church organist and accompanist. Many of her students continued their studies in organ or piano as music majors in SDA colleges and universities, with some returning to her for additional instruction following that study. She had received the Alma McKibben Sabbatical Award in 1991 and was chosen to receive the Zapara Excellence in Teaching Award in 1993.
As the 2002 school year ended, they were both honored for their many contributions to the academy and for their unprecedented record of service during the school's formative years by having the administration building named for them.
After they retired to Marietta, Georgia, he served as principal at two schools in the greater Atlanta area, Duluth Junior Academy, now Duluth Adventist Christian School, from 2003 to 2005, and Carman Adventist School from 2005 to 2007.
Edison has continued to play as a soloist on string bass in church, as a member of string groups, in an occasional chamber ensemble, and in an area community pops orchestra, Symphony on the Square.
More recently, he has written two books, God, Grace, and Deception ( Why Godís grace makes sense in a corrupt world) and Godís Grace is Free, SO What Else Matters? The first was printed in 2012 and the second in 2013.
Sources: Interviews with John and Nancy Edison, November 2013 and information provided by them in 2002; 1940 U.S. Census and Edison Family Tree Ancestry.com; Atlantic Union Gleaner, 25 August 1958, 8; personal knowledge.