SDA Music Buildings

A Chronology

While the action on the stage is what really counts, there is no denying that the setting in which the performance unfolds can facilitate both the preparation for and presentation of the event. This is no less true in music than in drama, a fact acknowledged by the money spent over the years by Adventist schools at all levels on music facilities and instruments. While the following chronology focuses primarily on buildings built for music and the arts, it also includes some noteworthy historical structures that have been modified for musical use.


Music Building

Emmanual Missionary College (Andrews University)

 The first building at any SDA school built specifically for music was constructed at a cost of $6,000. The student body of 300, challenged to raise the funds in 30 days, responded by having all funds in hand one day ahead of schedule. The fact that music teaching, practice, and rehearsals until this time had been happening on the third floor of the administration building may have provided incentive for all students to help place them in a separate building!


Johnson Memorial Music Conservatory

Walla Walla College

 The facility was built at a cost of $12,000, $7,000 of which was donated by an Adventist minister in Portland, Oregon, Christopher Johnson, in memory of his wife. Students raised $3,500 and the conference donated the rest. Two grand and thirteen upright pianos were purchased as the building was completed for an additional $3,750. In spite of its poor acoustics and small size, it continued in use until 1964.



Noah E. Paulin Hall

Pacific Union College


Noah Paulin was the first person at PUC who, while still teaching, had a building named for him. On the campus since 1914, Paulin had distinguished himself as a violinist, teacher and chair of the music program. A charming facility with practice rooms and a small auditorium when new, it was adequate for the era but by the time a newer building was built forty-five years later, it was suitable for only a small segment of the program.



Hole Memorial Auditorium

Southern California Junior College (La Sierra University)


W. J. Holeís land in Southern California became the site of what is today called La Sierra University. Hole was a businessman and sportsman whose philanthropy during the early years of the school included a gift of $10,000 towards the construction of what is one of the first actual auditoriums on an Adventist campus.

It continues today, following a major renovation in the 1970ís, as the primary stage for music department presentations on the LSU campus. A Casavant organ, the third largest pipe organ in that region, was installed in 1970. The building in which the auditorium is housed now serves as the universityís music facility.



Engel Hall

Union College


Although the projected cost for the music facility was $45,000 plus 15,000 for furnishings, actual cost for the building alone was $87,000. The students raised $15,700 of the needed amount within four weeks of the beginning of the fundraising campaign in 1945.

The building, with its five studios, two classrooms, rehearsal area, 18 practice rooms and 100-seat recital hall, was connected to the nearby library building in 1967, with music occupying part of the connecting construction. A number of renovations were done in the 60ís and 70ís and, in 1985, music and art took over the entire music/library complex. It is named for Carl Engel, music teacher at UC for 32 years.



Benjamin F. Machlan Auditorium

Atlantic Union College


Located on the right side of a three-part imposing Colonial New England-styled facility, Machlan auditorium is named for the college president whose leadership led to AUCís standing as a four-year school.

In planning from 1938, construction on the building began immediately after WW II, facilitated by a dramatically increased enrollment and cheap GI labor. It was completed in time for the schoolís 70th anniversary. With its large stage and 1,000-seat capacity it is a center for music activities for both the campus and the region.



Hamel Hall

Emmanual Missionary College (Andrews University)


Constructed at a cost of $136,000 for a four-teacher, one-degree program, this three-story building was part of a post-WW II building program that would serve as a prelude to EMCís transformation from a small college to a major force as Andrews University, home for the churchís seminary and its primary school for graduate study. The building was totally renovated in 1989 and, in 1995, named for Paul Hamel who had served as music department chair from 1955 to 1994 and had been a major force in other areas on campus, as well. Today, with its two rehearsal rooms, ten studios, 19 practice rooms, two organs, 19 pianos and the largest music library in SDA universities, it continues as home for an expanded music program offering several undergraduate and graduate degrees.



Harold A. Miller Hall

Southern Missionary College (Southern Adventist University)


Completed in 1954, the first real music facility at SMC, with its seventeen practice rooms, seven studios, recital hall and music library, was hailed as a vast improvement over the cramped quarters music had occupied in the administration building for the past thirty years. An attractive building with Georgian-Colonial architecture, it became inadequate as the program expanded.



George E. Peters Hall

Oakwood College


The second of six structures constructed at OC in the 1960ís, the music building includes seven teaching studios, two rehearsal areas, five practice rooms and four classrooms built around a 125-seat auditorium. It is named for George E. Peters, noted SDA African-American evangelist in the first half of the 20th century.



Melvin K. West Fine Arts Center

Walla Walla College


The first in a series of large comprehensive SDA music facilities to be built in the last third of the 20th century, the MKW fine arts center was designed to accommodate a small to medium college music program. Built at a cost of $650,000, the two-story building, has two rehearsal areas, ten teaching studios, 27 practice rooms, two classrooms, music library, and office, all clustered around a 300-seat auditorium. New instruments and equipment were purchased at a cost of $120,000 as it was completed. It is equipped with 17 grand pianos, 25 upright pianos, a harpsichord, and four pipe organs. An art gallery and art studios, classrooms, and offices occupy about a fourth of the building. It was named in 1996 for Melvin K. West, chair of the department at the time of its construction.



Noah E. Paulin Hall

Pacific Union College


Constructed at the same time and within the same parameters as the fine arts center at Walla Walla College, the new Paulin Hall at PUC is strikingly different in layout and appearance. The two-story structure, constructed for over $500,000, includes two rehearsal areas, fourteen teaching studios, 28 practice rooms, two classrooms, offices, three ensemble libraries, and a 468-seat auditorium with a 48-rank Casavant pipe organ. There are three other organs in the facility, the largest of these being a 15-rank tracker, located in the organ studio. Other keyboard instruments include three harpsichords, and 25 grand and 22 upright pianos.



Thayer Music Conservatory

Atlantic Union College

 Under the leadership of Jon Robertson in the 1970ís the music program at AUC underwent a rapid expansion that necessitated a move from the oldest building on the main campus (the original administration building occupied since the 1950ís) to a nearby larger and older historically famous building, the Thayer Mansion.

Constructed in the mid 1800ís, expanded and refined in the 1880ís, and then completed in 1902 by the Thayer family, at that time one of the richest in the nation, the structure is regarded as a highlight of American Georgian architecture. Its interior includes rooms known worldwide as some of the finest examples in Louis XVI style, popular in that era.

In an earlier time, its setting in the midst of extensive formal gardens was the site for outdoor performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Bought by the college in 1942, it had served as an administration building and dormitory before Robertson spoke for it on behalf of the department, and then set about beginning a restoration that continues to this day.



J. Mabel Wood Music Hall

Southern Adventist College (Southern Adventist University)

The vision and persistence of Marvin Robertson, chair of the department of music at SAC for 33 years, one the two longest tenures* of a music chair at an SDA college, led to the planning and construction of this 44,000,000 square foot music facility. Constructed at a cost of over $1,000,000 and located near the older Harold A. Miller music hall, it includes two rehearsal areas, ten studios, 23 practice rooms, and the 250-seat Dorothy E. Ackerman Auditorium. It is equipped with newer instruments, the latest in equipment, and three tracker action organs, including one in the auditorium with mean-tone tuning.

The building was the capstone of Robertsonís accomplishments at SC which included achieving accreditation with the National Association of Schools of Music, and the installation of an internationally recognized group of tracker pipe organs, including one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere, located in the University Church. The building is named for J. Mabel Wood, SMC alumnus who taught piano at the college for eighteen years. *Edna Farnsworth also served as music chair for 33 years at Atlantic Union College



Mabee Center

Southwestern College (Southwestern Adventist University)

A modern facility built at a cost of about 1.5 million dollars, the building has two rehearsal rooms, seven practice rooms, offices, seven teaching studios, and a 180-seat auditorium. It is equipped with five grand and eight upright pianos and a Johannus electronic organ. There is also an art instruction room. The building is named after the major donor to the building fund.



Music Conservatory

Montemorelos University

A large music complex, a combination of older and new buildings, easily accommodates MUís large conservatory and university music programs. Because of the schoolís location in a mild climate, the buildingís architecture combines the best elements of both enclosed and open areas. It is equipped with a number of new pianos and organs, all donated by Orland and Joan Ogden.


Howard Performing Arts Center

Andrews University University

A beautiful concert hall with acoustics lavishly praised by performers from its opening to the present (2016), HPAC was described by AU President Neils-Erik Andreasen at the time of the inaugural concert as ďA dream fulfilled and promises kept.Ē Half of the cost was contributed by John and Dede Howard, musicians and philanthropists in the community, who were honored at that time with a photo of the building signed by students and faculty. The facility has a capacity for 832 persons with 417 seated on a sloped main floor, 265 in the balcony, 38 in boxes, and 112 in an elevated area behind the stage that can double as a choir loft.The stage which is located two-feet above floor level can seat an orchestra of 120.A spacious two-story lobby provides an impressive entry and an attractive place for visiting during intermission and at the end of programs.††


Peters Music Center

Washington Adventist University

The first phase in a two phase building program, the Peters Music Center was completed in 2011 at a cost of six million dollars.The three-story facility includes five teaching studios, a two-story instrumental rehearsal room, a large classroom, two large practice rooms suitable for chamber ensembles, three medium-sized practice rooms, and a percussion studio/practice room. Other features include a music library and three ensemble areas, chairís office, administrative offices, a robing room, and storage for private and university instruments.The choir continues to rehearse in an attractive atrium which doubles as a recital hall in nearby Sligo church.Phase two will include additional practice rooms, a recital hall with a pipe organ, and a choral rehearsal room.



Academy Music Facilities

The investment in music facilities at the academy level in the 20th century also underscored the value Adventist education placed on music. While some outstanding facilities and auditoriums were constructed and part of a larger school building, there were exceptions, two of which are described below.

Forest Lake Academy

Maitland, Florida

After many years of rehearsing in everything from tin-roofed buildings, cafeteria basements, to the chapel stage, a freestanding all-music facility clustered around a 600-seat auditorium was built at Forest Lake Academy in 1968. A large rehearsal area, six teaching studios, eight practice rooms and a computer lab for teaching music notation make it an outstanding music facility for a music program at the secondary level.

Upper Columbia Academy

Spangle, Washington

One of the oldest of freestanding, built-for-music facilities at the academy level, the music building at UCA was built in 1961. A three-story facility with separate rehearsal rooms for choir and band, three teaching studios and 17 practice rooms, it was completely redone in 1985 following a fire that extensively damaged the building. In 1998, the band rehearsal room was enlarged and a connecting passageway to the campus performing area, along with dressing rooms and another teaching studio, were added.


This article, with photographs, was printed in the Winter/Spring 2002 issue of Notes, a publication of IAMA.It was updated in 2016.