Held, Wilbur

Wilbur Held was born August 20, 1914 in the little Chicago suburb of Des Plaines. Dr. Held’s mother was an accomplished violinist, and there was always music in his home and his church. But piano lessons were poorly practiced, and the decision to get serious about music didn’t happen until after graduation from high school.

He enrolled at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, studying organ with Frank van Dusen and theory/composition with John Palmer. After getting serious he did pretty well, and midway in his studies he became Leo Sowerby’s assistant at St. James Church–an association that lasted seven years. He received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the conservatory.

In 1946 he joined the faculty at the Ohio State University, where he became Professor of Organ and Church Music and head of the keyboard department. He remained in this position for over 30 years, and for most of that time was also organist-choirmaster at Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio.

During his tenure at O.S.U., he earned a Doctor of Sacred Music degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York and studied the organ sporadically with Marcel Dupré and Andre Marchal when they were in this country– and also a term with Vernon de Tar, and composition with Normand Lockwood and Wallingford Riegger.

Dr. Held started composing little pieces for the organ because he felt there was a lack of teaching material aimed at developing style and registration, especially for the romantic use of the instrument. His Nativity Suite, published in 1959, has sold well over 25,000 copies.

In 1978 he retired to Claremont, California, where he has continued to be active as clinician, recitalist and composer. His compositions not only appear in the MorningStar catalog, but also in the catalogs of Augsburg, Concordia, Hinshaw, Beckenhorst, Sacred Music Press and Hope.

Rembering Wilbur Held

Choral music by Wilbur Held

Organ music by Wilbur Held