Weston Noble

Thursday, December 22, 2016 2:08 pm

Weston H. Noble, 94, of Decorah, passed away peacefully Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah. Visitation is noon to 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29, at First Lutheran Church, 604 W. Broadway St., Decorah, concluding with a short prayer service at 6 p.m. Thursday. Rev. Chad Huebner and Rev. Mike Blair will preside. Private family graveside services are at Riverside Cemetery in Riceville, with full military honors, Friday, Dec. 30. A Celebration of Life service will be held during spring semester at the Center for Faith and Life (CFL) on the Luther College campus. More details on this service will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Weston Noble Music Scholarship or the Friends of International Touring Scholarship at Luther College, c/o Development Office, 700 College Drive, Decorah, IA 52101. Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah is serving the family. Online condolences may be made at fjelstul.com.

Weston Henry Noble was born Nov. 30, 1922, on the family farm in Riceville, to Merwin and Ruth (Lappin) Noble. After beginning his education in a one-room country schoolhouse, he attended Riceville High School where he played in the high school band, sang in the choir and performed clarinet solos at state music contests. Graduating from high school at the age of 16, Noble enrolled at nearby Luther College in Decorah in 1939. Majoring in history, in his second year he began leading rehearsals for the choral ensemble, Schola Cantorum. He completed his student teaching at Decorah High School.

In February 1943, the spring semester of his senior year, Noble was called to active duty into the U.S. Army. The college arranged for Noble and his fellow classmates to accelerate their studies and complete their final semester prior to commencement; he graduated magna cum laude. He saw action in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 as a tank driver and was part of the main Allied attack on Nazi Germany in 1945.

Noble returned to Iowa in 1946, where he taught at the high school and directed the school’s music program in Lu Verne. After teaching for two years, he began graduate studies in music at the University of Michigan and in 1948, his alma mater, Luther College, asked Noble to fill a one-year faculty appointment as interim director of the band and choir. His appointment became permanent in 1950.

“Weston’s life of faith was integral to his pursuit of music and pursuit of a life well lived in serving God through relationship. The many students he mentored with advice and counsel were blessed with Weston’s belief in and affirmation of their performances. Perhaps there has not been such a positive and affirming teacher in the choral and instrumental art in his generation as Weston Noble,” said George Gentes, friend and former student. “All of us who have had the privilege to sing or play for Weston know the special expression of inspiration and emotion that would emanate from his face and hands. We felt as if the Light of Christ was shining through him to us as we sang our praises to God and felt forever changed thereafter!

“Our campus community is deeply saddened by this loss. It’s hard to overstate Weston’s contributions to American choral music and to the rich tradition of music at Luther. He had a deep love for Luther College, and he leaves behind a legacy of musical excellence and service to the college that’s an inspiration to us all. God bless the memory of Weston Noble. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Weston’s family and the whole Luther family who loved Weston very much,” said Luther President Paula Carlson.

Noble was a highly accomplished and honored American music educator and conductor. Most recently the Johnson Professor Emeritus of Music at Luther College, Noble had a 57-year tenure as a conductor and teacher at Luther. He received acclaim from across the country and the world as the conductor of the Luther College Nordic Choir from 1948 to 2005, the Luther College Concert Band from 1948 to 1973, and as guest director for more than 900 all-state bands, orchestras, choirs and festivals across four continents. Most recently, he conducted the Pacific Summer Music Festival of Guam, Korea National Choir in Seoul, and the International Schools Festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Noble was a charter member of the American Choral Directors Association and an elected member of the American Bandmasters Association. In 1994 the North Central Division of the American Choral Directors Association established the Weston H. Noble Award for Lifetime Achievement. Noble was the first to be honored by this award.

Because of his outstanding contributions to choral music, Noble was the recipient of the Robert Lawson Shaw Award given by the American Choral Directors Association. For his impressive contributions to instrumental music, he was awarded the 2008 Midwest Clinic Medal of Honor, given by the International Convention of Band and Orchestra Directors.

In the field of music education the National Federation of State High School Associations recognized him as the Outstanding Music Educator of the United States. The National Association for Music Education awarded him the Lowell Mason Fellow Award also in the area of music education/industry.

Noble held five honorary doctoral degrees from Augustana College (South Dakota), St. Olaf College, Westminster Choir College of Rider University, Carthage College and Wartburg College. He was awarded the St. Olav’s Medal from King Harald V of Norway for his contributions to Norwegian-American relations.

Following year-long guest residencies at Carthage College, Wartburg College and Augustana College (Sioux Falls), Noble worked part-time for the Luther College Development Office.

In his biography of Noble, “Warmly, Weston: A Luther College Life,” Wilfred F. Bunge wrote: “Some of those who emerge from this common story move out into the larger world to do uncommon things. Weston Noble is one of those persons. He has become a legend at the height of his working life. How does one write the story of a legend? Behind the legend lies the common place, not so different from any one of us. Weston’s story is more interesting than that of most of us, because of his unusual gifts and accomplishments. But reflection on his life is a way for all of us to reflect on our own lives. His life is interesting for its patterns—rising out of the commonplace to distinction, and yet retaining the common touch of his origins.”

Weston is survived by his brother, Lowell (Dixie) Noble of Riceville; his twin brother and sister, Joe Noble and Jo Ann Noble, both of Greenville, Ill.; two sisters-in-law, Evelyn Noble (Mrs. Russell) of Rochester, Minn. and Alice Noble (Mrs. Dale) of Santa Barbara, Calif.; and by several nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Merwin and Ruth; and three brothers, Harlan, Russell, and Dale.

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