Noble, Weston (1922-2016) | Nordic
Weston Henry Noble was born to Merwin and Ruth (Lappin) Noble on November 30, 1922, in Riceville, Iowa. He grew up on a small family farm with his six siblings: Harlan, Russell, Lowell, Dale, and twins, Joe and Jo Ann. At age 5 he began taking piano lessons.
Noble began his Luther education in 1939, and was teased by his peers for being so young when he first arrived. While at Luther, he was very active in the music program. He was a member of both Concert Band and Schola Cantorum. He wanted to pursue a career in music education, and this became his major. According to requirements at Luther at the time, music education was not considered an academic program, so Noble had to choose a second major. He decided on history and became a double major. In 1943, the year Noble was scheduled to graduate, World War II was well underway. In response, Weston decided he would join the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps. However, he was called to start training before his Luther graduation date. He was not alone in this predicament since there were four other Luther men who also faced the same dilemma. As a result, Luther made arrangements for Noble and the other students to complete their graduation requirements early in the spring, allowing them to both receive their degrees from Luther and carry out their duties to the Army.
As a member of the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps, Noble was first sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he was assigned to the armored (tank) corps. He didn’t find this particularly pleasing. After his stay in Fort Knox, Noble received further training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He then became part of the 750th Tank Battalion, and was sent to Europe. While in Europe, Noble was stationed for various periods of time in England, France, Belgium and Germany.
Upon his return to the United States in 1946, Noble debated the possibility of pursuing a graduate degree in music. At the last minute, he decided to postpone his further education and turned to teaching high school music. He received a job at the high school in LuVerne, Iowa, and began teaching there in the fall of 1946. He spent two years at LuVerne before joining the Luther faculty on a “temporary” basis in 1948.
The summer before Noble returned to Luther, he began his graduate studies at the University of Michigan. In the fall, Noble was asked if he would fill in for one year until a replacement was found for a recently resigned member of the music faculty. He agreed, and again put his graduate studies on hold. Although it was not planned, he ended up directing both the Concert Band and the Nordic Cathedral Choir, as well as teaching music classes that first year. Because of his success in these endeavors, Noble was asked to stay another year, thus beginning his legacy at Luther College. He attended 9 years of summer school classes at the University of Michigan, 1947-1955, and completed his master’s degree there in 1951.
Noble’s influence on music at Luther has been profound. In 1950, he began the Dorian Music Festival with the intent of using it to recruit additional students to Luther College. In 1953, he received an offer to teach at Butler University, with the promise of leading a number of musical groups there. Presumably in order to entice him into staying at Luther, Noble received a counter offer which made him the head of the music department at Luther. After just four years of teaching at Luther and at the young age of 31, he became head of the department, effective in September, 1953. In 1973, Noble also received the title of “Director of Musical Activities.” In 1973, at age 51, he gave up direction of the Concert Band and turned all of his attention to Nordic Choir. Noble is perhaps best known for his conducting of Handel’s Messiah. He has had the honor of directing this production since his first year at Luther College in 1948.
By 1965, Noble began to be bothered by the amount of litter on the Luther College campus. By 1982 he was devoted to picking up campus trash. He has become well-known for his dedication to keeping up the campus grounds.
Noble has received numerous honors over the course of his years at Luther. Among the most notable are: Carlo A. Sperati Award in 1961; Honorary Doctor of the Arts Degree from Augustana College, Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1971; first to be named Outstanding Music Educator of the United States in 1989; first recipient of the Weston H. Noble Award in 1994; and Honorary Degree of Doctor of Fine Arts from St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota in 1996.
In 1998, a biography of Weston Noble was published. Warmly, Weston: A Luther College Life, was written by Wilfred F. Bunge of the Luther College Religion Department. This complete biography can be found in the main stacks in Preus Library.