Paul Hesselink ’62

Paul S. Hesselink, age 82, died on May 1, 2023.  Born on June 6, 1940 in Mitchell, South Dakota to Harold and Ruth (Jensema) Hesselink, he had been a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada since 1993. He previously had lived in Iowa, Nebraska, Washington, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia.

He was a graduate of Lynden (Washington) High School and went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts in Music (1962) from Hope College (Holland, MI) where he majored in organ; studied musicology at University of Michigan under a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship; earned a Master of Arts in Organ Pedagogy from The Ohio State University; and the Doctor of Musical Arts in Organ Performance from the University of Colorado, Boulder. His organ teachers included Roger J. Rietberg, Wilbur C. Held, Arthur Poister, Everett J. Hilty, and Don A. Vollstedt. He studied harpsichord in Paris, France with Davitt Moroney.

In 1966 he joined the faculty at Longwood College (now University) in Farmville, Virginia where for twenty-six years he taught organ and harpsichord, Music Theory, Music Form and Analysis, Church Music, Handbells, and Music Appreciation. He was named the recipient of the college’s Maria Bristow Starke Award for Excellence in Teaching. During the 1978-79 academic year he was a guest faculty member at the University of Colorado in the Department of Organ and Church Music. He chaired the Longwood Department of Music for three years. Upon early retirement from Longwood, he was named Professor Emeritus.  He relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada to become Dean and CEO at Nevada School of the Arts, a private non-profit community arts school; he held that position for twelve years. He also taught as the adjunct faculty providing organ instruction at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, beginning in 1993.

Dr. Hesselink was active in church music. He served as the Director of Music (organ, choir and handbells) at Farmville Presbyterian Church for twelve years, and as organist at Christ Church Episcopal in Las Vegas for six years. He was an active member of the Southern Nevada Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. He was the Program Chair of the AGO Region IX Midwinter Conclave, hosted by the Southern Nevada Chapter in January, 2006.  From 2005 to 2019 he managed the chapter’s Organ Recital Series bringing nationally and internationally known organists to perform in Las Vegas. Upon his retirement from that responsibility, the chapter honored him by naming the recital series “The Paul S. Hesselink Organ Recital Series.”

Active during his entire professional life as an organ and harpsichord  recitalist, lecturer, and workshop leader, he also performed as a duo-piano team member with Longwood colleague Frieda Myers. He was the harpsichordist-in-residence with the Roxbury Chamber Players (New York) for “Music in Historic Places” during the summers of 1984 and 1985.  In 1996 he was the harpsichord soloist for the World Premiere performance of the Nevett Bartow “Concerto for Harpsichord” with the Nevada Chamber Orchestra; he later recorded the work with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra in Bratislava for the MMC Recordings label. Hesselink was the recipient of two National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar awards–at Yale University and later at the Arnold Schoenberg Institute at University of Southern California. The seminars resulted in a ten-year research project regarding the commissioning, composition and publication of Schoenberg’s only work for the organ, his Op. 40. At the end of the second summer seminar, he was invited to publish his research in the Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute.  On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the composition of the Schoenberg organ work, his extensive article, “Variations on a Recitative for Organ, Op. 40: Correspondence from the Schoenberg Legacy” was republished in two installments in The American Organist, Journal of the American Guild of Organists (October and December, 1991).

Dr. Hesselink was a major force in the acquisition of the Maurine Jackson Smith Memorial Organ installed in 2004 in the Dr. Rando-Grilliot Recital Hall in the Beam Music Center on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus. This world-class instrument, which was designed, fabricated and installed by the Rudolf von Beckerath Orgelbau in Hamburg, Germany, is the largest mechanical action organ in Nevada. In 2013 he published “As I Recall: A History of the Maurine Jackson Smith Organ at UNLV.”

In addition to his membership in the American Guild of Organists (Richmond, VA Chapter, subsequently Southern Nevada Chapter) he held memberships in The Organ Historical Society, The College Music Society, The American Musicological Society, and The Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society.

An avid traveler through his adult years, he visited all fifty states, most of the countries in Europe, India, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, The Caribbean, Panama, Costa Rica, Egypt, Mexico, and Canada.

He was preceded in death by his parents. Survivors include an older brother, Philip Hesselink ’57 (Omaha. NE); an older sister, Elaine Helmus (Carroll, IA); a younger sister, Ardys Hansum(Omaha, NE); cousins, numerous nephews and nieces.  Also surviving is his former student, longtime friend and partner of more than fifty years, Linda Parker; and countless colleagues and friends. His ashes were interred in the family plot in the Gibbsville (WI) Cemetery.

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