Melvin Knight Obituary (2022) – Albany, OR

Melvin (Mel) Karl Knight, Jr.

Nov 15, 1934 – Aug 24, 2021

Melvin (Mel) Karl Knight, Jr. of Beaverton, Oregon, passed away peacefully at his home on August 24, 2021. Born on November 15, 1934 in Traverse City, Michigan, he was the son of Dr. Melvin and Mildred (Ohmit) Knight.

During his childhood, Mel’s family moved frequently across the country, from Michigan to Texas to California to Pennsylvania to New York. When Mel was in 8th grade, his parents decided to move permanently to Vancouver, Washington, where he finally had a place that he could call home. At Vancouver High School, he met Patricia (Pat) Fargher, where they both played clarinet in band/orchestra. In 1954, they were reunited at Clark College and married on September 7, 1956, in Vancouver.

Mel earned his bachelor’s in Music Education and master’s degree in Composition from Lewis & Clark College. He began his career as a band teacher at Crowfoot Elementary and Seven Oak Middle School in Lebanon, Oregon, in 1959. From 1967 to 1985, he was the band director at Lebanon Union High School. During his tenure, the instrumental music program evolved with the establishment of two jazz bands while maintaining concert and marching band programs. He also arranged several scores for musical theater. His jazz ensembles competed at many festivals including Reno, Clackamas and international destinations.

Beginning in the 1950’s Mel got involved in barbershop quartet singing, joining SPEBSQSA (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America). By 1965 he had organized and began directing Lebanon’s first chorus. By 1981, he was directing the Eugene chorus that went on to place at the International contest along with his quartet, the Cascade Connection. Mel was an arrangement judge for many barbershop quartet/chorus competitions regionally and at the international level. He was a prolific arranger and in constant demand as a coach. In October of 1985, Mel and Pat moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he joined the staff as a music specialist at the SPEBSQSA headquarters known as Harmony Hall. He was promoted to the Director of Music Education and Services until his retirement in 1993. Mel fostered the dramatic expansion of Harmony College and founded the Director’s College.

Mel had a personal style that elicited an understanding of fundamentals of musical excellence and a sharing of love for the art of music. His teaching approach was laid back, with the expectation of dedication and passion from his students of all ages. He made the experience fun, while educational. His original compositions and arrangements for band included standard jazz, big band, rock, R&B and country. Barbershop arrangements included traditional contest songs, as well as pop, gospel, patriotic and even one hip hop number that was a medley of “My Wild Irish Rose” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”. He composed several songs that were published by SPEBSQSA.

Mel and Pat enjoyed a long and wonderful retirement together until she passed away in 2014. Barbershop and Sweet Adelines remained an integral part of their lives as they traveled to Australia, New Zealand, several European countries and throughout the US and Canada. They also made many trips to resorts in Mexico and Hawaii.

Mel was an avid sports fan and enjoyed the Ducks and the Portland Trailblazers. In his younger days, he played pool, basketball, golf and tennis. He was a voracious reader and enjoyed spending time with his family.

Mel preferred to shine the spotlight on everyone enjoying music together, rather than on himself. It was appropriate that he signed correspondence, “Hummmmbly yours, Mel”.

Family members left to remember Mel are his children, Erin (Mark) Knight Haag, Tracy (Joel) Forbess, and Cory (RoseAnn) Knight; four grandsons, Austin & Garrett Haag and Zachary & Nathan Knight; and his brother, Richard (Wendy) Knight.

A celebration of life will be held at 1 pm Saturday, May 28th, at Shute-Meierjurgen Farmstead, 4825 NW Starr Blvd, Hillsboro.

Published by Albany Democrat-Herald on May 26, 2022.