Dr. William Heide
Dr. William Heide

As St. John’s Minister of Worship & Music, Dr. William Heide oversees all facets of the church’s music ministry, including the concert series that includes Christmas performances.

Dr. William Heide

Experience a worship service at St. John’s Lutheran Church, and you’re likely to find yourself transcended by the music.  There in the historic sanctuary located in Old Towne, the uplifting sounds of the organ and choir take you to an elevated state.

At the helm of St. John’s music ministry is Dr. William Heide, who considers himself blessed to oversee the music program.  “Playing the organ and leading the choir is a fulfilling experience,” says St. John’s Minister of Worship & Music since 1990.  “Music is an emotional and inspirational medium that touches the heart in a way that nothing else can.”

Born in Burbank in 1951, Heide moved to Anaheim at the age of four.  His mother taught him to play the piano and later the organ.  At the age of 12, he starting playing the organ once a month at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Anaheim, where his family attended.

By early high school, Heide decided to go into music ministry.  “My grandfather was a pastor, and my parents were active in church leadership, so music ministry seemed like the ideal way for me to serve God.”

After high school, Heide attended Concordia University Chicago, where he earned an undergraduate degree in church music in 1973.  During college, he worked for three years as a student music director at Grace Lutheran Church in Chicago, where he met his wife, Linda, when she auditioned to sing in the choir.  “Working at Grace Lutheran taught me to creatively play hymns and work with the choir,” he says.

In 1974, Heide became minister of music at Zion Lutheran Church in Anaheim.  During that time, he also studied for his master’s degree in conducting from California State University, Fullerton, which he earned in 1980.  (He also has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Conducting, earned in 2001.)

After his time at Zion in Anaheim, Heide took a position as minister of music at St. Paul Church in Trenton, Michigan.  “The music program was small when I arrived, but had substantially increased in size when I left eight years later,” he says.

By the time Heide joined St. John’s in 1990, his experience was vast enough to jump in and improve an already strong music program.  “I added a monthly concert series and developed the music conservatory, which currently has 100 private students,” says Heide.  The church also has two adult choirs for traditional music, several contemporary music bands, seven children’s choirs and a handbell choir.

“Bill Heide has brought his God-given talents and dedication to St. John’s quest of making its music program an effective tool for the community to hear and enjoy God’s message in song,” says longtime member and organist Ken Schlueter, who attended St. John’s Lutheran School in the 1940s and was employed at Orange Lutheran High School.  “Bill’s organ playing is superb, and he effectively creates variations and accompaniments to hymn-singing.  He has also brought in many fine guest artists and groups.”

One of Heide’s favorite composers is Bach, with whom he feels an affinity.  “Many people are surprised to discover that Bach spent most of his career as a Lutheran church musician, and much of his music is church music,” says Heide.

It was the Bach concert series that caused Marcia Biang and her husband, Ron, to become members of the church in 2011.

“I was a music major in college, and it’s my passion.  After I heard a Bach Cantata Vespers concert one Sunday evening, we began attending St. John’s,” says Biang, who now sings in both choirs.  “Bill is gifted at keeping a traditional feel to the music, while making it fresh.  He’s also a fine organist and conductor.”

The sanctuary underwent renovation in 2015, and as a result, the musical experience in the church has gotten even better.

“Over the last year, our organ has undergone rebuilding and enlargement to produce a richer, more varied sound,” says Heide.  “When complete, it will be the second largest church organ in Orange County, with more than 4,600 pipes.  We’re hoping it will be done by Christmas Eve.”

For information about St. John’s concert series, visit www. stjohnsorange.org/concerts

Article Published in the
Nov / Dec 16 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Julie Bawden-Davis Photo by Scott Montgomery
Get the Most from Your Article
Discover exclusive framed articles, digital elements, and photos from your photoshoot, all available for purchase for featured subjects.