Welcome to the official website of Joseph McLean Hesh (1954-2016): musician, songwriter, pastor, professor, mentor, therapist. This site is maintained by his family and friends to celebrate and share his legacy of music, teaching, and writing.
Joe was born in Macomb, IL to the late William L. and Charlotte (McLean) Hesh, and was raised in Pekin, IL, with younger brother Andy. Joe graduated from Pekin High School, Class of 1972. He then earned a B.S. in Music Therapy from Illinois State University under the direction of Dr. Dan Stephens and Dr. Paul Rosene (1976), and earned his certification with what was then the National Association for Music Therapy under the direction of Photine Vlahos at Ellisville State School in Ellisville, MS.
He married the former Claudia Wallies in 1975, and they have one daughter, Corrie (born 1983).
Sensing the call to pastoral ministry, Joe studied at Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M., Old Testament, 1981). He then served as youth pastor at Scofield Memorial Church in Dallas, TX, and at Pulpit Rock Church in Colorado Springs, CO. He moved to Pennsylvania in 1995 to serve as Pastor of Arts and Worship at Calvary Church in Souderton, and later at Chelten Church in Dresher, retiring in 2015.
A professional musician from a very young age, Joe played classical and pop/jazz music on piano, guitar and clarinet. He was also a songwriter, composing and performing hundreds of original songs, and recording over a dozen albums. He performed at countless church services, retreats, mission trips, conferences, and concerts.
As a significant part of his vocation as a Christian minister, Joe embraced his calling to serve many young musicians and artists as both teacher and mentor. Formally, he served as adjunct music faculty at Cairn University (Langhorne, PA) and Immaculata University (Malvern, PA). He also taught private lessons in piano, guitar, and composition. In 2010, he founded a non-profit, Joe Hesh Ministries, Inc., with the mission of helping churches, worship leaders and artists in the establishment, development and growth of church worship ministries.
In the last few years of his career, Joe returned to his training in music therapy, researching the effects of music on the brain. He received additional training in trauma competency from the Institute for Family Professionals under the direction of Lakeside Educational Network in Fort Washington, PA. As part of this work, Joe composed several albums of instrumental music informed by recent academic research on brain trauma, and his music is currently used in educational settings to aid students who have experienced significant trauma.
Joe served as vice-president of Aspenbreeze Productions, and as a researcher on assignment for Lakeside Educational Network. He performed research for The Warwick House in Warrington, PA in music therapy. He worked with schools, businesses, and churches to help them understand the role of arts and culture in building pathways to relational health.
In 2013, Joe was diagnosed with a Grade IV brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme. After a successful surgery to remove the tumor and several rounds of chemo and radiation, Joe returned to work as a pastor, professor, and music therapist. Side effects of treatment and a second surgery in 2015 severely impaired Joe’s physical and verbal abilities, even as he retained a great deal of his “chops” on the piano and guitar. Through his period in which his verbal gifts were diminished, Joe exhibited remarkable peace and trust in God, confidence in his salvation in Christ, and assurance through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Even when Joe was unable to speak to those who visited him, his quiet presence continued to be an encouragement to his family, friends, and caregivers.
Joe passed away peacefully on March 8, 2016. He was confident of his resurrection, as are his family and friends who nevertheless dearly miss him. But we have the blessing of his music, teachings, and writings that still speak to us today. Our prayer is that you will be encouraged and drawn closer to the God whom Joe served, loved, and wrestled with for sixty-one years on this earth.
They normally choose us, or we connect through shared venues.
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If memory serves, we were doing something special together on this day 39 years ago. Happy anniversary, Joe & Claudia!