Robert Malcolm Speed, 87, died June 18, 2017, in Des Moines, Iowa. Born in Knoxville, Iowa, he played piano and harmonized tunes before starting school. By age 15, he was accompanying musical events in Knoxville. Soon thereafter, he began playing for church services and played in a local band. By high school graduation in 1948, he was organist for First Methodist Church of Knoxville.
Speed earned his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Drake University, Des Moines, where he studied with Dean Jordan. In 1952, at what is now Grand View University, Des Moines, he began teaching music theory, music appreciation, piano, organ, and English literature, in addition to directing the 60-member choir. For two summers, he studied organ with Marilyn Mason at Columbia University. He also spent two summers studying English literature at the University of London.
For 48 years he served as organist of Central Presbyterian Church, Des Moines, where he was instrumental in the design and acquisition of a 39-rank Aeolian-Skinner organ. As a recitalist, he presented many programs, notably one at the cathedral of Copenhagen, Denmark.
On October 8, Robert Malcolm Speed was remembered in a concert presented by the Central Iowa Chapter of the American Guild of Organists at West Des Moines United Methodist Church. Performers included Ruth Harris, Sawyer Shiffler, Linda Bryant, Deanna Snyder with flutist Joni Kinnan, Carl Gravander, the Grand View University Choir under the direction of Kathryn Duffy, Mark Babcock, David Raymond, and William Ness. The program included five compositions by Speed.