Remembering Dr. Dunbar

Dr. D. “George” Dunbar, former director of Olivet Orpheus Choir, passed away on Saturday, Dec. 24, at age 82.

Current and former members of the choir attended a memorial service to honor Dunbar at College Church on Jan. 4.

Dunbar was a member of Orpheus while earning a Bachelor of Science in music education in 1959 before coming back to lead the choir.

After he graduated from Olivet, Dunbar, a native of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, earned a master’s degree in voice from the University of Illinois in 1960, and then a doctorate in music from the University of Southern California in 1970. He headed the music department for four years at Cascade College in Portland.

Dr. Paul Koch of Olivet remembered hearing about Dunbar’s final years at Cascade College, during which he, and other members of the faculty, taught without compensation to try and keep the school open. Cascade eventually closed, but Koch always admired how far Dunbar would go for his students, his school, and his God.

During his tenure, the choir travelled to Canada and Mexico, as well as Bethlehem, Israel where they performed for an audience of 10,000 on Christmas Eve.  Orpheus also performed with the Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra and at the Gaither Praise Gathering in Indianapolis.

Upon his retirement, Olivet established the D. George Dunbar Orpheus Award, given to an outstanding member of the choir who “embodied the spirit of excellence and ministry.”

Dunbar’s former student and friend Dr. Jeff Bell took over the leadership of Orpheus in 1999, a position he still holds today. Bell remembers Dunbar being easygoing in the classroom, having a wonderful, subtle sense of humor, and always putting his family before his work.

“The great number of choir alumni who showed up at his memorial service and sang ‘The Lord Bless You and Keep You’ shows that there are many people who feel as I do about this special man,” said Bell.

Bell always appreciated Dunbar’s conviction that the quality of music directly affects the message of the words in a song, a belief that Orpheus continues to uphold.

Dr. Bill Dean of Olivet described Dunbar as a superb vocalist, a dedicated teacher who never failed to engage his students, and a kind man who befriended anyone he met.

“I don’t know if George Dunbar ever met a stranger,” Dean said.

Dunbar’s family requests that memorial gifts be made to the Orpheus Memorial Scholarship Fund at Olivet.

— Brandon Grossi

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