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Remembering Olin Griffith Parker

August 8, 2019 10:25 AM

In Memory of Olin Griffith Parker

olinparker1Olin Griffith Parker, 97, long-time member of AMTA, supporter and pioneer of music therapy, died peacefully, surrounded by family, at his home in Greenville, North Carolina on August 5. Olin’s collegiate education at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas was interrupted when he was called to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. He returned to earn his Bachelor of Music in Music Education (minoring in clarinet and economics) in 1947.  At the University of Kansas he earned his Master of Music Education degree, minoring in educational psychology (1949) and Doctor of Education degree, minoring in guidance (1961).  E. Thayer Gaston, Olin’s major professor, was one of the founders of music therapy in the United States.  Parker’s dissertation was “A Study of the Relationship of Aesthetic Sensitivity to Musical Ability, Intelligence, and Socioeconomic Status.”

Olin joined the U. S. Army in March 1943, becoming a commissioned officer the following year.  He served in New Guinea and the Philippines as well as in the Army of Occupation in Japan through May 1946.  He remained in the U. S. Army Reserve and was recalled to active duty (1951-53) as a unit commander on the front lines of the Korean War, primarily at Old Baldy. More than three of First Lieutenant Parker’s four years overseas were served in combat.  The Bronze Star for Meritorious Service was one of the honors of which he was most proud.

Olin’s contribution to the field of education traversed 64 years.  He often stated, “Music is the essence of humanness.”  Initially he taught public school music in Kansas for fourteen years-- elementary music, high school band & chorus (Macksville 1947-48) and elementary, junior and senior high band (Leavenworth1949-51).  Following Parker’s return from Korea, he taught band, orchestra, stage band, and music theory at Salina High School (1954-64).

Olin Park Receives Presidential Award from AMTA President Ronna Kaplan

The family moved to Athens, Georgia in 1964 where he taught at the University of Georgia until 1992 and served as Associate Head of the School of Music for many of those years. Olin taught 31 different courses, supervised countless student teachers, and occasionally taught applied clarinet and saxophone.  He established the jazz program and the guitar major at UGA, directed the clarinet choir and brass choir, and performed with the Faculty Brass Quartet and the Faculty Woodwind Quartet.  In 1968, through his efforts, the music therapy program was instituted at the University of Georgia.  Dr. Richard Graham, the first African American professor employed by the University, was hired by Dr. Parker to direct that program.  Following his state-mandated retirement at the age of 70, he was granted the title of Emeritus Professor of Music and Associate Director Emeritus.  Dr. Parker continued to teach part time (graduate level Psychology of Music and supervision of student teachers) until the age of 92.

Olin published over fifty articles and presented 48 scholarly papers at professional conferences on every continent except Africa and Antarctica lecturing in 39 states and 45 countries.  He served as a guest lecturer at East Carolina University yearly from 1988 - 2013.  Professional memberships included the American Music Therapy Association, College Music Society, Council for Research in Music Education, European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, Georgia Association of Educators, Georgia Music Educators Association, International Society for Music Education, National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors, National Band Association, and many others.  He served in leadership positions with the Athens Area Retired Teachers Association, Georgia Music Educators Association, UGA chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia (10 years as Province 36 governor), the UGA chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, and the UGA Retired Educators Association.

Olin Parker with Daughter, Former AMTA President, Michelle Hairston

He was a founding member of the Classic City Band in Athens, Georgia, serving as co-director of that organization for two years and director for three.  For forty years he played tuba, clarinet (E-flat, B-flat, alto, and bass), alto saxophone, and baritone as required. Olin’s final conducting appearance with the band was at the age of 94. 

His awards were many:  Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Orpheus Award (1977); Distinguished Service Award (Georgia Music Educators Association, 1977 & 1990); Distinguished Career Award (1996, Georgia Music Educators Association); and the 50 Years of Service Certificate (2002, Music Educators National Conference); American Music Therapy Association Presidential Award (2011); and Love of Learning Award (UGA chapter of Phi Kappa Phi 2017);

The funeral and reception will be Sunday, August 11, at 2:00 in the Fellowship Hall at the First United Methodist Church in Athens.  Private burial will follow.  Memorial contributions can be made to the Olin G. and Melba Joy Parker Scholarship for music education students at the University of Georgia’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music.