“Music is the essence of humanness.”

On August 5, 2019, Brother Olin G. Parker passed peacefully, surrounded by family at his home in Greenville, North Carolina. The Brotherhood of Phi Mu Alpha mourns the passing of a man who was of upright character and dedicated to true Sinfonian ideals. We shall forever honor his legacy as an educator, veteran, and early pioneer in the field of musical therapy.

Olin Griffith Parker was initiated into the Gamma Mu Chapter at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas in 1941. His college education was interrupted by America’s involvement in World War II when he joined this US Army’s enlisted reserve in March of 1943. After the war, he would return to school at Bethany to earn a bachelor’s degree in music education. Parker continued his education at the University of Kansas, earning a master’s degree in music education with a minor in educational psychology. By 1961, he had completed his doctorate of education, writing a dissertation, “A Study of the Relationship of Aesthetic Sensitivity to Musical Ability, Intelligence, and Socioeconomic Status.”

In dedication and selfless service to the Fraternity, Brother Parker took on the role of Province Governor of Province 36 from 1967-1976. A year after retiring as Governor, he was awarded Phi Mu Alpha’s Orpheus Award in 1977. Brother Parker was later featured as part of the May 2011 cover story, “Memories From a World War” in The Sinfonian. Brother Parker has been honored for his military service and his years of work in the Fraternity. Parker was awarded the Christopher A. Patterson Phi Mu Alpha Veteran Challenge Coin as well as a fifty-year membership pin at the Fireside Conference Southeast, held at the University of Georgia in Athens in 2014. In recognition of his service to the Fraternity and his bold and enduring leadership, the Olin G. Parker Province 33 Leadership Award has been awarded annually since 2007 to a Brother in northern or central Georgia. Please read below for more information on his life and accomplishments.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Olin G. & Melba Joy Parker Scholarship for music education students. To support this fund, please visit gail.uga.edu/OlinParker, or contact Hugh Hodgson School of Music Development Officer Sara Emery at semery@uga.edu or 706-542-4232.

Valor in the Pacific and Korea

If asked about his service in World War II or Korea, Olin Parker would tell you, “I was no hero.” However, like many of the veterans of the era, he is a true American hero. Parker’s humility in this instance is a true testament to his character. Out of a sense of service to his country, he placed his life on hold to support and defend the nation. The following passage from Brother Parker’s Obituary summarizes his military career.

Olin joined the U. S. Army in March 1943, becoming a commissioned officer the following year. He served in Australia, 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.

Excerpts from his commanding officer’s evaluation summarized the personal traits that spanned his entire career: “outstanding leader; admired and looked up to; courteous, respectful; outstanding moral qualities; superior executive ability and orderly organization of missions assigned to him.”

“World War II was instrumental in my development as an individual. I learned how to get along with everybody. Aside from war, I hope I have never made any enemies. Suddenly having to become a grown-up, I missed a lot of things that I know you young people did in your early 20s, because I was in the war. I think that has done me good for my entire life, and my spirituality, and my emotional state, as well as always wanting to have more education.”

– Olin G. Parker, Memories From a World War, 2011

Dr. Olin G. Parker

The Power of Music

Dr. Olin G. Parker with AMTA President Ronna Kaplan.

As an educator for nearly 64 years, Brother Parker was a firm believer in the humanistic responsibility of music educators. He believed they ought to devote their lives to the pursuit of providing lifelong musical experiences that enhance the cultural heritage and aid in human growth. “Music is a vital and recognized force in the life of humans,” he would say. Parker began teaching elementary music as well as high school band and chorus. After his return to military service in Korea, Parker taught band, orchestra, and music theory at Salina High School in Kansas. He would conduct annual musical theater productions and small ensemble performances until relocating to Athens, Georgia in 1964.

For the next twenty-eight years, Brother Parker would bring about many monumental changes at the University of Georgia as Associate Director of the Hugh Hodgson School of Music. By 1968, Parker had spearheaded a campaign that successfully established music therapy as a major field of study for baccalaureate degrees. The music theory program at UGA is widely regarded today as one of the most respected in the nation. He was also responsible for hiring the first African American professor at UGA, Brother Richard Graham, Xi (University of Kansas), 1951. In 2011, Parker was honored with a Presidential Award from the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), which is given in recognition of individuals who support the ideals of the profession of music therapy.

Brother Parker is forever remembered and honored for the impact he made at the University of Georgia. 

“Olin Parker was a wonderful teacher, musician, and colleague. He exemplified the spirit of the HHSOM, and his passion, dedication, and good humor inspired and elevated everyone around him,” said Peter Jutras, director of the Hodgson School. “While we will miss his smiling presence, we are grateful for all that he gave to our students and faculty, and for all of the music he enjoyed in a life that was very well-lived.”

Olin Parker was truly a Brother Exemplar, who lived the Object in his daily life. His achievements stand as worthy goals for emulation, and his commitment to Brotherhood in Music will long be honored in the annals of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity. Brother Parker innately understood music’s important role in the enrichment of the human spirit, and championed it in his life and work. Although he now has sounded the Final Chord, his legacy will resonate for generations to come.

Requiescat in pace, frater.