Musician and educator Donald C. Robinson died on July 22 at the age of 89. Don was born in Gastonia, North Carolina, in 1925. When his family moved to Atlanta in 1935 and joined Central Presbyterian Church, Don quickly developed the habit of sitting in the front corner of the balcony, the better to hear the choir and study every movement of the organist. This fascination with music in general and sacred music in particular would characterize Don's life. After his graduation from Murphy Junior High and Boys High, Don served three years in the US Navy. Upon his discharge, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North...
Musician and educator Donald C. Robinson died on July 22 at the age of 89.
Don was born in Gastonia, North Carolina, in 1925. When his family moved to Atlanta in 1935 and joined Central Presbyterian Church, Don quickly developed the habit of sitting in the front corner of the balcony, the better to hear the choir and study every movement of the organist. This fascination with music in general and sacred music in particular would characterize Don's life.
After his graduation from Murphy Junior High and Boys High, Don served three years in the US Navy. Upon his discharge, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina, where he was drum major of the marching band and co-performer in a dance band with classmate Andy Griffith.
In 1947, Don returned to Atlanta, where he began teaching history in the Fulton County Schools. However, he felt the urge to follow his calling to music education, and became an instructor at the University of Michigan School of Music, where he earned a Master's Degree in Music in 1953. While in Michigan, he taught in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Later, he was an elementary and classroom music teacher in the United States Air Force Dependent Schools in Wiesbaden, Germany, where he met Lynn Eller, who became his companion and life partner for almost 60 years until his death in December, 2012.
In 1958, Don returned to the Fulton County Schools in Atlanta as Director of Music Education until his retirement in 1980. Supervising all choral and instrumental music instruction K-12 throughout the system, Don implemented many innovative programs, including annual opportunities for children throughout the metro area to attend special daytime ASO concerts at Symphony Hall. He employed a string quartet in residence to perform and teach throughout the school system. Don conducted All-State choruses in eight states, and in 1970, he served on the National Planning Committee of the White House Conference on Children. In 1972, he helped organize a performance of Mame! by Fulton County Teachers and even appeared on the Alliance Theater Stage as Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside in that production.
A gifted choral conductor, Don was Associate Director of the Choral Guild of Atlanta until 1962, and then succeeded Haskell Boyter as Director until 1975. One of his proudest achievements was preparing the Guild to sing Belshazzar's Feast by William Walton in April of 1963 with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Georgia State Brass Ensemble, and Peter Harrower as soloist. When Robert Shaw came to Atlanta in 1967, the Choral Guild was asked to perform each season with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, eventually singing more than twenty performances under Mr. Shaw's direction until the introduction of the Atlanta Symphony Chorus in 1970.
As conductor, Don was Music Director of the Atlanta Boy Choir (1960-63) and the Atlanta Jewish Center Chorus (1963-66). From 1963 until 1990 he was Minister of Music at Central Presbyterian Church, where he also served as a Ruling Elder. In addition, Don served as president (1967-69) and executive director (1980-82) of the Georgia Music Educators Association, president of the Southern Division of the Music Educators National Conference (1972-74), and a 50-year member and active participant in the International Society for Music Education, attending 18 international conferences on six continents. In 1970, he founded VSA Arts of Georgia, an organization that promotes the philosophy that regular access to arts and culture is essential to a life fully lived and that all the arts should be accessible to all people. Governor Jimmy Carter appointed him to the Georgia Council for the Arts in 1973, and the University of Georgia Department of Music honored him with ¬¬¬¬¬its Distinguished Service Award in 1981. In recognition of these and many other contributions to the field of music education, Don was named a Lowell Mason Fellow by the Music Educators National Conference in 2002.
In retirement, Don used his considerable knowledge of all fine arts in his position as the manager of the arts and music department of Oxford Books, first at Peachtree Battle and later in Buckhead. He also continued to support and participate in the Atlanta Music Club, the Atlanta Opera, the Atlanta Symphony, and numerous other arts programs in the city.
Don is survived by his sister, Carleen Robinson Savage, of Austell, formerly of Dunwoody; his niece, Linda Savage McCord and her daughter, Larken; his nephew, Don Savage and his wife, Chantal, and their children, Ryan and Maia; and a host of music-makers and music-lovers in Atlanta and far beyond.
A memorial service celebrating his rich life will be held at Central Presbyterian Church on Sunday, August 10, at 2:00. A reception at the church will follow. Online condolences may be made at hmpattersonspringhill.