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Music director marks 25 years at The Presbyterian Church, Sewickley

Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
The Presbyterian Church, Sewickley, music director Craig Dobbins stands for a photo inside the sanctuary Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. This is Dobbins' 25th anniversary at the church.

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By Joanne Barron
Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 8:52 p.m.
 

Craig Dobbins took his time getting to Sewickley, but once he did, he stayed — so far, for a quarter of a century.

The music director at The Presbyterian Church, Sewickley, Dobbins recently celebrated and was recognized for 25 years of service to the church, where he has been making music since 1987.

“This church is a really special place,” said Dobbins, 61, who oversees the music program, directs the adult singing choir and the two adult handbell choirs and assists with the high school singing choir.

“It has a congregation full of really warm, caring, supportive Christians, and, like most Presbyterian congregations, the people are well educated not only in the secular world but Biblically, too. There are wonderful people who make music here.”

But, it took Dobbins about 11 years and different jobs to find his way to the Village.

As he was growing up in Williamstown, Ohio, Dobbins said his parents were involved in the music of their church, and it was just a given that he and his siblings would sing in the choir.

He started playing piano at age 8, and then began taking organ lessons at age 13. He also played the trombone and saxophone in the school band.

By age 14, he began riding his bike to his first job as a part-time organist at the former Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Ohio.

“I just knew by the time I was a junior in high school that I wanted to be involved in a career in church music. I knew that's what I should be doing,” he said.

He received a bachelor's degree in music from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio and received two master's degrees in music history and organ performance from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

He also studied at Clare College, Cambridge University, in England.

“I never wanted to do anything else. I felt called to do it,” he said of music.

Dobbins has performed as a soloist and an accompanist throughout much of the Midwest and the South, and has composed several choral and handbell works.

When he completed his education, he taught music at a public school in Marietta for two years.

From there, he said, he headed south in his non-air-conditioned Volkswagen Beetle to work as director of music at the First Presbyterian Church and Hebrew Union Congregation in Mississippi for six years.

He then decided to leave Mississippi and ended up in Jackson, Fla., to work as music director at another First Presbyterian Church, where he met his wife, Susan, an attorney who now sings in the choir at The Presbyterian Church.

They were married in 1986, moved to Sewickley a year later. They have a daughter, Maggie, now 14, who also sings in the church choir.

While at the Sewickley church, Dobbins helped to add a second adult bell choir and restarted a high school bell choir.

The kinds of services in the church also expanded with more multicultural types of music and additional mid-week, Advent, other special services and a third Sunday service.

Beth Rom, who has been a member of the church for 18 years and serves on the worship and music committee, said Dobbins has his “fingers in lots of different pots” and is a “huge gift to the church.”

Along with all his music duties, he also has been involved with vacation Bible school, visits the elderly and the sick and he even showed up one morning with coffeecake and rags to help the women polish the church silver, Rom said.

Dobbins also is a member of the American Guild of Organists on the local, regional and national levels, Presbyterian Association of Musicians; and General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches.

And, Rom said, somehow Dobbins manages to do it and still be there for his staff.

“I think of a lot of people think the music is one of the most wonderful things about the church,” she said.

“Craig is so well loved, and he just keeps on going on and on.”

And now Dobbins, who helped to celebrate the church's 150th anniversary in 1988, is planning several concerts for its 175th in 2013.

He said he doesn't feel any calling to go anywhere else.

“I just hope God and the church want me here until I retire.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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