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Olivet mourns loss of Artist-in-Residence Ovid Young

Posted: Aug 25, 2014


A memorial concert honoring the life and work of Dr. Ovid Young will be held in the Betty and Kenneth Hawkins Centennial Chapel on Saturday, September 27, 2014, at 7 p.m. This is open to the public.

Memorial gifts may be made to Olivet's Friends of the Fine Arts Fund or to the Nielson-Young Piano Scholarship at Olivet.


Dr. Ovid Young '62 passed into the arms of his Lord and Savior on Sunday, August 24, 2014. A world-renowned and versatile musician, Olivet’s Artist-in-Residence and alumnus will be remembered by the entire Olivet community as a beloved mentor, teacher, inspiration and friend. 

“The University, and our community at large, has lost a great man,” said Dr. John C. Bowling, University president. “Although he will be greatly missed, his legacy will live on, and his music will be performed for generations to come.”

A pianist, organist, composer and conductor, Dr. Young had to his credit more than 7,000 performances in major concert halls, churches and colleges around the world. He performed for audiences in virtually every sizable city in the United States, as well as in England, Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Denmark, India and the Caribbean. Millions more witnessed his performances on television throughout the United States, Australia, Western Europe and the former Soviet Union. In 2000, he was named a Steinway Artist and often said that one of his greatest artistic pleasures was playing Steinway pianos.

As an organist, Dr. Young played many of the largest and most interesting organs in America, as well as numerous cathedral church organs in Europe. Because of his knowledge of and passion for the instrument, he played an integral role in acquiring the mighty Ruffatti Pipe Organ for Olivet’s Centennial Chapel. He took great joy in bringing it to life through University and community-wide concerts.

Dr. Young’s orchestral appearances — in addition to a ten-year musical directorship of a Chicago-area symphony — include the English Chamber Orchestra, English Symphony Orchestra, Seoul (Korea) Philharmonic, Bohuslav Martinu (Czech Republic) Philharmonic, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Aarhus (Denmark) Symphony, Florida Philharmonic, and the symphonies of Denver, Phoenix and Nashville. He was the music director and conductor of the Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra from 1974 to 1984.

His many compositions and arrangements are published by several American publishers. A composer of orchestral scores for several feature-length films, he is widely remembered as the pianist-arranger-conductor for the prominent operatic singing duo of Robert Hale and Dean Wilder, and as one-half of the celebrated piano duo Nielson & Young.

Dr. Young, a graduate of Olivet, served his beloved alma mater in numerous capacities, including his most recent appointment as artist-in-residence for the School of Music. In this role, he performed, taught and oversaw Olivet concerts and recital series, and acted as an ambassador-at-large for the music program.

For nearly four decades, Dr. Young was commissioned annually by the president of Olivet — first by Dr. Leslie Parrott in 1976 and later by Dr. Bowling — to write an original arrangement of an outstanding hymn or gospel song for presentation by Orpheus Choir and instrumentalists at the conclusion of the Baccalaureate sermon. His latest composition of “How Deep the Father’s Love” for the 2014 Baccalaureate Service was a fitting summary of Dr. Young’s life and legacy. He did “not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom.” Rather, he always pointed back to his first great love and the saving grace of his heavenly Father.

Dr. Young is survived by his wife, Laura (Rees) '62; two adult sons: Kirk '85 and Erik '94 and his wife, Heather; and six grandchildren.