Wilhelmina Müller Dunbar

1936 -  

Wilhelmina (Wil) Dunbar, contralto soloist, pianist, conductor, voice and classroom teacher, and music administrator, has enjoyed a remarkable career, associated primarily with Helderberg College, the Seventh-day Adventist school in Somerset West, South Africa. She has also composed several sacred works and written a number of articles for the church's publications.

Wilhelmina was born and raised in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, one of seven children born to Abe and Tina Hurter Müller. Although both parents were very musical and all of the children had musical talents, she is the only one who has pursued a music career.

She started piano lessons with Leslie le Butt at age five and eventually played piano and organ for church services. At age fourteen, she began conducting the church choir in the Adventist church in Port Elizabeth. She attended the Collegiate Girls' High School in that city and then Helderberg College High School.

During her years at the college high school she sang under the direction of Frances L. Brown in the newly established HC A Cappella Choir and participated in 1952 in one of its historic tours in that country. Following graduation in 1953, she worked for two years in Malawi as secretary to the president of what was then known as the Southeast African Union Mission in Blantyre.

After her marriage in 1956 to Ronald George Dunbar, she began serious study in both voice and piano and obtained a Fellowship Licentiate in performance from Trinity College, London (FTCL) and also one in piano teaching (LTCL). She then obtained licentiates in both voice and piano from Royal Schools of Music, London (L.R.S.M.). These were all completed with distinction by 1969. During this time she studied piano with Doris Lardner and voice with Adelaide Armholdt, her mentor.

Dunbar continued her music study at the University of South Africa, where she completed a B.Mus. in 1973 and a B.Mus. Honours in Musicology in 1975. She completed an M.Mus. at Andrews University in 1987, maintaining a 4.00 GPA in all of her studies. She studied theory and composition with Charles J. Hall, voice with James Hanson, conducting with Zvonimir Hacko, and organ with C. Warren Becker.

In 1964 Dunbar started teaching at Hillcrest Primary School. five years later, she was hired to teach at Helderberg and conduct its A Cappella Choir, a position that she would hold, apart from occasional leaves, until her retirement in 1995. She also served as director of the music program and taught both voice and piano and highly praised classes in church music and the fine arts.

Dunbar has performed frequently, singing as a contralto soloist in numerous productions of the Messiah, Elijah, and in works by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Schubert and others in noted venues in primary cities in South Africa. She also has given a number of recitals that featured a wide variety of lieder and art songs.

Continuing the tradition in touring started by Brown in the 1950s, Dunbar toured annually with the choir, starting in 1969. Both the choir and many of her students regularly achieved highest honors in Cape Town and Stellenbosch Eistedddfodds.

Many of her students have become professional musicians, four examples being Andrew Waugh, pianist; Pierre van der Westhuzen and Manuel Escorcio, tenors; and Charles N'gandwe, a bass from Zambia. Escorcio, now a nationally known tenor and recording artist, conducted the male chorus at HC in 1972.

She has composed many sacred songs, some of which have been recorded by Escorcio. All of the songs on his popular CD titled God Loves Kids, also translated into Afrikaans as God Het Kiders Lief, still in circulation, were written by her. She has composed theme songs for camp meetings for a number of years; the one for 2011 is Holy Bible, Awesome Book.

Dunbar has also written a number of articles for Adventist publications, including the Guide, Youths' Instructor, Little Friend, and most recently, one titled "The Invisible Piano" for Adventist World, the primary publication for the church. In 1969 she penned a series of five articles, "Music - God's Gift," for the Trans-Africa Division Outlook.

The Dunbars have four children, Kevin, Trudy Mae (Holmes), Lyndon, and Robin, three of whom have pursued music careers. Kevin is a performing organist and violinist who runs an instrument repair business in Cape Town. Trudy completed a B.Mus. at Stellenbosch University, majoring in vocal training and performance, piano teaching, and music education. She maintains a private studio in Rustenburg. Lyndon is a sound engineer who owns a business, Sound Generation, in Somerset West.


Source: Biography Information sheet (February 2011) and 15 February 2011 email, Wilhelmina Dunbar; Whilhelmina Dunbar, "The Invisible Piano, " Adventist World - NAD, December 2010, 20,21; Dunbar, "Music - God's Gift," Trans-African Division Outlook, 15 March, 15 April 1969; 15 June, 15 July, 15 August; Trans-African Division Outlook, 15 August 1972, 4 and 15 December 1972, 5; 2003 Andrews University Alumni Directory.

 Music by Wilhelmina Müeller Dunbar

Wilhelmina (Wil) Dunbar can be contacted at: ronwil@megasurfwifi.co.za



In Him Alone I Trust (a favorite with SSA choirs, but can also be sung as a Solo), a contemporary song, in much demand locally (2011)

The Carpenter (can also be sung as a duet or trio), poetry by Corina Piercey

His Hands (can be sung as a solo with SSA on Chorus, or only SSA), poetry by Corina Piercey

Praise Him! (words "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing", by Charles Wesley)

Destination (can also be sung as a solo, a graduation song, words now public property, from IDEALS magazine)

Dare to Dream (can also be sung as a solo, a song for youth)

He is the Life (can also be sung as a solo or duet), poetry by Corina Piercey

Love is Patient (can also be sung as a solo, a wedding song), poetry by Corina Piercey, based on 1 Corinthians 13)



All Hail, Lord Jesus! (can also be sung as a solo)

The Lord is my Light and Salvation (2-voice canon, scripture song)

To God be the Glory (arrangement of hymn by W.H. Doane) with piano

Real Happiness Is ... (a canon in Advent Youth Sings)

Thine Eyes Shall See the King (Isaiah 33:17, KJV, poetry by Corina Piercey)


Comfort in Your Love (a wedding song)

Eden, poetry by Corina Piercey

He Shall Create a New Heaven, poetry by Corina Piercey

Holy Bible, Awesom Book! (special theme song for 2011 Easter camp meeting in Gauteng, RSA)

How Do I Know?, poetry by Corina Piercey

Jesus had a Reason, poetry by Corina Piercey

Jesus, lovely Saviour!, poetry by Corina Piercey

In Him alone I trust (Solo or SSA) ...

Lucifer (song about his origin, scripture set in poetry by Corina Piercey)

Many Waters Cannot Quench Love (a wedding song)

Plan of Salvation (redemption & second coming), poetry by Corina Piercey

Prayer (a prayer for more love towards others)

The Lord is Coming! (a dramatic song), poetry by Corina Piercey

Thank You, Jesus

Up Reach, Out Reach!

United in Christ, words by Corina Piercey.

Today is Ours (wedding song)

What sent my God from Heaven? (the love of Christ), poetry by Corina Piercey

Whatsoever Things are Lovely (Philippians 4:8, scripture and poetry by Corina Piercey); published in Advent Youth Sings.

Wonderful Thou Art! (Based on Psalms 119:73, Job 10:8; Luke 12:7, poetry by Corina Piercey)

Who am I?, poetry by Corina Piercey

God Loves Kids! is a CD of children's songs recorded by Manuel Escorcia. Dunbar wrote all of the songs, including the music and words for what has been a popular CD in South Africa, one reissued several times. Interested persons can obtain a copy by contacting her at: ronwil@megasurfwifi.co.za

Corina Piercey, 88, is a gifted poet and lifelong friend of the composer. Dunbar writes, "I consider her the poet laureate of Adventists, although she has not bothered to have much of her work published. Her words are profound and thought provoking. Her poem "Born to Die" was recently aired on HOPE TV in their Christmas poetry & music program." Dunbar's poem, "Come Let us Sing," part of the children's songs recorded by Escorcio, was also used by Hope TV.