Dr. Jay B. Dunahoo, Executive Secretary of the Texas Music Adjudicators Association, passed away with his family at his side May 12, 2018, at Peterson Regional Medical Center in Kerrville. 

He was 81 and had suffered from an aggressive cancer.

His son, Tim Dunnahoo, wrote Sunday on Facebook that arrangements for a memorial service in Kerrville would be announced soon.

Tim Summerlin, the former Schreiner University president who asked Dunnahoo to lead the symphony in 2001, said that Dunnahoo had done much to improve the quality of life in the Hill Country.

“He had such an unquenchable vitality. It’s hard to be jaded and cynical when you’re around someone like Jay. It’s infectious and makes others want to feel that way too,” Summerlin said. “Not long ago, he called and inquired about playing in the string section next fall. He was realistic about his condition and knew what would eventually happen, but he was still looking ahead.”

Dunnahoo and his wife, Jodie, moved to Kerrville in 1999 after he retired following a successful career in public school music education in Texas.

“We’d finished our professional responsibilities, and the kids had grown up and left home, so we felt it was a good time to move,” he said in a 2015 interview.

Retirement didn’t last long. Former Schreiner University professor Charlotte Marrow asked Dunnahoo if he would play violin in the community orchestra she was conducting. The orchestra was made up primarily of Schreiner students and a few local musicians.

At about the same time, Dunnahoo joined the choir at First Presbyterian Church, where he met Summerlin. One evening, during choir practice, the Schreiner president leaned over and asked Dunnahoo if he would like to direct the orchestra, and he accepted. 

Under his direction, through May 2015, the Symphony of the Hills grew into a 75-member, nonprofit orchestra, which performed regularly in the Kathleen C. Cailloux City Center for the Performing Arts.

He also served as executive secretary of the Texas Music Adjudicators Association, training and certifying judges for Interscholastic League music contests.

The violin was his primary instrument, but growing up in San Marcos, Dunnahoo played fiddle in a country-western band, string bass in dance and swing bands and tuba in Dixieland bands.

Dunnahoo started his career as an itinerant elementary school music instructor in San Angelo after earning a bachelor’s degree from Southwest Texas State (now Texas State) University.

With the addition of a master’s degree and a doctorate from the University of Houston, he steadily moved up through music education and administrative positions in Austin and Pasadena.

Dunnahoo’s orchestra at Sam Rayburn High School in Pasadena was named the state’s honor orchestra in 1976, and the Texas Orchestra Directors Association named him director of the year in 1992.

He said his greatest honor, however, was “the opportunity to serve as a teacher.”

“All the plaques, trophies, ribbons and so on on do not take the place of the sense of satisfaction I receive from seeing the smile on a student’s face when a milestone is achieved in his/her personal music journey,” he once said. “The reflected glow from those faces has lit my path during my career.”