Dudley Birder, ‘Man of Music’ at St Norbert’s College, dies at 95

Dudley Birder at 90.

Founder of musical theater at St Norbert’s College, creator of the community choir, and iconic player – Dudley Bearder – has died.

Berder’s death was announced by De Beer College on Saturday. He was 95 years old.

Birder, better known as “Music Man”, founded the theater company in 1962 and was producer, director and/or musical director for every production until 2017.

He has been a professor of music at the college since 1958 and founded the college choir in 1974.

Dudley Birder, left, works with actors in a musical theater production from the mid-1960s.  He estimates that he has worked with over 2,000 cast and crew members on 92 shows since the troupe's founding in 1962.

Thomas Kunkel, interim president of St Norbert’s College, said, “Everyone in the St Norbert’s College family mourns the loss of our friend and colleague Dudley Birder.”

“Indeed, for many, Dudley was synonymous with St. Norbert’s. More than anyone else, he raised the college’s modern bar and made thousands and thousands of people all over the world aware of it as our foremost cultural ambassador.”

In 2013, St. Norbert renamed St. Boniface’s Chapel Dudley Birder Hall after a renovation project converted the chapel into a performance space, which is used for Dudley Birder Chorale rehearsals.

Dudley Bearder, who has worked at St. Norbert's College as a teacher and music director since 1958, stands outside Dudley Bearder Hall at the corner of Grant Street and Fourth in De Pere.

The 150-voice choir, known for its annual All Saints Day and Holiday Pops concerts, has members ranging in age from 15 to seniors. The choir is made up of people from more than 30 communities in northeastern Wisconsin.

Bearder stepped down as conductor of the choir in 2018, when he officially retired.

Dudley Birder Chorale and his guests take the big stage to perform the annual Holiday Pops at the Weidner Center.

Although Birder retired from the classroom in 1993, he spent more than half a century on campus, working from his office in the Abbott Bennings Hall of Fine Arts into his nineties.

“I’ve said this so many times,” Berder told the Green Bay Press-Gazette in 2017, “I’ve never had a day where I didn’t want to go to work. Every day wasn’t always great, but I’ve always enjoyed everything I did, even my teaching.” “.

Each year, the choir gives scholarship money to students and teachers, and a $1 million grant is provided to keep the choir operating in perpetuity.

St Norbert's College announced on November 26 the death of Dudley Bearder.

“The Dudley Birder Chorale and Musical Theater contributed greatly to the cultural life of northeastern Wisconsin and greatly enhanced our collective quality of life. Other institutions tried to lure him away, but for Dudley, this place was home,” said Kunkel.

“We will be forever grateful to him for his decades of music, friendship, and dedication, and our hearts go out to the Birder family.”

In a statement, St. Norbert’s College said funeral summonses remain pending.

Kendra Meinert of the Green Bay Press-Gazette contributed to this report.

Contact Drake Bentley at (414) 391-5647 or DBentley1@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @employee.

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