Mark Overland

ACDA Colleagues, it is with sadness that I share the news that Mark Overland, former choir director at Duluth Denfeld high school and a friend to so many of us, passed away yesterday. Mark was such a wonderful and positive person, and I will miss his friendship and his spirit a great deal. I thought I would share this article from the Duluth News Tribune with you. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

Richard Robbins, ACDA-MN Northeast District Chair

Mark Overland conducts during a rehearsal of “A Christmas Carol” in 2011

A retired choir director from Denfeld High School known for his quirky sayings and his love of music and family — including his golden retrievers — died suddenly Monday.

Mark Overland, 70, had a massive heart attack while out walking with Cathy, his wife of nearly 50 years. There will be a memorial service when it is again safe to travel, she said.

“We were the best of friends, as well as partners in life, love on many levels,” Cathy Overland said Wednesday. The couple met while working on a theatrical production at the old Central High School — a hobby they continued to enjoy as adults.

Overland, described as a natural teacher, came to the profession when he was in his 40s and spent 20 of his 27 years teaching at Denfeld. Overland was behind 26 productions in the Hunters’ auditorium, and for his finale, he was in the pit for “A Christmas Carol.” “Every year is a highlight,” Overland told the News Tribune at the time. “You start with a group of people in September, and they aren’t the same people they are in June and July.” He retired in 2012.

Jerry Upton, choir director at Duluth East, was a colleague, golf partner and friend. “Everybody who knows Mark knows that Mark is always very upbeat and optimistic,” Upton said. “He always made you smile. He had a way of enjoying life. He never took things too seriously. “He used to say, ‘None of us is getting out of here alive.’”

Overland was known for his turns of phrase. Another favorite of Upton’s: “If nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.”

For former student-turned-mentee-turned-friend Bree Rodriguez, it was “Hey, kid” — Overland’s greeting of choice. “Once you’re his kid, you’re always his kid,” said Rodriguez, who credits Overland with being one of the reasons she is a middle school choir teacher in Hermantown. In later years, Rodriguez met up again with Overland when they were both part of the Twin Ports Choral Project. “He went from being ‘Mr. O’ to Mark,” she said.

Upton described Overland as a man who was very proud of his family and always had new photos to share. He had three children: Cory Overland is married to Karen Kennedy and teaches at Frost School of Music in Miami. Eve Overland is a personal trainer best known for her work with Carrie Underwood. Aaron Overland is a neuroscientist, and he and his wife, Cicely Schramm, have a 6-year-old.

Rodriguez remembered a high school field trip to St. Louis and the way Mr. O held hands with his wife across the aisle on the bus. Cathy Overland said she knew Mark was the one for her right when she met him. “He always made me laugh,” she said. “He could tell a wonderful joke. He always told stories. He would engage people in conversations.”

The couple enjoyed traveling and working together on projects — whether in the home or on a stage. He’s probably already got a gospel choir going on up there, Cathy Overland said Wednesday. “He loved life,” she added.