By Bruce Robinson
I first met Chip Dunbar at my wedding; he was in the band, of course. But as our paths intersected from time to time over the subsequent years--around town, at concerts where he was onstage or a fellow audience member, and even traveling together for a day at MacWorld in San Francisco--I became one of the countless folks whose lives he brightened.
Yes, Chip touched a lot of people, and not just with his music. The local master of the mandolin--and linchpin of a series of highly regarded local acoustic ensembles including the Eclecti-Cats, HiJinks and Terra Nova--was also known in separate but overlapping circles as an inspiring teacher, a knowledgeable guru and impassioned advocate for the Mac and an enthusiastic full-court basketball player.
Chip died abruptly and unexpectedly while walking near his Sebastopol home on Nov. 26, apparently from a persistent heart condition. An informal memorial on Dec. 2 drew far more friends than the Sebastopol Community Center Annex could hold, and featured the first public performance of the Mighty Chiplings, a group of his young students who did their teacher proud.
The youthful Chiplings are just part of the roster of local talent who will celebrate Dunbar's life and musical legacy in a memorial concert on Saturday, Feb. 24, at the New College in Santa Rosa. They will be joined by a long list of Chip's musical associates, including the Ruminators, Solid Air, Don Coffin, Ted Dutcher and Ellen Silver, Modern Hicks, Caren Armstrong, Kevin Russell and the Elder Chiplings. Chip's wife and longtime musical compatriot (she played at the wedding, too) Sara Winge will also perform. Chip is shown above, far left, with Russell and Dutcher.
"He leaves behind a musical legacy matched only by the great Jim Bozzio or the amazing Kate Wolf," says Russell, who most recently played with Dunbar in Under the Radar. "Chip was a brilliant sound engineer, songwriter and band leader; an enormously important figure in the Sonoma County music scene and a virtuoso human being."
He is, and will continue to be, missed.
An Evening of Music Honoring Chip Dunbar is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 24, at the New College. 99 Sixth St., Santa Rosa. 8pm. $10 donation. 707.824.1858.