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Article Published May 8, 2019

A Conn Artist with Heart: Rollins Gives Back to Guilford

By Pam Johnson/

He’s been performing a capella with the incredible Conn Artists for more than 20 years, but Doug Rollins still compares stepping on stage with that same fight-or-flight reflex he connects to another passion—hurtling down the steepest competitive ski slopes.

“Singing out loud, projecting a solo out there when the risk-reward ratio is at its highest—it’s kinda like staring down the steepest slope and just pointing ‘em straight down and doing it,” says Doug. “You can’t think of the falling or the failing.”

Of course, there’s no fear of failure for audiences who flock to hear Conn Artists, the highly popular, seven-member, Connecticut-based male a capella group Doug co-founded. He’s shared a love of song with some of its members since high school and college, including the group’s only other Guilford resident, its director, Charles Dear. The two met while they were students at Greenwich High School.

On Sunday, May 19, at 4 p.m., Conn Artists, along with Guilford High School (GHS) Voices, will perform at Guilford First Congregational Church’s annual Memorial Concert. Doug says Conn Artists is thrilled to return to First Church after a hiatus of several years. The group’s bringing its A-game: a repertoire threaded with wit and comedy, ranging from jazz to rock, pop to sacred music. The concert, held in the historic church sanctuary at 110 Broad Street, will benefit the continued efforts of First Church’s music committee. For more information, visit or call 203-453-5249.

When he’s not singing with Conn Artists, assisting with coaching the GHS Ski Team, or actively supporting student musicians as a member of the GHS Music Boosters committee, Doug is working with young people at his practices, Dobie + Rollins Orthodontics, in Guilford, Hamden, and East Haven. In private practice for 29 years, Doug was thrilled when he got the call a few years back to take over the Guilford practice of a dear friend and long-standing local orthodontist, Dr. Peter Cain. The practice is located at 5 Durham Road.

“I’d been saying for decades, ‘When you’re going to retire, let me know,’ and he did,” says Doug, adding, “Orthodontics is just the best profession ever. Changing smiles is an absolute joy, but interacting with kids [is] the even better part. And it’s a huge team effort. I can’t imagine working without any of my co-workers, and Dr. Dobie has been a phenomenal partner.”

The Rollinses—Doug; his wife Sue, an award-winning artist and graphic designer; son Ben, currently doing post-baccalaureate research at Yale; and daughter Emma, a GHS sophomore—moved to Guilford from North Haven shortly after Doug opened his Guilford practice. From that moment, and counting, Doug says he has been astounded by the musical talent he’s encountered in Guilford’s young people.

“I have known thousands of kids through my almost 30 years in orthodontics, and since we have moved to town, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the talent and abilities of these Guilford kids,” says Doug. “And in so many cases, they are doing things their parents never dreamed of doing. It’s truly an inspiration...They amaze me every time I hear them. This holds for every musical group, every production—it’s just crazy.”

Doug signed up to join GHS Music Boosters committee immediately after taking in his first GHS jazz performance. He likens Guilford’s support of its young musicians to the type of passion you find in towns that are home to All-American legacy football teams.

“When my daughter wanted to be in an ensemble at GHS, I told her that music to GHS was like football to a Texas or Florida high school. That this was a serious varsity sport, in that it required a lot of hard work to make sure you contributed exactly what the need team needed,” Doug says, adding, “it’s been our greatest joy to watch her respond to that, in her own unique way.”

With his background as a competitive skier (he founded the Trinity College Ski Team), Doug also quickly threw his support behind the GHS Ski Team, offering to assist its coaching staff. He uses his experience to give tips on the likes of balancing “aggressiveness and control” and other insights to the student athletes on the team, including his daughter.

He says ski racers require constraint to maintain a path that allows them to avoid simply hurtling straight down an icy hill. But, Doug says, once mastered, “the feeling of both control and abandon when you’re doing it, that doesn’t need an explanation. It’s just fun.”

Fun is the main ingredient in the music of Conn Artists, and the main reason Doug and his musical compatriots keep singing through the decades. The group gathers to rehearse several times per month and sticks to a busy schedule that has it in demand at venues ranging from benefits to private parties.

“It’s just about having fun and creating art with a bunch of great guys,” says Doug, a baritone. “The best part of singing, for me, is getting the perfect blend in a small group. I don’t consider myself a great singer by any metric, but I can make my group, my team, better by attending to those small details of tempo, dynamics, and phrasing to match the others.”

He encourages all to come and hear Conn Artists and GHS Voices sing at First Church on May 19, and to support the First Church music committee.

“It’s going to be a diverse and fun repertoire of a capella music for your enjoyment,” says Doug.

Conn Artists andh Guilford High School Voices perform at Guilford First Congregational Church’s annual Memorial Concert on Sunday, May 19, at 4 p.m. in the church sanctuary at 110 Broad Street. For more information, visit or call 203-453-5249.