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Sandy Journal

Sandy residents who sang in choir remember their friend Jerold Ottley

May 05, 2021 09:06AM ● By Heather Lawrence

JoAnn and Jerold Ottley were “connected at the hip” and remembered fondly by their Tabernacle Choir friends. Jerry passed away Feb. 19. (Photo courtesy Marsha McBride)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Tabernacle Choir alumni in Sandy have fond memories of their friend and former conductor, Jerold Ottley. Ottley conducted the choir for 25 years, from 1974-99. His wife JoAnn helped with auditions and was the choir’s vocal coach. Ottley passed away Feb. 19. 

Sue Christensen, first soprano, joined 1981

My parents both sang in the choir, and I got to sing with my mother for three years, which was very special. Jerry and JoAnn are amazing people, and you don’t talk about one without the other. 

Rehearsals were fun. We worked hard and we studied. I think Jerry did so much for the choir by educating us on music theory. We became better musicians because of him. He was also very funny and told a lot of jokes. 

I always thought Jerry was such a beautiful, iconic figure up on the podium with his white hair. He just had this presence about him. He’s still that recognizable icon. 

Todd Morris, first tenor, joined in 1985 

I auditioned with Jerry and we had some great experiences. Once on our Israel tour we got a chance to stop for a while at the Dead Sea. I had decided that I wanted to swim in the Dead Sea, so that morning I put on a swimming suit under my clothes. 

Our buses stopped at the Dead Sea, and there isn’t much there. Everyone was just looking around, and I went around a little hill and peeled down to my swimming suit. I got in and went swimming and everyone was envious.

As I came out of the water, Jerry and JoAnn were there. They came up and serenaded me—in harmony—with the old song, “Once I Went a Swimmin’ Where There Were No Women.” They had the greatest sense of humor, and I think I’m the only one to have the distinction of being serenaded by them. The two of them were connected at the hip.

Glenna Roundy, first soprano, joined 1990 and 1999

We had such a tight-knit feeling in the choir of friendship and family. When Jerry passed, we all reached out to each other because we felt that void and missed him. He was so loved, and it’s been hard to lose him.

What I loved about singing with him was that he not only loved the music he directed, he loved the people he directed. He cared about our testimonies, he cared about our welfare, and we knew it. And he had such a great sense of humor!

I left the choir in 1998, but I cried every day and I knew I needed to go back. I had to audition again and I was so nervous. I was sitting in the office waiting for my turn. Then I heard Jerry say, “Is that a Roundy voice I hear?” He knew me by my voice! And he cared about me. 

Karla Burkhart, second alto, joined 1981

Bruce Burkhart, bass, joined 1976

Jerry had a wonderful sense of humor. He was very humble and fun to be around. He wasn’t one of those people who thought he was better than anyone else. He also liked my (Karla) poetry and tried to get someone to set it to music. So I dedicated a book to him. 

We watched Jerry’s funeral service and it was very nice. His daughter Allison’s tribute to her dad was wonderful. We’ve known her since she was a little kid, and their son retired to care for his parents. 

JoAnn and Jerry were a package deal. She watched out for him and he watched out for her, and they did everything together. In rehearsals we worked very hard, but Jerry always made it enjoyable.  

JoAnn was a wonderful voice coach. She taught me (Karla) how to do it without straining. She was wonderful that way. It was because of her that I’ve been able to sing as long as I have. For me singing is like going into another world. Singing is part of breathing, and working under Jerry taught me that.