Woodward, Okla. —
Joyce Adams Curtis, admired choral director and member of the music faculty at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, died suddenly this past Wednesday, July 25, of congestive heart failure at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital in Oklahoma City.
Born in Mooreland, OK, on August 30, 1950, Joyce was the precocious youngest daughter of Russell and Grace Adams of Sharon, OK. A gifted pianist and singer, she excelled at music from an early age under the decade-long tutelage of her music teacher, Mr. Earnest Sharon. By the time she was a teenager she was directing the local church choir and often played during the services.
She received a Bachelor of Arts in Organ and Music Education from Oklahoma City University in 1972, where she developed her skills on the organ under Wilma Jensen and studied voice under the renowned Florence Birdwell who guided many on to Broadway awards. Joyce felt called to the church, though, and became the first full time choir director at Ponca City United Methodist Church where she directed seven choirs and encouraged Lara Teeter, one of her students, to attend her alma mater and have a career among the white lights of Broadway. But Joyce wasn’t through with academia herself.
In 1975 she entered the Master of Sacred Music program at Southern Methodist University, and while on a tour with the SMU Choir she met her husband-to-be, the Rev. Torrey Curtis, at a stop in Clarksdale, MS. On their second meeting, he proposed, and a year later they were married. They began their married life in Coldwater, Mississippi near Memphis, where their son Christopher was born and where Joyce directed the Methodist Hospital School of Nursing Glee Club and produced two half-hour musical Christmas shows for regional television broadcasts.
After the birth of their son, the trio moved to Oklahoma to be closer to Joyce’s parents, and she joined the music faculty at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, OK where she taught voice and piano. She also starred in productions at the Alva Community Theatre where she twice won the title of Best Actress (though she chafed lightly at the fact that it was difficult for the preacher’s wife to get cast in the sexy leading lady roles).
With the birth of their daughter Laurin and the move to a non-university town, Joyce spent more time as a mother and returned to her roots with the church. During the next several years she served a variety of roles in the churches to which Torrey was appointed—as organist, adult choir director, handbell choir director, children’s choir director, and also director of children’s ministries. During that time she rejoined the Canterbury Choral Society in Oklahoma City, and became a member of the Canterbury Octet, a select ensemble that performed widely across the state. By the time her son had graduated high school she was ready once again to return to the academic world—first as a high school chorus teacher in Pauls Valley, before joining the music faculty at Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) in Weatherford, OK, in 2001.
Mrs. Curtis, as she was known on the SWOSU campus, directed the Women’s Chorus and later the Chamber Choir, taught fundamentals of music, organ, class piano, and class voice, in addition to private voice lessons and performing on faculty recitals. Her choirs were distinguished three times in eight years (2003, 2007, and 2010) by being selected as demonstration choirs at the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Music Educator’s Association. During that time she also served as musical director on productions of Grease and Will Roger’s Follies. She deepened her relationship with Canterbury Choral Society, singing featured solos in selected opera works, and in the spring of 2008 was invited to guest conduct the full Canterbury Chorus with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic in a performance of “The Witches’ Chorus” by Verdi.
In addition to all of her other undertakings, she was always engaged in campus and community organizations, starting by serving as president of Sigma Alpha Iota while attending OCU. She was an active member of P.E.O. for four decades, serving as president and chaplain for various chapters at different times. At SWOSU she served as the faculty sponsor for Kappa Phi, and though she started as the paid accompanist of the Rotary Club in Weatherford, she continued to volunteer her efforts when she became a full dues paying member.
The Director of Music at St. Stephen’s UMC, Venita MacGorman, put on her facebook page on Thursday, “There is less music in the world today because Joyce Adams Curtis has left it”. Dustin Morningstar, a student of Mrs. Curtis remarked, “Thank you, Mrs. Joyce Adams Curtis, for being such a splendidly sensitive and responsive teacher, advisor (academically and otherwise), and friend.”
Joyce Adams Curtis was preceded in death by her mother Grace Adams and her father Russell Adams of Sharon, OK. She is survived by her husband Torrey Curtis of Weatherford, her brother Walter Adams of Woodward, her sister Margaret Barker of Modesto, CA, and her two children Christopher Curtis of Dallas, TX and Laurin Curtis Townsend and Laurin’s husband Nic Townsend, of Weatherford.
A public memorial service for Joyce Adams Curtis will be held in the Bishop W. Angie Smith Chapel at Oklahoma City University, at 2:00pm Tuesday, July 31. In lieu of flowers or other remembrances, the family would like to request that gifts be directed towards The Joyce Adams Curtis Memorial Vocal Scholarship at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.