Ollie Watts DavisProfessor of Voice
B.S., West Virginia Institute of Technology (magna cum laude); M.A., West Virginia University; M.M. and D.M.A., University of Illinois
Since making her New York debut at Carnegie Hall in 1990, soprano Ollie Watts Davis has appeared with many leading symphony orchestras, including those in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Houston, Dallas, and Milwaukee. Her international activities include a performances of Mozart's C Minor Mass on tour with Orquesta Sinfonica Simon Bolivar of Caracas, Venezuela; performances at the celebration of the founding of the Pakistani American Cultural Center in Karachi; concerts in the Canary Islands with the Chicago Sinfonietta; recitals on the University Artists Concert Series in San Jose, Costa Rica; and performances of Handel's Messiah with the Orquestra Sinfonica de Asturias in Oviedo, Spain. Professor Davis' extensive concert credits include the Mozart Requiem, the role of Salud in Falla's La Vida Breve, Bach's B Minor Mass and St. Matthew Passion, Handel's Messiah and Judas Maccabeus, Mahler's Symphony No 2 and Symphony No 4, Gorecki's Symphony No 3, Honegger's Le Roi David, Strauss' Vier Letzte Lieder, Orff's Carmina Burana and Poulenc's Gloria. She has also performed in roles with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Des Moines Metro Opera, and Opera Theatre of Springfield. Professor Davis appeared on the West Virginia Arts and Letters Series at the Governor's Mansion and as the guest artist for the Governor's Inaugural Ceremony.
She has released two musical recordings, one conducting the UI Black Chorus, and one singing arrangements of Negro Spirituals for solo voice and piano. Dr. Davis has also written two books, Talks My Mother Never Had with Me: Helping the Young Female Transition to Womanhood and Talks My Mother Never Had With Me: A Loving Mother's Perspective for Young Women, which targets elementary-age girls. These publications are part of the TALKS Leadership Curriculum, published by KJAC Publishing. Professor Davis' work as both performing artist and teacher has been recognized at the college, university, and national level.
She is the founding director of the Black Sacred Music Symposium (1991), held biennially on the UIUC campus with participants from across the nation. In 1993 she received the College of Fine and Applied Arts Outstanding Faculty Award, an Appreciation and Recognition Award from the UI Alumni Association, and was named the Alumna of the Year by the College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia Institute of Technology. In 1994, Professor Davis was awarded the Bronze Medallion of Honor by the University of Illinois Women's Association, and has been listed on the Incomplete List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign every year to date. In 1998 Professor Davis received a Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
In 2008, Ollie Watts Davis was named a University Scholar, one of the highest honors the University bestows on its faculty. Other honors include national honorary membership in Sigma Alpha Iota, honorary membership in the National Arts and Letters Society, and membership in the Phi Kappa Phi Honorary Society. Professor Davis serves on the faculty for the summer SongFest in Malibu, California.
My personal journey to professional artistry has informed my teaching philosophy. As a professor, I seek to be a fair advocate and provide counsel for talented students, whether the student seeks financial aid opportunities, extra one-on-one mentoring, a guided research experience, language training, study abroad, or a summer program, in order to meet their future goals. In addition to teaching the skills necessary to be a complete musician, I transfer the knowledge needed to advance professionally as a musician. I encourage the personal demeanor necessary to be a healthy and supportive colleague in performance and academic contexts, enlivening the attitude that the progress of the group toward their common goals is paramount to personal accolades and achievement. I embody the lifestyle necessary to be a complete musician staying physically healthy, setting priorities, preparing well, and practicing effectively. I emphasize an attitude of enjoying and learning from the process of making music. I believe that the joy of the process will strengthen and motivate the student to continue with the discipline, persistence, and passion necessary to sustain a career in music. This has certainly been true in my case.