OBU Adjunct Percussion Teacher Remembered

Joni Chavez Rice, an adjunct percussion instructor at Oklahoma Baptist University, died Nov. 24 in Oklahoma City, three weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was 42.

Rice taught percussion at OBU for five years. Family, students, colleagues, and friends gathered Sunday, Nov. 27, at Church of the Savior in Oklahoma City for a musical celebration of her life.

Rice is survived by her husband, Carlos “Charlie” Rice, her 18-month-old daughter Sarah, her mother, Lou Ann, and a sister, Donna.

Rice taught private lessons for OBU percussion majors, and many middle school and high school students who study through the university’s Music Preparatory Department. She also taught a required Percussion Methods class to music majors, and worked with the percussion and rhythm sections of the Bison Jazz Orchestra, the Symphonic Band, and the OBU-Shawnee Community Orchestra.

“Her students and former students, along with some of the finest musicians in OKC and the region, presented a magnificent three-hour tribute concert in her memory,” said Dr. Jim Hansford, OBU professor of music and coordinator of instrumental music studies.

“Joni Rice was one of our most dedicated, diligent, and conscientious adjunct teachers,” said Hansford. “She was extremely dependable and devoted to her students. She was demanding, yet a very understanding and caring teacher who will be greatly missed by our instrumental department.”

“Joni was not only an excellent pedagogue, she was also a wonderful musician,” said Kevin Pruiett, director of OBU’s Bison Jazz Orchestra. Her work with the Bison Jazz Orchestra over the years has been indispensable. She will be truly missed.”

“It is a great benefit for our students to have an adjunct instructor who is so dedicated to OBU and to her students. Joni lived out OBU’s mission through her commitment to Christ and to the music profession,” said Dr. Paul Hammond, dean of OBU’s Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts.

“She was comfortable and adept in playing in any style ranging from swing band music to all kinds of jazz, gospel, country, and Latin rhythmic styles,” said Hansford.

Rice grew up performing in the Rice Dance Band of Oklahoma City with her step-father, Floyd, her mother and sister. She also was a freelance performer, playing with groups throughout the region.

In addition to her musical interests, she pursued the study of exotic animals and traveled to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Peru, and Canada to view exotic animals in their natural habitat. She was also a docent for the Oklahoma City Zoo and a caregiver for the baboons at the University of Oklahoma Primate Research Facility.

A graduate of Oklahoma City’s John Marshall High School, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from the University of Oklahoma and had completed 50 credit hours in jazz study at the University of North Texas, with an emphasis in ethno-percussion.