Oklahoma Baptist University

Parrish Receives Lifetime Ministry Award

Mary Kay Parrish (right), professor emerita of music at OBU, receives the 2013 Lifetime Ministry Award at the Baptist Church Music Conference’s 57th annual session, presented by Dr. David Manner, a 1980 OBU alum.

Mary Kay Parrish, professor emerita of music at OBU, was honored with the 2013 Lifetime Ministry Award at the Baptist Church Music Conference’s 57th annual session April 14-16 at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center in Toccoa, Ga.

A native of Pascagoula, Miss., Parrish is a 1962 OBU alumna who earned a master’s degree from North Texas State University. She served on the faculty of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts from 1964-2002. She was named assistant professor in 1967; achieved tenure in 1969; and named associate professor in 1980. She received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1981 and was inducted into OBU’s Faculty Hall of Fame in 2012.

At OBU, Parrish taught piano; music theory; sight singing and ear training; counterpoint; form and analysis; and conducting. She directed the Bisonettes, OBU’s women’s glee club, which presented concerts in the early 1970s at the Baptist Church Music Conference and the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis.

Throughout her career, Parrish has been known as a respected handbell composer, director and clinician. She founded OBU’s University Ringers, an auditioned handbell ensemble, which she directed for 20 years. The group, recognized as one of the top collegiate handbell programs in the nation, toured in 31 states and rang concerts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Under Parrish’s leadership, the group received the highest award presented by the Handbell Musicians of America (established in 1954 as the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, or AGEHR), designated as “Exemplary” in the first edition of AGEHR’s “Handbells in Education” publication. They presented feature concerts at the Baptist Church Music Conference, the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers’ Director’s Convention and appeared on Diane Bish’s syndicated television program, “The Joy of Music.”

Parrish is a member of University Baptist Church in Shawnee, where she sings in the sanctuary choir and formerly served as coordinator of handbells. She currently works with the younger children’s choir. She was the founding director of the Jubilation Ringers, the church’s adult women’s handbell choir, which she led for 26 years. The choir presented featured concerts at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly and for a number of Area IX AGEHR events. The choir also was selected by audition to ring at the Pittsburgh National Baptist Handbell Festival and at PraiseRing in Nashville in conjunction with the presentation of the 1991 Baptist Hymnal. They were the featured handbell choir on the European tour of the Baptist Festival Singers and Orchestra. They toured in Hawaii, Canada and Western Europe and were featured in “Overtones” magazine, the journal of AGEHR.

Jeffers Publishing named Parrish composer of the year in 1983. She retired from OBU in 2002 after 38 years of service at the university and was named professor emerita in 2003. She remains active as a handbell clinician and festival director, as well as a composer/arranger of handbell, choral, instrumental and children’s music. She has been guest conductor for Baptist and AGEHR festivals in the local, area and national levels. She has served on the AGEHR Area IX and national board of directors. She has led workshops and clinics throughout the United States, including at Ridgecrest, Glorieta and Baylor University. She has made mission trips teaching handbells to students in Guatemala and Haiti.

She is married to Dr. John Parrish, executive vice president emeritus at OBU, and they have two children, Dr. John Michael Parrish and Robin Parrish McAlister, a 1999 OBU graduate.

The Lifetime Ministry Award was instituted in 2004 to recognize a person whose life has been marked by significant achievement in the field of church music. Award recipients are chosen annually by the Executive Council of the Baptist Church Music Conference. The Baptist Church Music Conference is a professional organization serving and served by Baptist ministers of music, denominational workers and educators from around the world to strengthen membership and musical renewal; to affirm continually the unique role of members as minister musicians; and to provide a positive and ever growing influence on the ministry of church musicians.

Parrish’s award was presented by Dr. David Manner, a 1980 OBU alum who serves as vice president of the Baptist Church Music Conference’s Denominational Division. Other participants at the 2013 conference with ties to OBU included Dr. Bob R. Agee, president emeritus, and Nelle Agee, a former OBU education professor; Bob and Esther Burroughs, both 1959 graduates; Dr. Cindy Clyburn, ’84; Ken Litton, ’75; Dr. Becky Lombard, ’74; Dr. Paul Magyar, ’82; Bart Morrison, ’88; Dr. John Parrish; Hildegard Stanley, ’59; Dr. Al Travis, ’62; Maureda Travis, ’62; Sherry Upshaw, ’77; and Michael Ware, ’06.

Visit the Baptist Church Music Conference Web page for more information.

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