After a grace-filled life of music and creativity, James Edward (Jim) Matheny passed peacefully from this life on Nov. 4, 2012. Born at home in Oklahoma City on Sept. 5, 1932, to Jesse Wilson Matheny and Naomi Laverna Doty, he announced his passion for music at 18 months by “directing” Alexander’s Ragtime Band while sitting on an upturned seat at a movie theater. At four he joined his beloved older brother Jess in a rhythm band (complete with uniforms). At Roosevelt Junior High and Central High School he played clarinet and served as CHS band president. With other young instrumentalists, he joined the Army Reserve Band, becoming a Sergeant First Class. He also played with the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra. At Oklahoma City University (OCU), he added choir and several fraternal music groups.
After meeting Connie, an entering OCU freshman, he became involved in the extensive choral music program developed by John and Helen Kemp at First Presbyterian Church, and took voice lessons from Cecil Lapo, MM at St. Luke’s Methodist Church. He directed the choirs at Eighth Street Methodist Church and later at Capitol Hill Methodist Church. He graduated from OCU with a Bachelor of (Instrumental) Music degree in 1955 while managing the sheet music department at Sharp and Nichols Music. He completed his Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., in 1958. While there, he played first chair clarinet for two years with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, sang under the direction of Leonard Bernstein, worked at a music store on Nassau St., and directed church choirs in Hightstown and Hammonton, N.J.
To his last days, Jim treasured the memories of his career in Texas high school music programs: Marshall HS (1962-68); Allen Academy, Bryan (1969-73); and Consolidated HS, College Station (1973-83). He felt honored to work with young singers whose talents and achievements were recognized at the district, region, and state levels (once in a major international competition) and showcased in productions of popular stage musicals. Known for his wise counsel and for expecting and attaining the highest standards of musical excellence, he nurtured a lifelong love of music among hundreds of students. He is often remembered not only as a gifted choral director but also for his commitment as a teacher and mentor of how to live life fully, honestly, and lovingly. In Marshall, he’s also known for his personal leadership in promoting civil rights during a tragic period of overt racism.
Among the churches he served as Minister of Music was First Presbyterian in Roswell. He co-founded and conducted several community choruses and performing groups including Community Singers (now Brazos Valley Chorale) in Bryan/College Station; Tudor Rose Vocal Ensemble in Roswell; and Perecomus Recorder Ensemble in Auckland, New Zealand.
After retiring from teaching, he began a second career creating and marketing various fundraising products used extensively by bands and choirs nationwide. This new occupation led to Jim being employed by Impact Confections in Roswell. He and Connie made many dear friends and resided happily in Roswell for 12 years, joyously celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary there on June 6, 2004.
Other creative pursuits he enjoyed included stained glass and furniture building. Late in life, he was active as a public performer of the descant recorder at neighborhood markets in Auckland, in downtown Oklahoma City, and during worship services at several churches.
He always delighted in returning to Oklahoma City for visits with family and friends. His family’s rich legacy in Oklahoma began in 1892 when his maternal great-grandfather Dr. Hiram A. Doty, a Methodist minister and circuit rider, settled with his wife Nancy and children in Kingfisher County, later building their home on NW 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. The Doty’s were charter members of nearby Wesley Methodist Church.
Jim’s greatest passion was his loving wife and lifelong companion, Connie. They raised five children into honorable and accomplished adults.
Michael, their eldest, died in 1987. In addition to Connie, Jim is survived by his children: Doug; Paul and wife Nancy; Jennifer; and Jonathan and wife Evelyne; grandchildren Jillian Cole; Peter and wife Amy; Mark; Mackenzie; and Mikayla; great-grandson Silas Lunsford; sister-in-law Cordelia; nieces, Kathy Leasure and Judy Myers; nephew Mark; cousins, Bob Wheeler, Barbara Parker, Suzanne Jobe, Mary Jane Lawhon, Nancy Bell, Jesse Heald, David Doty, and Jan Brown; grand-nephews, Mitchell Leasure, Brady Leasure, and Lucas; and grand-nieces, Chelsea Myers and Jessica Myers.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1, in the chapel of First Presbyterian Church, 1001 NW 25th St. in Oklahoma City, followed by a reception. A combined reunion of members of groups he conducted is now being planned for spring 2013. In lieu of flowers, please donate to a charity of your choice: two of Jim’s favorites were St. Jude Children’s Research and Operation Smile.
“Let’s all join in harmony…”