Ollie Watts Davis

Davis, Ollie Watts

Ollie Watts Davis was born in Oak Hill, West Virginia and raised in Mount Hope.

She graduated from West Virginia Institute of Technology (magna cum Laude), where she was named the 1993 Alumna of the Year. She earned the Master of Arts degree from West Virginia University at Morgantown and both the Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees at the University of Illinois. In 1980, she moved to Champaign-Urbana in with her husband, Reverend Dr. Harold D. Davis, in order to attend the University of Illinois as a graduate fellow in Music.

Dr. Davis was Associate Professor of Music at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before being promoted to Professor of Music on the Voice. She is also a Conductor of the Black Chorus at the UIUC. She is the Founding Director of the Black Sacred Music Symposium held biennially at the U of I.

Dr. Davis has won numerous awards and honors, including membership in the Phi Kappa Phi Honorary Society; honorary membership in Sigma Alpha Iota and the National Arts and Letters Society; and the Krannert Center Debut Recital Award. In 1993, Dr. Davis received a Faculty Excellence Award from the U of I College of Fine and Applied Arts, and in 1994 was awarded the Bronze Medallion of Honor by the U of I Women's Association. Dr. Davis was recognized as a woman who "through example and/or service...has used her talents to enrich the lives of others." In 1998 Dr. Davis was selected to receive the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Campus Award of Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In 1999, she received the Gospel Music Excellence Award at the National Black Gospel College Choir Workshop and in that same year, KJAC Publishing released her book, Talks My Mother Never Had with Me (Helping the Young Female Transition to Womanhood). In 2008, she was named a University Scholar, one of the highest recognitions bestowed upon faculty.

Active as a performing artist, soprano Ollie Watts Davis made her New York debut at Carnegie Hall and has appeared throughout North and South America and in Europe with major orchestras and opera companies. She has also performed at the West Virginia Governor's Mansion on the Arts and Letters Series and as guest artist for the Governor's Inaugural Ceremony.

Dr. Davis is also very active in her community and in Christian ministry. She has served on the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Board of Directors, volunteered as the musical conductor for Empty Tomb's Christian Children's Arts Festival, and has served on the planning committee for the Don Moyer's Boys and Girls Club Steak and Steak Dinner. Dr. Davis is also involved with the Talks Mentoring Movement. She wrote the secondary school curriculum and mentored at Edison Middle School. She currently mentors at Stratton Elementary School. Dr. Davis serves as the Youth Music Director at Canaan Missionary Baptist Church of Urbana, Illinois, where she also is a member of the Women's Discipleship Class, the S.W.A.T. (Soul-Winning Action Team), and P.A.C.E. Discipleship ministry (People Available to Contact and Encourage).

Dr. Davis is in demand as an inspirational and motivational speaker. She recently hosted the inaugural session of StudiO: the Ollie Watts Davis Vocal Institute for young singers. She also frequently conducts retreats and seminars for women and along with her husband, for married couples. She has released two CDs and two books for mentoring young girls. Currently, she lives in Champaign with her husband. Together, they raised four children.