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The Sound of Music

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

by Donna Parker

When Lou Ann Cowart Crisler, who received her bachelor's in music in 1969, opens her mouth to sing, she's doing what comes naturally.

"I've been singing since I was 3 years old.  It's a part of my life, and I don't know what I'd do if I weren't singing.  I was born in the Texas Panhandle and started in the cherub church choir as a toddler; then, I sang all the way through high school," says this passionate songstress, who adds, "Singing is like breathing to me.  I just sing.  I guess that's my main way of communication."

She's been "communicating" as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (MTC) since 1995, for which she performs each Sunday in the weekly broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word, as well as 75 concerts in addition to that.  She also has performed for the Boston Pops July 4th celebration, the inauguration of President George W. Bush and at the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

"It's a great opportunity and quite a lot of work.  We see a new piece each week and are expected to maintain a high degree of musicianship," says this mother of seven children and grandmother of four.  Lou Ann also works as a graduate secretary in the department of English at Brigham Young University - a job she says makes her the "chief nag."

"We're all involved in music.  My husband, Jesse Crisler '69, was in the MTC for five years and just retired.  All of our kids are musical and they all play instruments or sing in a choir."

When she's not singing, Lou Ann knows how to relax.

"I take a nap!  I do love to read and cook.  My signature dish is spaghetti.  We had a wonderful trip to Europe and I fell in love with Italian pasta dishes."

She met her husband while at Trinity, a place she recalls as, "one of the most nurturing environments in the world." 

"You know, when I think back to Trinity, I remember Rosalind Phillips, department of music, who was my voice teacher.  She was glamorous and represented everything I wanted to do in music.  She was such a good performer and a great example."

"I felt so protected at Trinity.  It was the '60s and everything was in turmoil, but not there.  My aunt had been a Trinity dorm mother!  My grandmother and my cousins had attended, so going to Trinity was really a foregone conclusion."

"All of my teachers, especially Chaplain Emeritus Raymond Judd as well as Claude Zetty and Gerald Benjamin, both of the department of music, were wonderful and were mentors to me.  Right after I graduated, I was accepted by Julliard in New York City, but made the decision not to be a starving opera singer and instead, went to grad school at the University of Hawaii."

"I really do have a great life!  I'm happy and I must say that becoming a Mormon right after graduation has been very fulfilling and made my life a happy one."

You may contact Lou Ann at Louann_crisler [at]