A gifted teacher, singer, and multi-instrumentalist with a lifelong passion for keyboard instruments, Joyce Marie Priess is now retired, having concluded her career as a piano and theory teacher for Friends University. Born and raised in rural Saint John, Kansas, she began playing the piano as a young child and added the organ shortly after. She soon recognized her talent for music and her love for all aspects of performance and theory, and spent most of her free time practicing the piano as a teen.
Ms. Priess sought to turn her enthusiasm into a career, and she attended Bethany College to study music with the aid of a Presser scholarship, earning a Bachelor of Music in applied piano in 1955, and a second Bachelor of Music in music education in 1956. She also holds a master’s degree in music from Northwestern University. While a student, Ms. Priess was active in renowned music fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota, who presented her with a Rose of Honor and a Sword of Honor, and was profiled in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.
Following her graduation, Ms. Priess returned to Kansas, teaching elementary vocal music in Johnson from 1956 until 1958, when she accepted a position as a piano accompanist for the Buhler Rural High School’s freshman- and sophomore-level Girls’ Glee Club and Vocal Ensemble. She continued to accompany the Buhler Girls’ Glee Club for the next three years, departing in 1961 to return to Bethany College and begin her instructional career. At Bethany College, she taught piano, piano pedagogy, and keyboard harmonization classes from 1961 until 1967, further developing her abilities as a postsecondary educator. During her time at Bethany College, Ms. Priess also spent a year as a member of the accompanist staff of the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan.
Ms. Priess joined Friends University in 1967, teaching piano and freshman theory classes until 1969 and 1984, respectively. Throughout her career, she has been a sought-after performer and organizer, leading and accompanying school choirs and coaching music festivals and small ensembles on a freelance basis for many years. She has been the regular church organist for area congregations including the First Christian Church, the First United Methodist Church, Hutchinson Congregational, and the Second Church of Christ, Scientist, and has been contracted to perform at countless weddings, funerals and other rites.
Widely recognized for her talent and decades of experience, Ms. Priess was asked to perform with the Rose Hill Master Chorale during their 500th Commemorative Concert performance of selected Bach works, in the dedication recital of the First Christian Church of Stafford’s Baldwin Model 6 Organ, and alongside the Wichita Symphony Orchestra’s small group chorus. She is a former member of the Wichita Area Piano Teachers League and president of the Theta Province of Sigma Alpha Iota as well as the fraternity’s Bethany College Alumnae chapter. Ms. Priess has one brother, Jarrell, with whom she remains close, and she continues to teach and perform throughout the community.