SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A former choir and music director, for the Tabernacle choir Jerold Ottley has passed away at age 86.

According to a news release, Ottley died on Friday, February 19, 2021, in Salt Lake City.

From 1974–1999, Ottley directed The Tabernacle Choir from its home on Temple Square, according to a press release.

While working with the choir, Ottley was in 1,300 Music & the Spoken Word broadcasts, 30 commercial recordings, more than 20 major tours around the world, and thousands of rehearsals and performances.

Ottley was revered by those who sang with him, worked with him, and observed his dedication to making the Choir ever better. Choir members are said to have described him as having “beautiful hands.”

Choir President Ron Jarrett, who sang in the Choir as a tenor under Ottley’s hand, says, “The Choir would not be what it is today without Jerold Ottley’s contributions for a quarter of a century. He was a visionary who put in place protocols that refined the Choir organization and ensured its future success.”

In a news release, the choir said, Ottley’s imprint on the Choir reflected his deep spiritual roots, his professional musical abilities, and his organizational acumen.

Choir Director Mack Wilberg appreciated the groundwork put in place for musical excellence and says, “Jerold Ottley was not only a wonderful musician but a great person who, like those before him, laid a foundation for today’s Choir. His legacy is a gold thread in the tapestry of the Choir’s past, present, and future.”

After the Choir performed under Ottley’s baton at President Ronald Reagan’s inaugural in 1981, Reagan dubbed it “America’s Choir.” The name stuck, according to a news release from the Choir.

According to a release, Ottley was born on April 7, 1934, in Murray, Utah, to Sidney and Alice Ottley. He began his work with the Choir as a part-time assistant director until he became the 13th music director, succeeding Jay Welch. He served under two Choir presidents, Oakley Evans, and Wendell Smoot.

Ottley completed his master’s degree in choral conducting at the University of Utah and was awarded a Fulbright grant, as was his wife, to the Academy of Music in Cologne, West Germany; and received his doctorate from the University of Oregon, according to a news release.

Before his full-time appointment to the Choir, he was a faculty member at the University of Utah Music Department where he served as assistant chair.

Choir officials say funeral arrangements will be announced later.