Judith Willoughby

Obituary of Judith Anne Willoughby

Judith Anne Willoughby, beloved mother, sister, friend, mentor, educator and conductor transitioned peacefully on May 4, 2024 at the age of 74.

Born on July 14, 1949 in Cleveland, Ohio, she was the oldest child of Rupert and Betty Jean Willoughby. Considered a conducting and choral music specialist, Judith Willoughby built a versatile career as a choral conductor, educator and arts administrator throughout the United States and the world.

After graduating from Collinwood Senior High School in Cleveland, Ohio, Judith attended Northwestern University in Evanston, IL where she received her Bachelors of Music. She then moved to Philadelphia earning her Masters Degree in piano performance and conducting from Temple University. In 1973, she became teacher at Montgomery County Community College. During her tenure at MCCC she became the head of the Cultural Affairs Office at MCCC and became the founder and artistic director the Choral Arts Society of Montgomery County. Ms. Willoughby also became the founder and music director of the Temple University Children’s Choir, a choir that was part of Temple University’s Center for Gifted Young musicians. In its 8th year, it made a triumphant appearance at the 1997 National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association. Judith Willoughby became one of the first African-American women to have her choir selected to perform.

In addition to Judith Willoughby’s activities as a choral conductor, she was also a board member of Chorus America for nine years as well as its Secretary for two consecutive years. Moreover, Ms. Willoughby was also President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association and a grant writer for the Pew Foundation and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Judith Willoughby was often called upon as a guest clinician around the U.S as well as the world.

After 40 years of dedicating her life to music and the performing arts, Judith Willoughby retired in 2017 and moved to Lanham, Maryland to be closer to her daughter and sister. At the time of her retirement, she was the Wanda L. Bass Professor of Conducting and Choral Music Education at Oklahoma City University and Artistic Director of the Canterbury Youth Choruses.

Judith Willoughby is survived by her daughter Allison Miller, sister Patrice Willoughby and ex-husband Horatio Miller. The family asks that in lieu of sending flowers, please send donations to Chorus America at www.chorusamerica.org and/or to ACDA at www.acda.org, two organizations that she loved and supported. A memorial service for Judith Willoughby will be held late summer in the Philadelphia area.

“Art thou troubled? Music will calm thee.”- George Frederic Handel

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