Jo Ann Mazat Davidson
Jo Ann Davidson, associate professor at the Andrews University Theological Seminary and the first woman to teach in its theology department, is also an accomplished musician who plays violin, piano, and organ. Although she loves music and initially taught it at the beginning of her career, she later became intrigued by theology and decided to pursue it seriously as the primary interest in her life.
Davidson was born in Stockton, California, one of four children of Alfred O. and Alberta Bernhard Mazat. At the time of her birth, her father was a U.S. Army physician. Following his service in the military, the family moved to Wichita, Kansas, where they resided until he accepted a call to serve as a missionary doctor in Singapore. They returned to the U.S. five years later to reside in Englewood, Colorado, a Denver suburb.
Both parents were trained musicians who were active in music. Her father directed church choirs and sang frequently, and her mother also sang and played piano. Music was an important activity in the home, and all of the children took music lessons. Jo Ann began lessons on piano at a very early age and subsequently studied violin and organ. When the family moved to Singapore when she was ten, she continued lessons in all three areas with teachers there.
After attending Mile High Academy in Denver and graduating from Campion Academy in Loveland, Colorado, Mazat enrolled as a music major at La Sierra College, now University, where she studied violin for four years with Alfred Walters. During that time, she married Richard Melvin Davidson, a theology student. When they moved to Berrien Springs, Michigan, so that he could attend the seminary at Andrews University before she had completed her degree, she completed a BA in music at AU in 1970, with violin as her performance area.
Following completion of his MDIV in 1971, they moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, where he pastored and she taught piano lessons and led the children's choir in their church. She also played piano and organ, providing service music and accompanying; frequently soloed on the violin; and played in the first violin section of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra.
When her husband returned to AU to work on a doctorate in 1977, Jo Ann pursued graduate work in music. She resumed violin lessons with LeRoy Peterson, who been her teacher during her previous study at AU, and completed an M.A. in music two years later, with violin and music history as her areas of emphasis.
Although Richard had planned to return to pastoring at the end of his study, he was invited to teach at the seminary as he was completing his degree. During his study and then teaching at the seminary, Jo Ann was increasingly attracted to theology and discussing issues related to it with him. She later wrote about the circumstances that led to her enrolling at the seminary for classes:
After Dick had been teaching at the seminary five years, he came home and mentioned that Andrews University policy grants a spouse of a professor teaching five years to have a free class a quarter. Neither one of us had known of this policy before. Dick then mentioned that I should take a class in the seminary. When I responded that "I couldn’t do that," he urged me with, "Oh, but I think you should! You are always reading my books and asking me questions - I can tell that is where your heart is!" So, on his suggestion, I applied - very scared - but after the first class I was hooked!
This study eventually led to graduate study at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where she completed a PhD in 2000. She had started teaching part-time at the seminary in 1992 and in 1999 was hired to teach full-time.
A fourth generation Seventh-day Adventist, Davidson has written numerous articles that have been published in leading magazines of the church. She also writes a column, "Let's Face It," that presents a woman's slant on theology, for the Journal Perspective Digest. She has authored two books, Jonah: The Inside Story and Toward a Theology of Beauty: A Biblical Perspective.
Although her heart is in the study and teaching of theology, her love of music is undiminished. In the period following completion of her master's in music and the beginning of study at the seminary, she played in AU ensembles and provided service music at nearby Sunday churches. These activities in time had to be reduced, as her commitments in theology increased.
Sources: Conversation/Interview, 4 April 2010 and email, 5 April 2010, Jo Ann Davidson; Program note, 2009 Vervent Worship Conference; AU SDA Theological Seminary website. "Illinois Retreat to Include First Business/Professional Women's Expo," Lake Union Herald, September 1996.