Joni Mae Robinson Pierre-Louis
1927 - 2009
Joni Mae Pierre-Louis was born in Tennessee and raised in a musical family, her mother, Ann Robinson, being a noted singer. While Joni Mae was still young, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where she attended the public schools. During the last two years of high school, she studied piano and voice with teachers associated with the Cleveland Institute of Music and Western Reserve University.
Joni Mae enrolled in Oakwood College, now University, in 1946, the year the Aeolians, a select choir consisting of 16 voices, wasstarted. For the next two years she sang in that group, under the direction of Eva Beatrice Dykes, and was featured as a soloist. She transferred to Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, in 1948, where she could complete an accredited degree. Although OC had started a four-year program in 1943, it would not be accredited until 1958.
She sang in AU's choirs, directed by Melvin Davis and Estelle Kiehnoff, completing her B.A. in music and French in 1950. Two years after her marriage to Sam Pierre-Louis in 1952, she accepted a position as a music teacher at Oakwood College. Joni Mae continued study at Northwestern University and Case Western Reserve in Cleveland and then returned to complete an M.A. in music at AU in 1964.
In 1955 Pierre-Louis followed Eva Dykes as conductor of the Aeolians. She expanded the size of the group to forty and used it to aggressively promote the college with extensive touring. During the next nine years she traveled widely, singing in California, on the West Coast, in the Midwest, and on the East Coast. In her last year as director the group sang at the 1965 New York World's Fair. While there they appeared on the Strike it Rich television program, where they made a successful appeal for assistance in obtaining new choir robes.
In 1965 the Pierre-Louis family moved to California, where she assisted in voice instruction at Pacific Union College. She was living in Angwin, California, at the time of her death at age 81.
Sources: Roy E. Malcolm, editor, The Aeolians, Directors Recall Precious Memories, "Aeolians Today" (Joni Mae Robinson Pierre-Louis), 11-21; Obituary, Southern Tidings, June 2009; U.S. Social security Index.