Pearl Mae Job Kurtichanov
1894 - 1979
Pearl Job Kurtichanov was a coloratura soprano with remarkable range and power. Those who heard her sing described the experience as "awe-inspiring," and her high notes as "clear and bird-like." She was often compared to Amelita Galli-Curci, a famous Metropolitan Opera star in the 1920's.
Although Kurtichanov was born in Butte, Montana, she traveled to London at an early age to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music under Henry Beachamp. While studying at the RCM, she sang for Nellie Melba, an Australian soprano known throughout Europe and in America in the early 20th century for her brilliant voice and stunning performances. Melba was so taken with Kurtichanov 's voice that she urged her to study with her for two years in Australia. Pearl chose not to and stayed to graduate from the conservatory. She then traveled to Italy for additional study at the Milan Conservatory of Music.
At this time, her mother became an Adventist and urged her daughter to go to Walla Walla College, now University, where she could study and work with Grace Wood Reith, an accomplished singer. Even though her inclination was to pursue a career in opera, she wanted to please her mother and enrolled at WWC, where she became an Adventist.
When Reith left WWC in 1918, Kurtichanov became the primary voice teacher and and also taught violin. She was cheerful, tactful, and well liked by the faculty and students. In 1920, she married Titus Kurtichanov, who had graduated from WWC in 1919, and left with him that year to work in Russia.
A student observed in the school paper at the time of her departure:
She will tackle anything from singing Caro Nome from Rigoletto to remodeling a dress or fixing an unmanageable sink. She gained her musical education in London, being a graduate of the Royal Academy. She has had the honor of singing before the royal family. Where she learned plumbing is unknown. Her cheerful disposition and her tact and adaptability will make her a splendid worker in her chosen field - Russia.
When she and her husband returned to the United States, she accepted a music position at Broadview College, now Broadview Academy, in Illinois. Kurtichanov became a frequent recitalist at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, where her singing was received with enthusiasm. In an April 12, 1924 recital, one of her early appearances at the college, she sang along with a recording of Galli-Curci. An article in the school paper observed that "not once did Madame Kurtichanov's voice fail to blend greatly with the great prima donna's."
By the time Kurtichanov returned to EMC to sing at a benefit program in the spring of 1926, the school paper observed that she "was well known to EMC students, as she has appeared in recital here several times, and has always charmed her audience with her lovely voice and pleasing personality."
The Kurtichanovs eventually settled in Montana where he worked as a principal at Flathead High School in Kalispell from 1936-1942. In 1945, they moved to Bozeman where he taught history and she taught voice at Montana State University. They were residing in Butte when she died at age 84, two days before her birthday.
Sources: 1920 Mountain Ash, Walla Walla College yearbook; WWC Collegian, unknown issue, 1920 (Departure for Russia); Interview with John T. Hamilton (compared her voice to that of Galli-Curci, world famous soprano of that time); 5 July 1990; The EMC The Campus News, May 1924, 4; April 26, 5; Obituary, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 1 March 1979.