Pearl Mae Job Kurtichanov
1894 - 1979
Pearl Job Kurtichanov, a coloratura soprano with remarkable range and power, taught in two Seventh-day Adventist Colleges. 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.
Kurtichanov was born in Butte, Montana, on February 27, 1894, the oldest of three children of James and Florence Webster Job. 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 a Seventh-day 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 also taught violin. She was cheerful, tactful, and well-liked by the faculty and students. On June 29, 1920, she married Titus Kurtichanov, a 1919 WWC graduate and son of Russian immigrants, who had been working as an evangelist in the Northwest and left with him that year to work in Chicago where he was to work with Russians who lived there.
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 . . .
While residing in Chicago, she and her husband were hired to teach at the newly founded Broadview College, now Broadview Academy, in Illinois. She became 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."
While working in the Atlantic Union, the Kurtichanovs left the church and 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 on February 25, 1979, at age 84, two days before her birthday. At the time of her death, Titus was approached by the pastor of the SDA church who had learned of the Kurtichanovs’ past association with the church. Titus rejoined the church by profession of faith on March 24, 1979. He died on April 11, 1987, at age 98.
Sources: 1910, 1920, United States Federal Census, Ancestry.com; General Conference Meeting Minutes, January 2-29, 1920, 672; January 2, 1922, 215; January 1, 1925, 910; January 4, 1926, 1100; New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, Montana, County Marriages, June 29, 1920, and Montana, County Births and Deaths, 1830-2011, all at Ancestry.com; 1920 Mountain Ash, Walla Walla College yearbook; Obituary for Martha Boleloy Kurtchianov, North Pacific Union Gleaner, January 20, 1942, 7; WWC Collegian, unknown issue, 1920 (Departure for Chicago, misunderstood by student writer to Russia); Interview with John T. Hamilton (compared her voice to that of Galli-Curci, world famous soprano of that time); July 5, 1990; Field Tidings, February 23,1927, 7; Lake Union Herald, March 25, 1925, 16; June 15, 1927, 8; Atlantic Union Gleaner, June 20, 1923, 6; June 27, 1928; EMC The Campus News, May 1924, 4; April 26, 5; Obituary for Pearl, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 1 March 1979; Jess Dixon, “Home at Last,” The North Pacific Union Gleaner, June 18, 1979, 16, 18.