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Faculty: Principal

Mrs. Nevilla Ottley-Adjahoe (Principal & Founder, OMS)

Nevilla Ottley-Adjahoe Founder & Principal

NEVILLA E. OTTLEY-ADJAHOE, B.Mus.Ed., M.A. (organ & music history), M.Mus. (conducting) is the founder of the Ottley Music School established in 1973 a year after she graduated with her Master of Arts in organ and music history from Andrews University where she had earned her B.Mus. in music education and piano performance. She came to Maryland after spending time in New York (accompanying the fledgling Boys Choir of Harlem) and New Jersey (teaching piano and organ at Garden State Academy). The Ottley Music Studio existed out of her home in Maryland, while she taught piano and theory, and later added other piano teachers, violin, voice and clarinet teachers. 

She worked as a church musician, organist and choir director, since while in school in 1971.In 1974, she went to work at the Catholic University of America (CUA). During her tenure there, earned second graduate degree, a Master of Music in choral and orchestral conducting. After taking a class at CUA on Black Composers, she began a weekly one-hour radio show, Classics of Ebony, aired over WGTS 91.9 fm from 1976 to 1997, when the station changed format from classical to contemporary religious. She makes sure that music of Black Composers is included in what
Ottley Music School students learn, and their ensembles and orchestra play. She has written three books on the subject, "Black Composers Born Before 1850," available at the Ottley Music School, and the Potomac Adventist Book and Health Food Store in Silver Spring, Maryland, and also "Black Pianists of Classical Music" (published and sold out), and "Still's Life in Pictures" (published and sold out for the 1995 Washington, D. C. centennial celebration of composer William Grant Still).

Mrs. Nevilla E. Ottley-Adjahoe was working as librarian at WGMS 103.5 fm when she was hired as the Music Director for the Choral and Orchestral Society of the World Bank/IMF in 1983. She worked there until she started the Takoma Park Symphony in 1988, the same year that she launched the first "Summer Fun" Music Camp in Washington, D. C., two weeks of music studies in strings, voice and piano, with 9 teachers and over 60 students. She worked with Takoma Park Symphony from 1988-1995, and with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra from 2000-2002 as music director/con-ductor.

Her students have always rated very high in both the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and of the National Guild of Piano Teachers annual examinations and auditions. Over the past 45+ years, her piano, organ and voice students have taken (and are still taking) places of responsibility in the music world and other fields internationally. Most of them have gone on to colleges and universities around the world as students and professors, such as Johns Hopkins University, Andrews University, Loma Linda University, Western Michigan University, University of Maryland, Washington Adventist University, Oakwood College, Duke University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Berklee College of Music, Howard University, Morgan State University, Ithaca College, Bethune Cookman College, Mannes College, Princeton, Northern Caribbean University, University of the Southern Caribbean, Bowie State University and others.

Mrs. Nevilla E. Ottley-Adjahoe has high ideals and goals for all students and teachers of the Ottley Music School (OMS). She expects teachers to have the same level of motivation and achievement for their students as she expects of hers. Therefore, she has selected a faculty that we hope will continue the high ideals and level of achievement. She serves at the OMS as a teacher of piano, voice, organ, music theory, music history, and conducting, and is the Music Director and principal conductor of the Hyattsville Symphony, comprised of students, OMS School teachers, and community musicians, including many of the Prince George's Philharmonic's "Symphony Kids." She also produces the concerts and operas at the
OMS School and directs the summer camp programs.

To request Mrs. Nevilla E. Ottley-Adjahoe as conductor or speaker at your next event (on Black Composers, or on Genealogy), contact her at .


PHONE:  301-454-0991    FAX:  301-454-0298



ADDRESS: University Town Center
6525 Belcrest Road, Suite G-20
Hyattsville, MD 20782-2017 USA

Nevilla E. Ottley, the Author






Ben Holt, Apostle of Musical Enlightenment by Holt & Ottley

Classics of Ebony Logo

It was while Ms. Ottley was a graduate student at Andrews University that she had a curiosity about Black composers.  She asked one of the professor who was a published composer (who will remain unnamed) if there were any who were famous, so that she could write her Master's thesis on this person.  She was told that there were only two who were recognized, but were not famous because their works were rather "childlike" and not to the level of the masters.  He named Ulysses Kay and William Grant Still, two of Americas greatest composers of any race (of course she did not know that, and in 1971 "Google" did not exist, actually, not even PCs for students.  She did her thesis on the "Number Symbolism of Bach's Chorale Preludes for Organ", a very interesting study.


It was about 4 years later, while working at The Catholic University of America that she took a new course offered, "Choral Works of Black Composers" taught by visiting professor (from Howard University), the late Evelyn Davidson White.  It was such an enlightening course that at the end of the semester, the entire class gave her a gift of appreciation.  Professor White opened the eyes of the class to not only the choral works, but to all the works, and lives of the Black Composers from the Classical Period through the Present day, and heightened their interest to continue research into such composers and works.  It was through another professor, Ms. Ottley's Choral Conducting Professor, L. Jeanette Wells, that she was told that from her annual research in Spain, she (Dr. Wells) learned that Tomas Luis de Victoria (ca. 1548-1611) who is known as the greatest or most illustrious Spanish composer of the Renaissance was "Black like you, child!!!" she exclaimed, slapping Ms. Ottley's forearm.  "There were no other persons but Africans living in Avila at that time."



Thanks to Professor's Evelyn Davidson White and Laura Jeanette Wells the study of Black composers became an obsession in the mind of Ms. Ottley, and from 1976-1997 she researched, produced and hosted "Classics of Ebony" a one-hour weekly radio show on WGTS-fm (91.9 mhz) in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area on recorded music of Black composers and performances by Black artists of any type of classical music (using the word classical as vs. popular). 
In 1994 she started writing books for young people about these composers and artists since most of the books she found were scholastic books to be used by college and university students and professors.
To date she has written the following Children's Story Book Series:


  • Black Pianists of Classical Music (1994), presently sold out, to be reissued in September 2016
  • Some Famous Black Composers born before 1850 (1994), available
  • Still's Life in Pictures (compiled with the help of William Grant Still's daughter, Judith Anne Still Headley for his centennial celebration in Washington, D.C. in May 1995.  Contact for more info on that book.
  • Some Famous Black Divas born before 1900 (to be published in 2016)
  • Some Famous Black Male Singers (to be published 2016)
  • More Black Pianists of Classical Music (to be published in 2016)

These books are appropriate for use in schools from Middle School through High School for classroom teaching, and for individual research.  The author herself has effectively used these books for teaching elementary classes.


Mrs. Ottley has co-authored with Mrs. Mayme Wilkins Holt a biography of her son, Ben Holt, Apostle of Musical Enlightenment, pubished by Christian Living Books in Lanham, MD.  Ben Holt was a friend of Mrs. Ottley's.  He had a successful career as an opera singer, who performed at the Metropolitan Opera company when he was in his 20s.  He died of hodgkins lymphoma at age 34.  Ben Holt is available at Ottley Music School, at Living Well Adventist Book Store and through the publisher.

Mrs. Ottley is also working on The Diary of Elizabeth Ottley, a Friend of J. C. Bach.....1772-1797.  


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