The American choral conductor and music pedagogue, Jerold Don Ottley, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. The youngest of six children, in 1951, he moved with his family to New Zealand. From 1953 to 1955 he postponed his college education to complete an LDS church mission, also in New Zealand; in 1956 he returned to the USA and enrolled at Brigham Young University (byu) . As a freshman he met JoAnn South, who was a music student at the University of Utah, and married her one year later. From 1957 TO 1959 his education was interrupted again while he served in the United States Army. At last, in 1961, he was awarded a degree in music education from BYU.
From 1961 to 1968, Jerold Ottley taught in the public schools. After receiving his Maste of Music degree in choral conducting from the University of Utah, in 1967, both he and his wife JoAnn Ottley were awarded Fulbright grants. In 1968, they traveled to Cologne, West Germany, to study at the Academy of Music; he pursued German choral conducting practices while his wife studied voice. In 1972, after receiving his doctorate from the University of Oregon, they returned to Salt Lake City and began his academic life at the University of Utah. He taught on the music faculty at the University of Utah and served as the assistant chair of the music department. He became known as a dedicated teacher and notable organizer. He never intended to be a choral conductor; his desire was to be a music educator and administrator. Not becoming a choral conductor was a resolve, made even more certain during the mid 1960’s while he was completing his Maste of Music degree. At the time, Ottley occasionally filled in for Mormon Tabernacle Choir conductor Richard Condie and found the job too large:
Nonetheless, when requested to join the organization, Jerold Ottley did. While originally asked to be associate conductor, a position with which he was “comfortable,” within a year he was named as the new director. He remained for nearly a quarter century applying his previously honed administrative and music educator skills. It was these skills, and a substantial investment of time, that moved the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to new levels of musical proficiency, a broader audience, and more positive public and professional acceptance.
Jerold Ottley was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's 13th Music Director, succeeding Jay Welche. He served in this post from 1974 to 1999. His duties with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir included the preparation and performance of nearly thirteen hundred weekly radio and television broadcasts of Music and the Spoken Word. He also led the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in more than thirty commercial recordings and more than twenty major tours, in addition to regular concerts in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's home in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
Since his retirement, Jerold Ottley has been involved in volunteer work for four years as administrator and teacher for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Training School at Temple Square, as a Mormon Tabernacle Choir staff volunteer revising the choral library computer database, as artistic advisor to the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, and as bishop of his ward (congregation) in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). From 2005 to 2008, he directed the University Chorale, taught music education courses, and assisted in administration at Brigham Young University–Hawaii, an LDS Church-owned university in the town of Laie on Oahu's north shore.
Jerold Ottley is married to JoAnn Ottley, an accomplished soprano who also served as the vocal coach of the Tabernacle Choir for twenty-four years. They are the parents of two children.