Mar 30, 2014 - Tulsa Christian musician Barbi Cottingham dies at 63


Before passing out another Bible, Barbi Cottingham always prayed that it would go to the right person. After all, putting one in the wrong hands could have major consequences.

It might even land her and her team in jail.

Eventually, "the seriousness of what I was doing hit me," she would write years later.

But the fact that "many of these people would have given anything for a Bible in their own language" was motivation to keep going, she added.

For four years, Cottingham traveled the world with a Tulsa-based missionary music group.Visiting Iron Curtain countries where the Bible was outlawed, she would discover that music could transcend political barriers, including as a vehicle for sharing her faith.

Barbara Jane "Barbi" Cottingham, an influential Tulsa piano teacher who devoted her life to her music and her faith, died March 18 of complications from cancer. She was 63.

A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at Christ United Methodist Church, with a reception to follow. Add'vantage Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Diagnosed with lymphoma last year, Cottingham wasn't worried how it would turn out, her daughter, Amy Cottingham, said.

"She said she would not be disappointed in life; that she had lived five lives in one."

Life for Cottingham began in rural Tennessee, where she grew up. She came to Tulsa to attend Oral Roberts University.

It was as a student there that she had the opportunity to join Living Sound, a Christian music group co-founded in 1969 by minister Terry Law.

Living Sound became known for traveling to some of the world's most inhospitable places, including the Soviet Union and communist Southeast Asia, in pursuing its mission.

With few breaks, Cottingham toured with the group for four years, including a full year in Southeast Asia. She later wrote about the experience in a book.

Completing a degree in vocal performance at ORU, Cottingham would go on to perform as a member of Oral Roberts' World Action Singers on Roberts' television show. There she appeared with the group alongside such guest stars as Johnny Cash, Robert Goulet and others.

She also toured and sang with the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association ministry.

Teaching piano came later. Over the past 33 years, Cottingham had taught more than 1,000 students at her home in Tulsa.

Former president of Tulsa Music Teachers Association, she was active with various music teachers organizations and Tulsa's Hyechka Club. Helping organize competitions, she dreamed of music students having more opportunities to flourish in Tulsa.

Singing publicly was still a joy for Cottingham, and she was thankful to be able to do so again recently with the Signature Symphony Chorale and Christ United Methodist choir.

"Mom loved performing," said Amy Cottingham, an accomplished pianist and teacher in her own right. "She was an animated vocalist and always the most gregarious on stage ... giving her whole self to each performance, no matter the occasion."

With life as in music, she added, her mother "put her whole self into whatever she was doing, whoever she was with. ... giving fully to the people in her daily life. Two of her mottos were 'it's how you live' and 'may all who come behind us find us faithful.' "

Cottingham's survivors include her daughter, Amy Cottingham; a son, Christopher Cottingham; and two siblings, Nancy Gianopulos and David Cook.



Courtesy of the Tulsa World