Marilyn Rice "Life is Good" Piano Scholarship

On May 13, 1963, Marilyn Rice (UM Music, Piano, class of 1985) was born into a large family in Butte, Montana and quickly began to embrace their deeply committed blue-collar work ethic. Her family recognized her superior musical gifts at a young age and she was soon studying piano and performing at recitals in her hometown. Upon graduation from Butte High School in 1981, where she was also very active in marching band, speech and debate and numerous other activities, she attended the University of Montana school of Music, studying with Dennis Alexander. Her gifts and talents continued to blossom as she began to serve as an accompanist for instrumental and vocal soloists and numerous vocal ensembles including the Collegiate Chorale, then under the baton of the late Dr. Donald W. Simmons. In addition to carrying a full course load, playing in pit orchestras for the Missoula Children’s Theatre, UM Drama Department and continuing her numerous commitments as an accompanist, Marilyn worked the early shift at McDonald’s and prided herself as ”…making the best biscuits they ever had.”
Her work ethic continued as she went on to Southern Illinois University to earn her Master of Music in Piano Pedagogy while still serving as an accompanist in countless solo studios and ensemble classrooms. In her professional life, Marilyn served as first-call keyboardist for numerous Broadway National Tours as well as countless local and regional professional theatre companies. Her love of musical theatre introduced her to UM Music graduate David Simmons who, after many years apart, had the joy and privilege to become Mr. Marilyn Rice on July 19, 2008. In their short years together David and Marilyn worked on numerous projects including national tours, local and regional productions and a few original projects of their own.
On July 17, 2014, Marilyn passed away after a long journey with breast cancer. She was surrounded by her ever-present, deeply loyal and loving family who sang her to heaven with hymns, spirituals and family traveling songs. As her husband David will often tell you, “she was a righteous broad with the manners of a princess. She was the best and most loyal friend, lover, wife, partner, colleague and co-conspirator any man could ever wish for.” Up to the very end Marilyn always talked of how wonderful their life together was and that “Life is Good.” Her courage, grace and commanding spirit were present in her right up to her last moments on this mortal coil.
This scholarship has been created to celebrate her wondrous talents, her amazing fearlessness in life, her commitment to bring only the best to everything and her enduring desire to “light her corner of the world.” The scholarship is awarded with the encouragement for students to take time to see the glory of life around and within themselves and to remember that “Life is Good.”