Famed pianist Reid Nibley became passionate about the piano when he was twelve. That passion continued with him for over seventy years.
Throughout his professional career, Nibley performed, composed, and taught the art of piano to countless students. In 2007, the Brigham Young University School of Music established the Reid Nibley Scholarship for Piano Study to honor Nibley, his work, and his contributions to the school.
Nibley was born into a scholarly and musical home. His older brother Hugh was a famous history and doctrinal scholar and taught at BYU. Another older brother, Richard was a violinist and teacher.
Nibley found his niche as a pianist. However, as a child, Nibley lacked enthusiasm about music. He would have rather played cowboys and Indians outside than sit for hours at his piano inside. However, when Nibley was 12, that all changed. Almost suddenly, he realized that he truly did enjoy playing the piano.
This “epiphany” of sorts marked the beginning of Nibley’s career. When he was 13, he performed his first solo, with the Glendale Symphony Orchestra, in Southern California. Just four years later, Nibley had become a soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. (Molyneux)
Not only was he well educated, but Nibley was also an educator. He taught at the University of Utah, the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan, the National Music Camp at Interlochen, Michigan and finally at Brigham Young University. (Press Release)
Nibley’s abilities won him several solo, orchestral, radio, and TV performances throughout the United States, Canada, Japan, Europe, and the South Pacific. Nibley was also honored as the Utah Performing Artist of the Year during the 1982-83 performing season. (Press Release)
Though Nibley received many awards and accolades, he didn't consider those to be of overwhelming importance. He remained a meek and loving individual despite his success. In the Spring 2009 edition of BYU Magazine, one student, Jeanmarie Nash Bassett, shared her observations of Nibley's loving nature.
"As a music major at BYU, I had spent another long day practicing in a small HFAC practice room, juggling loads of homework, and ushering at the de Jong Concert Hall. I stopped by the Cougareat for a late-night snack before heading back to my apartment.
On the other side of the Cougareat I noticed two individuals eating fries and ketchup. One was Professor Reid N. Nibley. Anyone in the music department readily recognized this musician as a wonderful, gentle man, extremely accomplished on the piano, brilliant in composition.
What made this experience unforgettable for me was noticing that the young girl who accompanied him was noticeably disabled. Cheerfully and messily, they sat in the booth eating their fries and ketchup. Brother Nibley was markedly tender, attentive, and affectionate.
I’ve often thought of this wonderful scene when I’ve heard the song I’ll Walk with You, found in the Church’s Children’s Songbook. The song, composed by this sometimes overlooked, quiet man and now sung by Primary children throughout the world, teaches of accepting those who may not talk or walk like most people do. Today, when I hear this song, I remember the late-night scene in a Cougareat booth with warmth, admiration, and deeper understanding."
In Nibley's opinion, the most noteworthy part of his career was composing the hymn, “I Know My Father Lives.” The hymn, which was originally written for the children’s songbook and added to the LDS hymnal in 1985, is an expression of Nibley’s enduring testimony. (Molyneux)
I know my Father lives, and loves me too.
The Spirit whispers this to me, and tells me it is true,and tells me that I can.
and tells me it is true.
He sent me here to earth, by faith to live his plan.
The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me that I can,
Nibley was also invoved with the music of the Hill Cumorah Pageant.
Personal & Family Life
Nibley’s first wife, Marjorie died in 2000 from natural causes. In 2001 he married again, to Nona, a lady who he had met in his ward. Together they served an LDS Mission in Montreal, Canada, and visited the Orient and the Middle East.
In February 2007, Nibley was diagnosed with liver and colon cancer. He began chemotherapy treatments, which ceased to work. Nibley saught alternative treatments for the cancer, stripping him of the energy to play the piano. (Molyneux)
Reid Nibley died on February 25, 2008.
- The Daily Herald: Pianoforte
- BYU News Release - BYU recital to honor Reid Nibley (29 Oct 2009)
- Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship: Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. Vol. 13 No. 1-2 (2004)
- Molyneux, Logan. “Pianoforte.” Daily Herald. 2007. 27. Dec. 2007. <http://www.heraldextra.com/content/view/243974/136/>.
- Press Release. “BYU Recital to Honor Reid Nibley Nov. 16.” BYU News. 2007. Brigham Young University. 27. Dec. 2007. <http://news.byu.edu/archive07-Oct-nibley.aspx>.