Toni Willis & Matthew Edwards

by Rebekah Greiman


Kismet brought Matthew Edwards and Toni Willis to OSU OU in 1995, but music brought them together. Edwards, then a percussionist in Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, and Willis, a hip-hop MC, found their worlds overlapping as they pursued their first years of higher learning.

He would stand at a distance, studying her as she rode her bike across campus. At the clothing store where Willis worked, she noticed his “cute Nike shoes” while he shopped. However, Edwards never bought anything, which caused her to wonder if he might be stalking her.

“My friend told me she was an MC in a band,” he said. “She was playing at the Limelight in Norman, and I went to see her. She was on the mic and she was rhyming really well.”

Willis, possibly focused on the lyrics tumbling from her lips and not on the crowd, had to be told she had made a new fan.

“It’s so ‘high school, but a friend of mine told me that Matthew was interested in me,” Willis said, laughing. So much that he moved in with two of her best friends.

“From what he told me later, he knew that I would be over all of the time,” she said. “And he was right. I mean, there was a cute boy in the house.”

One evening, surrounded by their friends, the two went to see Man or Astro Man? perform at VZD’s in Oklahoma City. Willis caught Edwards smiling at her more than once. She didn’t mind the attention.

“After that night it was pretty obvious that we were going to have to date… and stuff,” he said, smirking.

The blossoming relationship would be tested, however. After landing a record deal, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey began touring heavily, occasionally coming home only for a week or two at a time every few months.

“He would send me postcards and I could feel his lament and his longing to be home,” she recalled. “This was not the life that he wanted.”

Edwards enjoyed the limelight, but crisscrossing the country in a cramped van 260 gigs at a time took its toll.

“What I realized was that I liked my personal space. And, I was exhausted,” he said. “I started thinking about the future and I wasn’t being fulfilled personally enough to accept my situation financially.”

Somewhere between a dirty club show and the next lonely highway, Edwards asked Willis to marry him. She said yes. Jacob Fred, the other lover, allowed him out of his label contract.

“They knew I wasn’t happy,” Matthew stated. “The band was really gracious about my exit. It was hard, but the best case scenario as far as these things go.”

One week before the nuptials, Edwards arrived home from tour in time to buy an off-white kurta from East Indian bazaar—in lieu of a tux—and prepared to walk the aisle. The wedding was simple, with those closest to the couple pitching in to make it happen.

“My friends made my dress from two skirts—it was green,” she recalled. “A friend of ours did all the printing for the invitations, another friend bought all the flowers. His mother sprang for our honeymoon cabin. Everyone was so generous.”

“We had kind of a hippie-ish wedding,” he said with a laugh. “We asked everyone to bring food, but I don’t think they did. We ran out of food pretty early on.”

Matthew Edwards and Toni Willis were married at the Four Winds, Two Rivers community center at Lake Keystone in April 2001.