Our graduates are conductors, teachers, Grammy award winners, social workers and doctors.

Notable Alumni

Sterling Allen, 2004, Director of Music and Worship Arts Ministries at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church

Sterling Martin Allen is the Director of Music and Worship Arts Ministries at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Cypress, Texas. There he conducts the Chancel Choir, the Chancel Orchestra, and oversees the multifaceted music and worship program. Previously, Dr. Allen was the Director of Music and Fine Arts at A&M United Methodist Church in College Station, Texas.  In addition to his duties there he was the Founder and Artistic Director of the Northgate Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, the Founder and Artistic Director of CAMERATA (a new all profession choral ensemble), and a Professor of Music at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas.

Dr. Allen has a driving passion for sacred choral masterworks and regularly conducts these works with choirs and orchestras in the United States and Europe. Recent presentations include Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, Dubois’ Les Sept Paroles du Christ, Barnett’s The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Ray’s Gospel Mass, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Schubert’s Mass in G, Hayes’ Gloria, Chilcotte’s A Little Jazz Mass, Rutter’s Gloria, Faure’s Requiem, Hayes’ Gloria and Magnificat, and a concert of patriotic choral and wind symphony masterworks.

In addition to the conducting of major works in worship and concert, Dr. Allen regularly commissions new anthems and works by America’s leading choral composers. These new works include Dan Forrest’s Lord of the Small, In Your Footsteps, Forsaken, and O Come, All Ye Faithful (all available from Beckenhorst Publishing), Allen Pote’s I Will Sing and Not Be Silent (available from Hope Publishing Company), David Schwoebel’s Acclaim with Jubilation (available by request from the composer). As a champion of modern hymnody in worship, Dr. Allen commissioned Rev. Dr. Brian Wren to compose Glory to God – a hymn of praise celebrating the 2011 Ordination Service for the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

In demand as a conductor, Dr. Allen has conducted concerts throughout the United States as well as in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and France. With an eagerness to work with young artists, students, and conductors, Dr. Allen regularly adjudicates singing and choral competitions, works with high school choirs in preparation for competition and with church choirs eager to expand their ministry, musicianship, and repertoire.

Dr. Allen performed as a choral singer and soloist with the world-famous Centenary College Choir under the direction of Dr. Will K. Andress, University of Texas Chamber Singers under the direction of Dr. James Morrow, and the Centenary College Camerata and Chorale under the direction of Dr. Julia Thorn. As a baritone opera singer and concert artist, Dr. Allen has sung the roles of Figaro and the Count in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Thomas Bouche in Kurt Weil’s Down in the Valley, Sam in Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, Geronimo in Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto, and the title role in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. On the concert stage, Dr. Allen has sung the bass/baritone soloist roles in the Requiems of Brahms, Duruflé, and Fauré, Handel’s Messiah, and Masses/Missa Brevis by Beethoven, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert. As a touring artist, Dr. Allen has sung in eight countries, in fourteen states, and at America’s great concert venues like the White House in Washington DC, Spivey Hall in Atlanta, Georgia, the Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas, Texas, and Disney Hall in Los Angeles, California. Internationally, Dr. Allen has been a concert soloist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland, Gloucester Catherdral in Gloucester England, Durham Cathedral in Durham, England, St. Martin’s in the Fields in London, England, and has given a solo recital of sacred music at L'église de la Madeleine in Paris, France.

Dr. Allen holds degrees in music, sacred music, and theology from the Hurley School of Music at Centenary College of Louisiana, the Butler School of Music at The University of Texas at Austin, and from the Webber Institute. He is a protégé of Dr. Will K. Andress (Professor Emeritus of Music at Centenary College of Louisiana where he was the Director of the Centenary College Choir) and the late Dr. Gerre Hancock (Professor of Sacred Music at The University of Texas at Austin and Choirmaster Emeritus at St. Thomas Church on 5th Avenue in New York City, New York). Dr. Allen has studied voice with Dr. Timothy Jones, Dr. Oral Moses, Dr. Horace English, and Prof. David Small. He has coached with Dr. Gay Grosz, Rick Rowley, Jeanine Sasaki, Joseph Evans, and Genaro Méndez. In 2010, Dr. Allen completed his dissertation entitled “Developing a Better Understanding of the Ordo Salutis Through the Lyrical-Theology of Charles Wesley” with Dr. Don E. Saliers (Professor Emeritus of Theology at the Chandler School of Theology at Emory University).

Will K. Andress, 1960, Director Emeritus of the Centenary College Choir, Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport, LA

Upon the occasion of his retirement in 2007, Centenary College of Louisiana named Dr. Will K. Andress "Director Emeritus" of the Centenary College Choir. College President Dr. Kenneth Schwab made the appointment in recognition of Will's exemplary 33 years (1974-2007) of leadership and service to both the Choir and the College.

Will's experience with the Centenary College Choir began much earlier, however. He was a high school senior from El Dorado, AR, in 1956 when he saw the Centenary Choir perform under the direction of Dr. A.C. "Cheesy" Voran. Even though Will had already enrolled at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, he was so impressed with the Choir that he traveled to Shreveport for an audition.

That fall, Will began his Centenary College Choir career as tenor soloist. During his years, the Choir traveled to Japan twice to sing Easter Sunrise Services for the troops on Okinawa, and made its first appearance at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. During their five years together, Cheesy mentored Will, hoping to create a choir director for future generations. In his senior year at Centenary, Will served as Choir President.

After graduation, Will moved his family throughout the South while furthering his education. He earned a graduate degree in Church Music from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, a Masters in Music from East Carolina University, and a Doctor of Music from Florida State University.

In 1974, Centenary appointed Will director of the Centenary College Choir, a moment Will still recalls as "the proudest moment of my life, not including marrying Julia Ann and the gift of my two children, Knox and Libby."

Will, like Cheesy, came to be known not just as director, but also as counselor, teacher and friend to the more than 500 students who came through the choir during his tenure. His motto, often repeated, is "We are here to love people into doing great things."

Under Will's leadership, the Choir took its role as "America's Singing Ambassadors" to new heights, traveling to 31 countries on six of the seven continents, singing for many heads of state and military commanders. The Choir entertained Christmas guests at the White House seven times, and was the first Protestant choir to sing mass in St. Peter's Basilica. The choir performed in many other historic worship sites around the world, including Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame, Canterbury Cathedral, and St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Will received Centenary College's highest honor for an alumnus - induction into Centenary's Alumni Hall of Fame in 2007. Upon his retirement, by proclamation of the Louisiana Senate and House, he was also recognized for a lifetime of commitment and service to the State of Louisiana.

In 2011, after 40 years of service, Will retired from his role as Director of Music Ministries at First United Methodist Church of Shreveport. He continues to serve FUMC part-time as Director of the Emmett Hook Center, a state-of-the-art performing arts center which opened in 2011. He works with the College Alumni Board on major projects as well. Will and current Centenary Choir director Dr. David Hobson also plan to continue the Choir's successful program of occasional alumni tours.

 

Alison Beck, 2002,Co-founder and pianist, Alison and Elizabeth Beck Duo

Alison Beck earned her Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from the University of North Texas, one of the largest music schools in the nation, where she held a competitive piano fellowship and graduated first in her class. At UNT, she studied piano with Pamela Mia Paul and Gustavo Romero, and received a Minor in collaborative piano and a Secondary in violin. Alison holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from Centenary College, where she studied with Artist-in-Residence, Mark Zeltser, graduating summa cum laude. She is a prizewinner in various international piano competitions, and has been featured as guest artist with university. community, and professional orchestras. Also an accomplished violinist and chamber musician, Alison has performed concerts throughout the United States, including in Carnegie Hall, New York City.

In addition to the music of December Carols and other sacred arrangements for piano and violin, Alison has written and arranged more than two dozen choral works, many of which have been commissioned and presented in concert by church, school,and university choirs in Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, and Michigan. Alison's compositions and arrangements have been played on classical music radio stations and programs from Seattle to Boston; and promotional concert tours of December Carols have included concerts in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and the Pacific Northwest. Alison currently resides in Dallas where she spends her time playing collaborative piano for her sister, Elizabeth, and violinist Chu Yunn Lee; as well as composing new vocal, choral, and instrumental works.

 

William Blake Bruchhaus, Class of 2012 Director of Liturgy and Music, St. Joseph Catholic Church

William Blake Bruchhaus 

earned the Bachelor of Music degree in Sacred Music from Centenary in 2012 with a concentration in voice and choral conducting. He primarily studied under Dr. David Hobson, Dr. Horace English, and Dr. Julia Thorn. He has also studied chant for Liturgy of the Hours and instrumental music for Eucharistic Liturgies at St. Meinrad School of Theology.

Blake currently holds the position of Director of Liturgy and Music at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Shreveport, LA. He has served churches throughout Southwest and Northwest Louisiana as music director and organist/pianist. He is a member of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

As a member of Centenary College Choir, Camerata, and Chorale, Blake performed in Carnegie Hall, the American Choral Directors Association’s National Convention in Chicago, the National Collegiate Choral Organization’s National Conference at Yale University, extensive tours throughout Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, and an international tour to Brazil and Argentina.
In the future, Blake hopes to pursue graduate studies in Sacred Music.

 

Casey Cantwell, 1985, Director of Music and Organist at Trinity Episcopal Church, Tulsa, OK

A native of Dallas, Texas, Casey Cantwell began to study the piano at five years of age in the Piano Preparatory Department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Casey earned the Bachelor of Music Degree in Organ Performance in 1985 from Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport. His teacher there was William C. Teague. While at Centenary, Casey served as Organist and Youth Choir Director at Noel Memorial United Methodist Church.
In October of 1984, Casey became the full-time Organist/Music Associate at First United Methodist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas. He directed the Chapel Choir and Handbell choirs, and oversaw the renovation of the church’s 84-rank Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ.

He served as Senior Organist at The Boston Avenue Church (United Methodist) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In this congregation of over 8000 members, Casey accompanied the 100-voice Chancel Choir for the 11:00 am televised service and the Chapel Choir, which sings for the 8:30 a.m. service each Sunday. In addition, he produced a recital series on the church’s 105-rank Müller pipe organ. At the time, the Boston Avenue Church was one of the six largest United Methodist Churches in the world.

In September of 2001, Casey was asked to become the Associate Organist/Choirmaster and Director of Communications for Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa. In this capacity, he shared playing and conducting responsibilities with Stephen Tappe, Organist/Choirmaster, and handled all the publicity for the parish. In September of 2004 Casey became the Organist and Director of Music for Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa. In April of 2012 he moved on to Director of Communications.

Casey is also known as a concert organist and has performed all over the US, as well as Munich, Florence, Assisi, and Rome including the Sunday High Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. In August of 2007 he took the Trinity Choir to England where they were in residency at Ely Cathedral, singing Evensong each day.
Casey has been published in the Choristers Guild Letters and has done numerous workshops and reading sessions, and has been a Housemaster for the Tulsa course of the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) for seven years. Casey served on the National Council of The American Guild of Organists for three consecutive terms 2005, and has served as Dean of the Tulsa AGO Chapter. He is a member of the Association of Anglican Musicians, the American Choral Directors Association and is listed in Who’s Who in America.

 

Octavio Cardenas, 2000, Director, Baylor Opera Center, Baylor University

Octavio Cardenas has recently been appointed director of the Baylor Opera Theater. He received his Bachelor of Music from Centenary College of Louisiana, a Masters in Music from University of South Carolina and a Master of Fine Arts in Theater from The School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA.

After serving as an assistant director for Austin Lyric Opera’s production of The Bat, Octavio Cardenas joined the Minnesota Opera Resident Artist Program in 2008. He served as assistant director for all productions during four seasons and taught acting and movement for the members of their resident artist program. He is on the directing staff at Chautauqua Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera.

While working at Minnesota Opera he had the opportunity to direct Andrew Sinclair’s production of Pearl Fishers and the world premiere of the children’s opera The Giver. Other directing credits include Susannah for Loyola Opera Theater, which won the award for “Best College Production 2012” by the Gambit Magazine in New Orleans, Plump Jack and Impresario for the Butler Opera Center, Brundibar for Project Opera at Minnesota Opera, and Elixir of Love for Guadalajara Opera. Upcoming projects include assisting directing the opera Silent Night by Kevin Puts at Fort Worth Opera and Turn of the Screw for Baylor Opera Theater.

 

 

Susan Corley, 1986, Founder, Entourage Jazz Ensemble

Susan Corley founded the jazz ensemble Entourage in the summer of 2007. Trained as a classical singer most accustomed to performing the works of Bach and Mozart, Susan became interested in singing in other genres as well.

Since starting Entourage, Susan is equally comfortable in the jazz and pop repertoire as she is in the classical realm. Her musical influences reflect the broad spectrum of music she performs. “On a daily basis, I am equally inspired by opera greats such as Frederica von Stade and Leontyne Price, jazz sensations Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall and Chris Botti to pop/rock legends Karen Carpenter and the Beatles.”

Coming from a musical family, Susan was encouraged early on to pursue formal training and education in music. She received her Bachelors of Music in Vocal Performance from Centenary College of Louisiana in 1986, and her Master of Music in Vocal Performance from New England Conservatory of Music, Boston. An avid performer, Susan is excited to have made the transition from the opera stage to the Entourage stage. “I am incredibly blessed to share such varied types of music with such gifted and versatile musicians. We have an absolute blast together.”

When Susan is not singing, she is playing the drums or any other type of percussion instrument she can get her hands on. Susan supports her passion for music by her career as a Clinical Social Worker in private practice.

 

John Cowden, 2001, Director of Music, Decatur First United Methodist Church, Decatur, GA

John Cowden is the Director of Music at Decatur First United Methodist Church in Decatur, Georgia, where he oversees a dynamic music ministry that includes choirs and handbell groups for people of all ages.

John had planned to make a career out of conducting a band in the armed forces, earning his Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition from Centenary College of Louisiana, but abruptly changed direction in his career after serving part time in a small church in north Shreveport. He and his wife (herself a graduate of Centenary College) moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he earned the Master of Sacred Music degree from Emory University, studying under Dr. Eric Nelson.

Following his time at Emory, John served as full time Director of Music at Embry Hills United Methodist Church for three years before moving to his current position, where in addition to leading the music ministry he has led clinics and workshops in handbell music, handbell techniques, and traditional worship. Choirs from Decatur First have performed nationally. John has also served as Assistant Director of the Atlanta Sacred Chorale (now the Atlanta Master Chorale) and guest conductor for the Callanwolde Concert Band.

 

 

Costas Dafnis, 2009, Composer

Costas Dafnis  (b. 1989 Athens, Greece) completed a BMus in Music Composition at Centenary.

Costas has been awarded by New Music USA, the American Prize in Composition, the National Band Association Young Composer Mentor Project, and International Music Prize. Costas has received commissions from ensembles and organizations including the Guam Symphony Society, Voces Capituli, Escaped Images Dance Company, Ohio Northern University, and the Michigan State Honors Choir.

Costas is a founding member of Noisi Paintr, a collaborative group of three composers with similar goals of progressive sound. When not composing, Costas spends his time playing mandolin poorly and burying himself in all of the strange, obscure poetry he pretends to like.

 

Taylor Davis, 2003, Director of Music and Worship Arts, First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth, TX

Taylor Davis is the Director of Music and Worship Arts at First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. A 2003 graduate of Centenary College of Louisiana, Taylor earned a Bachelor of Sacred Music degree while studying conducting with Dr. Julia Brasher Thorn, as well as intensive courses with Dr. Sandra Willets, Dr. Ann Howard Jones, Paul Oakley, Alice Parker, and Jane Marshall. He has also studied composition with Dr. Eric McIntyre, Ms. Parker, and Ms. Marshall. In 2004, he became a Fellow of Melodious Accord.

Taylor has received commissions from a wide variety of groups. His music has been performed throughout the US, Europe, South America, and South Africa, as well as by the Grammy-nominated group Conspirare.

Born in Dallas, raised in Houston, Taylor graduated from Stratford High School in Houston, TX, and from Centenary College of Louisiana as a . . . (wait for it) ‘distinguished alumnus.”

As the son of a well-known church musician, Taylor says he was an apprentice for the first 22 years of his life: “It’s what I was raised to do.”

When it comes to leading FUMC music, Taylor is quick to say that while it’s the congregation that is the most important choir — every Sunday, he genuinely loves best the rehearsal process — the camaraderie, the fellowship, the challenges, and the polishing that all occur simultaneously in working with the FUMC choirs.
In his spare time, Taylor loves to write, gets really into sports (which, he adds, being from Houston, has its ups and downs), and he loves cooking.

He lives in Fort Worth with Rupert, a 9-year-old English bulldog with, he says, a limited skillset that includes sleeping and eating and being awesome.

 

Sun-hee Lee

Class of 2003 Post Doctoral Fellow, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 

Karl Dent, 1975,Two-time Grammy Award winner

Two-time Grammy Award winner Professor of Voice and Choral Studies, Texas Tech University, Waco, TX 

Karl Dent, tenor, is Professor of Voice & Choral Studies at Texas Tech University, having served on the School of Music faculty for 19 years. He formerly served on the music faculties of Hardin-Simmons University and The University of Texas at Dallas. Mr. Dent earned the Bachelor of Music with Teacher Certification degree at Centenary College, and the Master of Music in Vocal Performance degree at The University of North Texas.

During his tenure on the Tech faculty, Mr. Dent has graduated from his studio many singers with excellent professional potential, many of whom have gone on to advanced careers in opera, oratorio, and concert repertoire. These singers are making substantial contributions to their chosen fields, and are advancing the reputation of their former studio and of the Texas Tech University School of Music.

In addition to a singing studio and career, and for the last five years, Mr. Dent has taken up several new passions and careers – as a director of a male chorus, and as composer/arranger. Appointed director of the TTU male chorus in 2008, Mr. Dent reformed the group under the named MATADOR SINGERS, and began a new direction for this choir. Fifty voices strong, this ensemble has gained a place in the musical culture and traditions at TTU (see Ensembles). As a composer/arranger, Mr. Dent has written or arranged nearly 60 arrangements for male voices, many of which are usually programmed for the MATADOR SINGERS. His first composition to be published, entitled Gloria in excelsis Deo, will be released by Carl Fischer Publications in 2013.

Karl Dent has performed extensively in oratorio, concert and recital, having appeared nationally with numerous symphony orchestras. Mr. Dent made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1993 as soloist in the Berlioz Requiem, under the direction of Robert Shaw, and returned there in 1994 to sing the tenor arias in Bach’s St. John Passion with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. He made his 1991 debut with the New York Philharmonic in Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor. He has also appeared in return engagements with the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, San Francisco, Houston, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C.

Recent engagements include performances of Bach’s B Minor Mass with the Atlanta Symphony and at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Robert Shaw conducting; Handel’s Messiah with the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra; and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion on the Highlander Concert Series, Dallas. In addition, Mr. Dent assisted in dedicating the new concert facility at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, by appearing as tenor soloist in Verdi’s Requiem, Robert Shaw conducting.

Other recents appearances have included Schubert’s Mass in E Flat with The Cleveland Orchestra, Mendelssohn’s Elijah at Carnegie Hall under Robert Shaw, and also with Richard Hickox and the Dallas Symphony, Mozart’s Coronation Mass with Christopher Hogwood and the Handel & Haydn Society, Haydn’s The Creation with the Naples Symphony, and Handel’s Messiah with the Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz, conducting. He has also appeared recently in performances of Mozart’sGreat Mass in C Minor and Barber’s Prayers of Kirkegaard with the Baltimore Symphony, Rachmaninoff’s The Bells and the Berlioz’ L’Enfance du Christ with Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony, Rachmaninoff’s Vespers at the New York’s Church of St. John the Divine, Mozart’s Coronation Mass with Christopher Hogwood and the San Antonio Symphony, Handel’s Messiah with Christopher Seamons and the San Francisco Symphony, and Bach’s St. John Passion with the North Carolina Symphony.

Opera engagements include performances with the companies of Dallas, Albuquerque, Fort Worth, and Shreveport, highlighted by portrayals of Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi. Mr. Dent created the role of Conrad in the world premiere of Thomas Pasatieri’s The Goose Girl. Mr. Dent has also appeared as soloist at major music festivals, including Mozart’s Requiem with Robert Shaw at the Tanglewood Music Festival, as well as the Cincinnati May Festival, the Bach Aria Festival in Stony Brook, the Round Top Early Music Festival, and the New Texas Festival. His numerous performances with Robert Shaw began in the 1989 performances of Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Dallas Symphony, and include the world premiere of Menotti’s For the Death of Orpheus for tenor, chorus and orchestra with the Atlanta Symphony. In addition, he has attended the Robert Shaw Institute in Quercy, France as soloist in the Rachmaninoff Vespers, Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Aus der tiefe, and the Brahms Liebeslieder Walzer.

Mr. Dent’s recording credits on the TELARC label include two Grammy winning recordings. Most recently, Mr. Dent received a Grammy as principal soloist in Rachmaninoff’s The Bells, which won Best Choral Recording for 1997. The Rachmaninoff Vespers, recorded in 1989, featuring Mr. Dent as soloist, was awarded a Grammy for Best Technical Recording for 1990. Other recordings include the Brahms Liebeslieder Walzer, the Schubert Songs for Male Chorus, and Grand & Glorious, a recording of opera choruses. His recording with Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony of Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass received a Grammy nomination as Best Choral Recording of 1990. Most recently, Mr. Dent appears as soloist on the CONSPIRARE recording, through the green fuse.

 

James Eakin, 1999, Composer

James Eakin was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana. From an early age, he was drawn to his native blues and jazz as well as classical and Film music, playing everything he heard by ear on the piano, as well as his own compositional musings. His inspiration to become a film/tv composer actually stemmed from his fascination with music in animation.

James reflects, “The way the music accentuated various actions and moods while staying perfectly in sync intrigued me. It was truly a supporting character.” During these early years, James taught himself piano, guitar, saxophone, clarinet, and flute, all the while singing at every opportunity.

It wasn’t until years later that James began formal music studies. He earned a Bachelor of Music from Centenary College, a Master of Music from Southern Methodist University (2003), and in 2007, received a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Music Composition at the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

James has had the privilege of studying with some of music’s most prominent composers: John Corigliano, Jeff Rona, Jack Smalley, George Tsontakis, Bruce Broughton, Zhou Long, and Chen Yi.

He has composed works for Maya Angelou’s 80th Birthday celebration, the President’s Christmas Gala at the White House, and the Aspen Music Festival to name a few. James’ hour-long Flowers over the Graves of War for Chorus, Soloists, and Orchestra premiered to a sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall on February 20, 2012.

On his philosophy of composing James says, “I do not draw lines in the sand when it comes to music. I always say that I go from Mozart to Mumford & Sons in zero seconds flat. My goal as a composer is to bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary music.”

James composes with the speed of a film composer and the attention to detail of a concert composer. His grasp of today’s current music technology, his extensive knowledge of various musical styles, periods, instrumentation, and orchestration techniques makes him a force to be reckoned with…that coupled with the fact that he has black belts in Kenpo, Judo, and Aikido and can bench press over four hundred pounds.

 

 

Victoria Fischer Faw,1976, Internationally known Bartók scholar

Victoria Fischer Faw is a pianist, teacher and scholar at Elon University with a special emphasis on the music of Béla Bartók and the issues that defined his unique and influential style. The history of Dr. Fischer’s fascination with Bartók’s music began in graduate school: As she was completing her dissertation about the sources and performance practice of Bartók’s Fourteen Bagatelles, Op. 6, she attended, and took the first prize, at Radford University’s 1990 Bartók-Kabalevsky International Piano Competition.

Dr. Fischer joined the music faculty of Elon University in North Carolina that same year. Through the years her concerts and lectures have taken her around the world and across the country to share her theories and discoveries about the issues that inform performance practice in Bartók’s music. Because of her ongoing specialization in Bartók studies as scholar and performer, she was invited to direct an international Bartók Symposium at Radford in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death. The Radford University Bartók Symposium proved to be a momentous meeting of many of the greatest scholars and performers working in the Bartók world, contributing eventually to Bartók Perspectives: Man, Composer, & Ethnomusicologist edited by Elliott Antokoletz, Victoria Fischer, and Benjamin Suchoff, an Oxford University Press book which included the lectures presented at Radford.

Other publications include a chapter contributed to A Bartók Companion (Cambridge University Press) and articles in Studia Musicology and The International Journal of Musicology.

Dr. Fischer received her musical education at Centenary College of Louisiana (B.M. in piano performance), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (M.A. in musicology), the University of Texas at Austin (M.M. and D.M.A. in piano performance), and the Vienna Conservatory in Vienna, Austria. She has received grants from Rotary Foundation International, Fulbright, and IREX. She pursues an active career as performer, scholar, teacher and adjudicator, with activities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Italy, Hungary, England, Greece, Germany, Austria, and Belize.

Now in her twenty-fourth year on the music faculty at Elon University, she has also served as Visiting Professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and the University of Belize. At Elon she teaches piano, piano pedagogy, and music research. Recipient of a full-year sabbatical leave from Elon 2012 -2013, she is deeply engaged in her present research, which continues to explore the scholarship of performance and pedagogy in the piano music of Bartok. When not at Elon, she lives on a Christmas tree farm in Glade Valley, NC with husband Stephen.

 

Shannon Gallier, 2007, Organist/Choirmaster, Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd

Shannon Gallier is Organist-Choirmaster at the Episcopal Church at the Good Shepherd. Before joining the staff at Good Shepherd, Shannon received his Master’s degree in organ performance from Indiana University’s prestigious Jacob's School of Music in 2009 and his Bachelor’s degree in organ performance from Centenary College of Louisiana in 2007.

At Good Shepherd, Mr. Gallier's duties include direction of the church's Chancel Choir and the two RSCM-affiliated children's choirs. He also leads and accompanies the church's weekly services on its historic four manual 1929 E. M. Skinner Organ. During its season, Shannon works with and advises the Chamber Music Society of the Good Shepherd and coordinates the church's successful summer organ concert series, which he founded in 2010.

As an organist, Mr. Gallier has performed concerts throughout the United States and has served congregations in Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, and Florida. His primary organ teachers have included Todd Wilson, Larry Smith, Holly Watson, and Jerome Wells. Mr. Gallier has also performed widely as a solo tenor in oratorio, chamber music, and various choral settings of composers such as Schutz, Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart.

He is an active member of the American Guild of Organists, the Association of Anglican Musicians, and the Royal School of Church Music and serves on the boards of the Riverside Fine Arts Association and the Jacksonville Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. He is an avid reader and coffee-drinker and his (modern-day) musical hero is the English conductor, Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

 

Jill Bowen-Gardner, 1990, World-class Soprano

Jill Bowen-Gardner

Noted for her “effortlessly produced, rich voice” (Opera News), American soprano Jill Gardner is swiftly establishing herself among today’s leading operatic heroines. This “powerhouse soprano” (Syracuse New Times) continues to garner national praise for her “sparkling personality” (Coral Gables Gazette), her “lustrous, golden soprano and riveting stage presence” (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) and for “her commitment, passion and ability to convey vocally the slightest nuance of emotion, making for gripping theater” (Opera News). Equally praised for her acting as well as her singing, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser recently observed of her performances of Tosca,
“…the pace picks up when soprano Jill Gardner sweeps in. Gardner is dynamite, in voice and acting, and her performance in this very demanding role is worth the price of a ticket all by itself.”

This season, Ms. Gardner will perform her signature role of Tosca in her debut with Lyric Opera Baltimore and in her return to Mill City Summer Opera in Minneapolis, MN. She will also make her role debut in Puccini’s Il Trittico as Georgetta and Suor Angelica with Opera Carolina. On the concert stage, she sings Gala Concerts for Opera Carolina and Greensboro Opera as well as a Holiday Pops Concert with the Binghamton Philharmonic.

For the 2012-2013 season, Ms. Gardner sang the title role of Tosca in her debut with Opera Carolina as well as Arizona Opera and Hawai‘i Opera Theater. She joined the roster of the Washington National Opera, covering the title role of Manon Lescaut in the spring and made her debut with the Charlotte Symphony in a POP-UP Opera Concert celebrating the music of Verdi, Wagner and Mascagni.

During the 2011-2012 season the soprano returned to Arizona Opera and Tri-Cities Opera in the title role of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and reprised the role of Nedda in I Pagliacci in her debut with Michigan Opera Theater as well as for the inaugural season of Mill City Summer Opera in Minneapolis, MN. On the concert stage, she marked her debut with the Wichita Symphony in Beethoven’s Mass in C Major.

In the 2010-2011 season, Ms. Gardner made her celebrated return to Boston Lyric Opera in the title role of Tosca as well as making her company debuts with Arizona Opera in the role of Liù in Turandot, Opera Grand Rapids in her role debut of Manon in Manon Lescaut and Eugene Opera as Musetta in La Bohème. This season also marked Ms. Gardner’s role debut of Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore with Piedmont Opera.

Over the past few seasons, the young soprano marked her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut performing Nedda in I Pagliacci and covering Mimi in La Bohème, her Florida Grand Opera debut as Musetta in La Bohème, her Boston Lyric Opera debut as Mimi in La Bohème, her Madison Opera debut as Marguerite in Faust, as well as performing Countess Charlotte Malcolm in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music in her debut with Hawai‘i Opera Theater where she returned in the following season as Helmwige in Die Walküre.

In concert, she made her Kennedy Center Debut with the Washington Chorus, under the baton of Julian Wachner, in a concert called The Essential Puccini, performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Vaughan William’s Serenade to Music with the Syracuse Symphony, Brahms’ Requiem with the Binghamton Philharmonic and Verdi’s Requiem with the Tower Arts Series of Dallas’ Highland Park United Methodist Church under the baton of Craig Jessop.

Additional engagements from recent seasons include a return to the Glimmerglass Opera as Eurydice in a new production of Orpheus in the Underworld, Margaret Johnson in the first opera house performances in The Light in the Piazza with Piedmont Opera, Hanna Glawari in The Merry Widow with the Syracuse Opera, the title role in Susannah with New York Opera Projects, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Mimi in La Bohème as well as the title role in Puccini’s Tosca with the Mercury Opera Rochester, and multiple performances with the Tri-Cities Opera including Violetta in La Traviata and Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro. Ms. Gardner also performed the role of Madama Erlecca in Cimarosa’s Li Sposi per Accidenti at Studio Lirico in Cortona, Italy.

A native of Winston-Salem NC, Ms. Gardner received a Master of Music degree in vocal performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from Centenary College of Louisiana. She is also a graduate of the Glimmerglass Opera Young American Artists Program and the Resident Artists Training Program of Tri-Cities Opera in Binghamton, NY. She has been a Southeast Regional Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant of the Shoshana Foundation—NYC, a Special Opportunity Award from the New York Foundation of the Arts and an Emerging Artist Grant from the WInston-Salem/Forsyth County Division of the North Carolina Arts Council.

Ms. Gardner currently resides in Kernersville, NC with her husband, bass-baritone Jake Gardner.

 

Rebecca Geihsler, 2001, Professor of Voice and Music History, Belhaven University, Jackson, MS

Dr. Rebecca Geihsler, a native of New Orleans, has served as an Adjunct Voice and Music History Professor at Belhaven University since 2009. Additionally, she serves as an adjunct instructor for Northwest Community College since 2004 where she has designed and implemented an online curriculum for Music Appreciation for non-majors.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Centenary College of Louisiana, a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance and Doctor of Arts in Pedagogy from the University of Mississippi, where she held a University Fellowship and an Assistantship in Opera.

Dr. Geihsler has been a finalist in both State and Regional NATS Student Auditions and represented the University of Mississippi in performances at the National Opera Association Convention and the Midwest Opera Festival. She is a member of Pi Kappa Lamda and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Past operatic and musical theatre roles include: Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, Ms. Silverpeal in The Impresario, Little Red in Little Red Riding Hood, Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, Ann Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Marianne in Tartuffe, Papagnena in The Magic Flute, Casilda in The Gondoliers, Tuptim in The King and I, and Minnie Fay in Hello Dolly.

Dr. Geihsler resides in Clinton with her husband and three (soon to be four) children.

 

Bernard Gordillo,1995, World-class Harpsichordist

Bernard Gordillo a native of Nicaragua, has performed on harpsichord and chamber organ throughout the United States, Western Europe, and Israel, appearing at a number of festivals and concert series including the Aldeburgh Festival, Berkeley Festival Fringe, Bloomington Early Music Festival, Cheltenham Festival of Music, Innsbruck International Festival of Early Music, Indiana University Summer Music Festival, Royaumont Saison Musicale, and Stoke Newington Early Music Festival.

Recent seasons have seen him perform with Baroque Northwest (Seattle), Music of the Baroque (Chicago), Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, Catacoustic Consort (Cincinnati), and Camerata Bach (Managua, Nicaragua).

Bernard has accompanied in numerous masterclasses, notably at the Handel House Museum in London, the Innsbruck Summer Academy as accompanist-in-residence, and the Britten-Pears School where he was a Young Artist. He has been a staff accompanist in the Choral and Early Music departments at Indiana University, in addition to holding a long-term position as harpsichordist for its Pre-College Recorder Program.

Bernard was a finalist in the Guildhall School’s prestigious Deutsche Bank Pyramid Award for his group L’AURA and held a Corporation of London scholarship for Baroque keyboard accompaniment. In 2006, L’AURA was a first-prize winner of the Indiana University Latin American Music Center’s competition in the performance of music from Spain and Latin America. The ensemble was featured in a recording of wedding and ceremonial music entitled Beautiful Baroque, produced by WFIU Public Radio, Indiana University.

For five seasons, Bernard was the writer, programmer, and assistant producer for Harmonia, a nationally-syndicated Public Radio program dedicated to presenting early music in a new light. He was also the host and producer of the Harmonia Early Music Podcast. Both the program and podcast were productions of WFIU Public Radio.

From October 2011, he spent a year in Nicaragua as a Fulbright Fellow, looking for the vestiges of Spanish colonial music and culture, as well as exploring a large collection of manuscripts by 19th- and 20th-century Nicaraguan composers. During this period, he initiated a series of lectures on Nicaraguan music history at the National History Institute of Nicaragua and Central America ("IHNCA," Managua), where he was based during the fellowship. He also worked closely with the US Embassy in Managua, which presented him in a series of solo harpsichord recitals, in and out of the capital. He took part in a number of concerts at the Rubén Darío National Theater as both soloist and chamber musician, working closely with the nationally-recognized chamber ensemble Camerata Bach, in addition to appearing as concerto soloist with the Rubén Darío Youth Symphony.

Since completing the Fulbright year, Bernard has committed himself to the research he began in Nicaragua and continues his work at IHNCA. Most recently, he presented another cycle of lectures on Nicaraguan music history topics at the institute, his first documentary short film as part of the cycle, and collaborated with the French Embassy and Alliance française (Managua) in a national recital tour with French violinist Brigitte Ley. As well, he presented his first photography exhibition, "One Year in Nicaragua," in the capital as an extension of his first self-published book (2013) of the same title.

Bernard holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London).

 

Gay Grosz, 2001, Director of Music Ministries, First United Methodist Church, Minden, LA

More information coming soon!

David Hobson,1998, Director of the Centenary College Choir, Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport, LA

David Hobson began directorship of the Centenary College Choir in the fall of 2007, becoming only the fourth conductor in the choir’s 71 year history and the second to hold the prestigious A.C. Cheesy Voran Chair. In the first five years of his leadership, the Choir sang over 40 performances across the south, continuing the rich legacy established by his predecessors.

In 2009 he continued the Choir's program of international touring when he took the Choir to New Zealand and Australia, where the highlight was performing to a sold out performance at the world-famous Sydney Opera House. In 2011, the Centenary College Choir toured Brazil and Argentina, and a tour of Italy is planned in 2013. February 2012 included Hobson preparing the Choir for its Carnegie Hall debut, performing Choir alumnus Dr. James Eakin's world premiere of Flowers Over the Graves of War. Hobson also serves as full-time faculty in the Hurley School of Music, heading the Sacred Music program among other teaching responsibilities.

Hobson is a 1998 alumnus of Centenary College and the Choir, earning a Bachelor of Music degree with honors. His tutelage under Will Andress while in the Centenary Choir as well as church music classes helped shape his career upon leaving Centenary. He later completed the Master of Sacred Music program at Emory University, studying conducting with Eric Nelson. In 2010 he earned the Doctorate of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting at Louisiana State University, where he was a student of Ken Fulton.

He remains active in church music ministry, having served churches in Shreveport, Atlanta, and Baton Rouge, directing vocal and handbell choirs of all ages. His youth choirs have toured extensively across the South and Midwest. Most recently, Hobson staged and directed church productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Godspell, and Fiddler on the Roof at University United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge. He has also led several seminars in the area of music and worship for various churches and is available as a guest choral clinician in both academic and religious settings. Hobson served Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Shreveport from 2007 to 2011. In July 2011, Hobson was named Director of Music Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport.

David is married to Centenary alumna Dr. Emily Robinson Hobson, a pediatrician. They have three children - Hannah, Landry, and Andrew.

 

Stacy Hood, 2004, Director of Worship Related Ministries, Grace Community Church, Shreveport, LA

Stacy Hood is the Director of Worship Related Ministries at Grace Community Church, A UMC Congregation, in Shreveport, Louisiana. Stacy has also recently reopened her private music studio.

Stacy is a graduate of Centenary College of Louisiana, with an undergraduate degree in Music Education and a Graduate Degree in Educational Administration. She has also competed the Basic Graduate Theological Studies (36 hours) recognized by the United Methodist Church.

Stacy has greatly enjoyed her work with the United Methodist Publishing House, publishing on her own and with co-author Rob Weber. Rekindling Your Music Ministry, ReConnecting Worship, and Igniting Worship Communion name a few of the publishing endeavors. She has composed for 2 UMPH Vacation Bible School programs and has worked with various other UMPH projects, including selection to the United Methodist Hymnal Revision Committee in 2008.

A Seed Is A Promise, celebrating 135 years of UMW in mission, and My Louisiana, the CD project for hurricane relief in Louisiana, were two of Stacy's most meaningful works. Stacy's original dramatic creations, music, children's music, and original piano music for group labs are what she considers some of her most exciting work.

Stacy works with churches across the country to celebrate and evaluate current worshipping congregations to move with rejuvenated creativity into the future. Through individual consultations with worship directors, music directors, and pastors, Stacy helps worship teams work more effectively to allow God to be more fully alive through the many threads of worship that are woven together each week.

Stacy has led many workshops for the General Board of Discipleship and the General Board of Global Ministries as well as other conference events around the country.

Connecting with God and reaching out to others through worship is a great joy for Stacy. Participating at General Conference 2012 with Marcia McFee to provide leadership during times of worship was one of those joys. In 2011, Stacy led worship for the WGRS School of Mission for the United Methodist Women in Abilene, Texas. Stacy has also participated in worship leadership for the Global Women's Assembly 2010 in St. Louis and was a part of the team four years prior in Anaheim, CA. Stacy has led worship across the country and abroad, possessing the unique ability to help older and younger generations worship in engaging ways without comprising tradition or innovation.

 

R. DeAndre Johnson, 2004, Pastor of Music & Worship, Westbury United Methodist Church, Houston, TX

R. DeAndre Johnson is the pastor of music and worship at Westbury United Methodist Church, Houston where he directs a multifaceted music program of choirs for children, youth and adults as well as handbells and band. He has worked in churches of various sizes, demographics and worship styles in both Louisiana and Texas, receiving accolades for both his musicianship and expertise in the sacred music of the global church. DeAndre is passionate about facilitating meaningful worship experiences that are intentionally cross-cultural, calling the church into a deeper commitment to reconciliation. He is frequently asked to teach and consult on diverse music and worship practices for multicultural congregations and communities.

He received a Bachelor of Music degree in Sacred Music at Centenary College of Louisiana where he was a member of the Centenary College Choir and Centenary College Camerata under the leadership of Dr. Will K. Andress and Dr. Julia B. Thorn, respectively. He also received a Master’s of Sacred Music from Southern Methodist University where he studied with Dr. Alfred Calabrese, Dr. Pamela Elrod Huffman and Dr. C. Michael Hawn. He is an ordained deacon in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church where he served a number of years as worship coordinator for the Texas Annual Conference. DeAndre has also served as worship leader for the 2013 General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (GBHEM) Exploration in Denver, music coordinator for the 2016 General Conference in Portland, and music coordinator for the 2016 World Methodist Conference in Houston. He has also served as chorus master and guest conductor for the Houston Ebony Opera Guild.

Timothy Jones, 1988, World-class Bass-Baritone

American Bass-Baritone Timothy Jones enjoys a reputation as an exciting presence on operatic and concert stages throughout the United States, Europe and South America. His eagerly anticipated performances combine intelligent musicianship, commanding vocal technique and an unique ability to connect with audiences.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Mr. Jones made his New York debut with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in February 2000. His operatic performances include leading roles in Le Nozze di Figaro, Cosi fan Tutte, Don Giovanni, Don Pasquale, Madam Butterfly, La Boheme, Falstaff, Macbeth, La Traviata, Porgy and Bess, Four Saints in Three Acts, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Owen Wingrave, Carmen, La Damnation de Faust, Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, Die Zauberflöte, Hansel and Gretel, and Die Fledermaus. Mr. Jones has appeared with Opera Pacific, Opera Birmingham, Mobile Opera, Ebony Opera, Opera in the Heights, Shreveport Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, the Lake George Opera Festival, Opera Idaho, Opera Southwest, Pensacola Opera and the San Antonio Lyric Opera.

A distinguished concert performer, Mr. Jones has soloed with the Cleveland Orchestra singing Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. He has also performed with the St. Petersburg Chamber Orchestra, Austin Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Houston Symphony, New Mexico Symphony, New Haven Symphony, Portland Symphony, Saginaw Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Utah Symphony and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. His repertoire includes the Bach’s St. John Passion, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Mozart's Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Verdi’s Requiem, A Sea Symphony by Vaughn Williams, Hindemith's When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd, Tippett’s A Child of our Time, and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies.

An enthusiastic champion of new and contemporary music, Mr. Jones has commissioned and premiered numerous compositions. Mr. Jones annual appearances with Kevin Noe and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble are a highpoint of the season. His performance of Pulitzer Prize Winning Composer Kevin Puts’ Einstein on Mercer Street is featured on PNME’s recent recording Against the Emptiness. Other recordings include Drunken Moon and The World of Ruth Crawford Seeger. Among the composers he has worked with are Derek Bermel, Robert Avalon, James Balentine, Laura Carmichael, John Vasconcelos Costa, Kevin Fuchs, Jeffrey Goldberg, David Heuser, Doug Opel, and Jeffrey Nytch.

A favorite of festival audiences, Mr. Jones is highly regarded for his interpretation of art song and lieder. He is frequently heard with Ars Lyrica Houston, Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, the Victoria Bach Festival, New Texas Festival, Round Top Music Festival, SOLI and the Cactus Pear Music Festival. As a recitalist he has appeared with keyboardists Warren Jones, Jeffrey Sykes, Matthew Dirst, and Brian Connelly. Mr. Jones is an alumnus of Centenary College and the University of Michigan. He is currently a professor of voice at the University Of Houston Moores School Of Music.

 

Thomas Holt Kirkendoll, 2010, NYC-based Musical Theatre Actor

NYC-based Musical Theatre Actor

Sun-hee Lee, 2013, Post Doctoral Fellow, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

More information coming soon!

Lori Lusted, 2008, NYC-based Musical Theatre Actress

Lori Lusted is a native of Baton Rouge, LA. She is thankful to have grown up in a household where she was inspired by her parents, who are both professional musicians. Her father is a Classical guitarist and her mother is a private piano instructor, church organist, and choir director.

Lori holds a B.M. in Vocal Music Education and a B.A. in German from Centenary College of LA. Her undergraduate degrees afforded her the opportunity to teach for two years as a middle and high school choir and drama teacher before continuing on to grad school to pursue her first love, performing. Lori graduated from Oklahoma City University (OCU) with a M.M. in Music Theater in May 2012.

Directly after graduating, Lori played Roxie Hart in Chicago and Sally Brown in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown with McLeod Summer Playhouse in Carbondale, IL. She then played the leading role of Katie Lapp in a new musical called The Confession (based on The New York Times Bestseller of the same name) with Blue Gate Musicals. Lori returned to McLeod to perform the roles of Jeanie in Hair and Grace Farrell in Annie for the Summer 2013 season. Most recently, she made her NYC debut with Atlantis! The Musical as part of the Emerging Artist's Theatre New Works Series. Currently, she is in rehearsals for an exciting, steampunk version of Oliver! with The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, NY.

Lori loves performing both music theater and opera and performed in Light Opera Oklahoma’s Evita (Mistress), Trouble in Tahiti (Trio Soprano), and The Light in the Piazza. With Shreveport Opera she performed in Carousel, Carmen, Manon Lescaut, and Cosi Fan Tutte, as well as the title role in Amahl and the Night Visitors. OCU credits include Carrie the Musical (Carrie), Jesus Christ Superstar (Mary Magdalene (u/s)/ Herod Dancer), and the Opernprobe (Die Baronin). Previous favorite credits include Thoroughly Modern Millie (Millie), Clue the Musical (Miss Scarlet), La Rondine (Lisette), and L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (Le Feu). She has also performed the soprano solos in Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Missa Brevis and most recently, Mozart's Mass in C minor.

She is now based in NYC and is pursuing her dreams to build a career as a musical theater actress.

 

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Jacob Porter, 2000, Owner, Strangewood Guitar Company

Owner, Strangewood Guitar Company

Professor of Guitar, University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Odessa, TX

Jacob Porter is currently on faculty as Professor of Guitar at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He studied under Susan Graham at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he received degrees in Classical Guitar Performance and Business Administration. He went on to study under Robert Guthrie at Southern Methodist University where he received his Masters of Music in Classical Guitar Performance.

In 2001, Mr. Porter had the privilege of performing for the opening of Southern Methodist University's Meadows Museum of Art, at which the King of Spain was in attendance. He attended The Aspen Music Festival and School, where he studied with Sharon Isbin and Lily Afshar. He has performed concerts throughout the southern United States and has performed in master classes given by Christopher Parkening, Muriel Anderson, Karl Maria von Kruger, Lily Afshar, Miguel Antonio, Jorge Morel, and Sharon Isbin.

Mr. Porter has given master classes on classical guitar technique and has organized presentations on South American music and the life and music of Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Mr. Porter comes to UTPB from Corpus Christi, where he taught classical guitar at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and was Director of Music Ministries for Asbury United Methodist Church. In his spare time, he enjoys building his own guitars and spending time with his wife Krystal and their son Alex.

 

Joy Fair Ratcliff, 1977, Director, Centenary College of Louisiana Piano Preparatory Program

Joy Fair Ratcliff

Director, Centenary College of Louisiana Piano Preparatory Program 

Twyla Robinson, 1993, World-class Soprano

Twyla Robinson’s incisive musicianship, ravishing vocal beauty, and dramatic delivery have taken her to the leading concert halls and opera stages of Europe and North America. She has been heard in performance with the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Berlin Staatskapelle, The Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, among others. She has worked with conductors including Christoph Eschenbach, Alan Gilbert, Bernard Haitink, Pierre Boulez, Franz Welser-Möst, Donald Runnicles, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Hans Graf and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Twyla begins this season making her debut singing Dvorak’s Te Deum with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Robinson opened the 2012-2013 season with her first performances of Mendelssohn’s Lobegesang in her debut with the Utah Symphony Orchestra. During the season she returned to the Indianapolis Symphony adding Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi to her repertoire. Further concert performances for Ms. Robinson included Beethoven Symphony No. 9 with Cincinnati Symphony and Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with Alabama Symphony. On the opera stage, Ms. Robinson sang the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro with the Orlando Philharmonic and returned to Cincinnati Opera as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier.

Recent performances for Ms. Robinson include debuts with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. She also made her Opera Colorado debut as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro last season. In the summer of 2010, she was seen in a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with Jiří Bělohlávek at the opening night of the BBC Proms, broadcast worldwide on BBC television. She made her Carnegie Hall debut with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony in performances of Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass and was heard in Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony with Christoph Eschenbach and the National Symphony, and with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Rotterdam Philharmonic.

In the 2010–2011 season, Ms. Robinson made her debut with the New York Philharmonic in performances of Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Alan Gilbert and was heard in performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony. She debuted with San Diego Opera as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, and returned to the National Symphony for performances of Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony with Christoph Eschenbach. Ms. Robinson opened the season with New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and was heard in Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony. In the summer of 2011, she was heard in performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with Robert Spano at the Aspen Music Festival.

In high demand for concert performances, Ms. Robinson regularly performs with top orchestras in the United States and Europe. She made her debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which she has also sung with the San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, and the London Symphony Orchestra at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall and the Barbican Centre in London. The performance in London was released on the LSO Live label. A frequent soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra, her performances include Strauss’ Four Last Songs, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Verdi’s Requiem, and Alice Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff. She debuted with the National Symphony in performances of Grieg’s Peer Gynt, and with the St. Louis Symphony in Rossini’s Stabat Mater. Further performances include Brahms’ Requiem, Handel's Messiah, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, and Beethoven’s Christ on the Mount of Olives with Atlanta Symphony; Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony, Britten’s War Requiem and Mahler’s Das klagende Lied with Houston Symphony; and Brahms’ Requiem and the world premiere of Gil Shohat’s with the Milwaukee Symphony and Augusta Read Thomas' Absolute Ocean with the Houston Symphony.

As an opera singer, Ms. Robinson has won particular acclaim for her portrayal of Mozart heroines. She has sung Donna Anna in Don Giovanni for New York City Opera and Florida Grand Opera, and, during the 2006–2007 season, sang Donna Elvira for San Francisco Opera, which was later broadcast in movie theaters throughout the United States. She has also been heard at Florida Grand Opera as Arminda in La finta giardiniera and as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, a role she repeated at New Orleans Opera and in concert for San Francisco Opera. Other roles include Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte and the title roles of Arabella and Susannah.

Equally active as a recitalist, Ms. Robinson sang Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn as part of San Francisco Opera’s Song Recital Series, followed by four solo recitals under the auspices of the Marilyn Horne Foundation, including her New York recital debut at Merkin Concert Hall. Her Carnegie Hall debut was on February 1, 2004, when she joined Marilyn Horne and other world-renowned artists in a gala concert celebrating the venerable mezzo-soprano’s 70th birthday. Ms. Robinson has also sung recitals at the University of Denver’s Newman Center, London’s Wigmore Hall, Theater Bremen and Spivey Hall in Atlanta.

Her recordings include Brahms’s Requiem with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with Pierre Boulez and the Berlin Staatskappelle, Schubert’s Fierrabras with Franz Welser-Möst on DVD with EMI, and Strauss’ Elektra and Daphne with Semyon Bychkov and the West German Radio Orchestra on the Decca label.

 

Melanie Russell, 2002, NYC-based Soprano

New Orleans area native Melanie Russell made her NYC debut in August 2008 with Opera Omnia’s premiere production, The Coronation of Poppea, for which ClassicsToday.com stated: “Her creamy soprano and engaging stage presence impressed in the roles of Virtue and Damigella.” The Wall Street Journal also took note of her “steely sparkle” and “almost impossibly fast, clean runs” in Handel’s Messiah at Trinity Wall Street.

She made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall in April 2010 (Fauré’s Requiem) and covered the roles of 2nd Lady & 2nd Witch in the Mark Morris Dance Group’s production of Dido and Aeneas in Moscow and New York. Other notable solo appearances include Bach’s Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (BWV 51) at St. Paul’s Chapel in NYC, Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Israel in Egypt (Musica Omnia), Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate and Requiem, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Mendelssohn’s Hör mein Bitten, Stravinsky’s Les Noces, and Magnificat settings by Bach and Mendelssohn (Naxos).

In addition to her solo work, Melanie’s fifteen years of choral and chamber music experience have culminated in performances with the Oregon Bach Festival Choir, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Yale Schola Cantorum, Yale Voxtet, Etherea, Seraphic Fire, Conspirare, and the Trinity Wall Street Choir.

Opera roles include Phoebe (The Cunning Man), Adele (Die Fledermaus), The Queen of the Night/ Pamina (The Magic Flute), Mme. Goldentrill (The Impresario), and Aline (The Sorcerer). Theater credits include Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Belle), The Music Man (Marian Paroo), The King and I (Tuptim), and Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story (Maria Elena Holly).

Melanie holds the Artist Diploma in Voice from Yale University/ Institute of Sacred Music, as well as performance degrees from Loyola University New Orleans and Centenary College of Louisiana with a minor in French. She is currently engaged with the professional choir at Trinity Episcopal Church Wall Street and continues to tour with Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach. She resides in Astoria, New York.

 

Sarah King Sarver, 2002, Associate Professor of Music Theory, Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma City, OK

Dr. Sarah K. Sarver joins the faculty at Oklahoma City University as Assistant Professor of Music Theory. Her current research centers on Schenkerian theory and late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century tonality. Her dissertation explores the ways in which various chromatic excursions interact with diatonic structural processes in selected works by Richard Strauss. Additionally, Dr. Sarver is interested in the relationship between text and music in lieder. She has presented her research at regional and international meetings, including the Music Theory Southeast and Texas Society for Music Theory regional meetings and the Theory and Analysis Graduate Students' Weekend hosted by the Society for Music Analysis. Dr. Sarver was awarded the Colvin Award at the 2010 Texas Society for Music Theory 32nd Annual Meeting.

Dr. Sarver comes to Oklahoma City University by way of Florida State University, where she earned the Ph.D. in music theory. While attending Florida State University, Dr. Sarver received a teaching assistantship, and her efforts in the classroom were recognized with a nomination for the Outstanding Teaching-Assistant Award. Prior to studying at Florida State University, Dr. Sarver received an M.M. in music theory from Southern Methodist University. Dr. Sarver also holds a B.M. in voice performance and a minor in French studies from Centenary College of Louisiana.

 

Donovan Soumas, 1994, Founder, Soumas Heritage School of Music

Donovan Soumas holds a B.M. degree from Centenary. A former instructor and accompanist for the Newark Boys Chorus, Mr. Soumas traveled extensively throughout the world with the chorus. Mr. Soumas is also the former Artistic Director of the Plainfield-based Ric-Charles Choral Ensemble.

Currently, Mr. Soumas is the Owner and Director of Soumas Heritage School of Music, located at 1451 E. 2nd St. in Plainfield, NJ. The general mission of the school is to supply enhanced music education to Plainfield and surrounding communities. Soumas Heritage School of Music offers music lessons to infants, children and adults in all levels, styles and instruments. The school also offers courses in American Sign Language / Music Interpretation, Songwriting / Composition, Choir Directing and Music Theory.

Mr. Soumas has been instrumental in providing students with the necessary music education for college entrance, professional studio work, church musicianship, Broadway and local auditions, national and local competitions and personal music endeavors. The school’s dedicated staff of 25+ music educators helps to round out and complete Mr. Soumas’ motto of being “Totally Educated!!!”

Mr. Soumas is also Founder and Executive Director of H.E.R.I.T.A.G.E., Inc., which stands for Helping to Enhance Resources by Incorporating The Arts to Gain Education, a not-for-profit organization which provides scholarships to students from a variety of backgrounds to further their music and artistic education.

Awards:
•2004 Union County - Entrepreneur of the Year •2005 Spotlight Award as Judge for the Plainfield Idol Competition •2005 1st recipient of the Richard A. Dennis “Man of Integrity” •2005 Donavon P. Soumas Performance Arts Scholarship (named in honor) •2006 1st Place McDonald’s Gospelfest (Youth Choir division) Winner HERITAGE Inc., Show Choir •2007-2008 Heritage Registry of “Who’s Who” in American Business

Affiliations:
•Plainfield Chamber of Commerce •US Coast Guard Auxiliary •Shiloh Baptist Church

 

Chandler Teague, 1974, Professor of Percussion, Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport, LA

Chandler Teague

Principal Timpanist and Percussionist of the Shreveport Symphony, Longview Symphony, Opera East Texas, Chandler was the timpanist of the Classical Music Festival in Eisenstadt, Austria for 13 summers, and has for 19 years performed with the Breckinridge Music Festival.

He has performed with the St. Louis Symphony, touring Broadway shows, has been featured in timpani and percussion concertos, and as hand drum soloist in a performance of Ravi Shankar's Concerto #1 for Sitar and Orchestra. He has performed recitals with his wife, Janis, and his father, William Teague,and works regularly in a jazz trio.

Chandler received the 2008 Music Fellowship Award from the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, and teaches percussion at Centenary College of Louisiana and Grambling State University.

 

Gregory Warren, 2005, World-class Tenor

Gregory Warren’s career had its first spark in the opera world when he was chosen to be a part of the Placido Domingo - Cafritz program. There he was able to grow as an artist under the care of Maestro Domingo and all the talented musicians at Washington National Opera. Mr. Warren also had the opportunity to be part of The Santa Fe Opera Apprentice program in the summers of 2005-2007 where he studied under famous instructors, coaches and musicians.

After he successfully finished the Domingo-Cafritz Program in 2006, he made his debut with many international opera houses, such as Los Angeles Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Staatsoper Berlin, Theater St. Gallen (Switzerland), De Nederlandse Opera, New National Theater Tokyo, Estonia National Opera, Washington National Opera, de Nationale Reisopera, Opera de Nice and Opera Marseille. In these houses, some of the roles he debuted are Rodolfo (La Bohème), Alfredo (La Traviata), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Iopas and Hylas (Les Troyens), Ferrando (Così fan tutte) and Arturo (Lucia di Lammermoor).

Furthermore, he has sung in the world famous Concertgebouw with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of Holland in the live broadcast concert of Tomas Adès’ opera The Tempest. In 2012 he made his Carnegie Hall debut as the tenor soloist in Flowers over the Graves of War composed by James Eakin. He has sung under the baton of Maestro James Conlon, Donald Runnicles, Paolo Carignani, John Nelson, Christopher Moulds, Jaap van Zweden, Philippe Auguin, Antonino Fogliani and Lawrence Foster.

Mr. Warren's 2013/2014 season starts with a concert performance of Massenet's oratorio Marie-Magdeleine, singing the role of Jesus, with the Russian National Orchestra in Moscow. He will also make his debut in Italy at Teatro Verdi di Sassari, singing Ferrando (Così fan tutte). In November Gregory Warren will return to Santa Fe to sing the tenor soloist in Händel's Messiah.

2014 begins with his debut as Tito in La clemenza di Tito with Bratislava Opera.

 

 

Will K. Andress,1960, Director Emeritus of the Centenary College Choir, Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport, LA

Will K. Andress Upon the occasion of his retirement in 2007, Centenary College of Louisiana named Dr. Will K. Andress "Director Emeritus" of the Centenary College Choir. College President Dr. Kenneth Schwab made the appointment in recognition of Will's exemplary 33 years (1974-2007) of leadership and service to both the Choir and the College.

Will's experience with the Centenary College Choir began much earlier, however. He was a high school senior from El Dorado, AR, in 1956 when he saw the Centenary Choir perform under the direction of Dr. A.C. "Cheesy" Voran. Even though Will had already enrolled at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, he was so impressed with the Choir that he traveled to Shreveport for an audition.

That fall, Will began his Centenary College Choir career as tenor soloist. During his years, the Choir traveled to Japan twice to sing Easter Sunrise Services for the troops on Okinawa, and made its first appearance at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. During their five years together, Cheesy mentored Will, hoping to create a choir director for future generations. In his senior year at Centenary, Will served as Choir President.

After graduation, Will moved his family throughout the South while furthering his education. He earned a graduate degree in Church Music from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, a Masters in Music from East Carolina University, and a Doctor of Music from Florida State University.

In 1974, Centenary appointed Will director of the Centenary College Choir, a moment Will still recalls as "the proudest moment of my life, not including marrying Julia Ann and the gift of my two children, Knox and Libby."

Will, like Cheesy, came to be known not just as director, but also as counselor, teacher and friend to the more than 500 students who came through the choir during his tenure. His motto, often repeated, is "We are here to love people into doing great things."

Under Will's leadership, the Choir took its role as "America's Singing Ambassadors" to new heights, traveling to 31 countries on six of the seven continents, singing for many heads of state and military commanders. The Choir entertained Christmas guests at the White House seven times, and was the first Protestant choir to sing mass in St. Peter's Basilica. The choir performed in many other historic worship sites around the world, including Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame, Canterbury Cathedral, and St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Will received Centenary College's highest honor for an alumnus - induction into Centenary's Alumni Hall of Fame in 2007. Upon his retirement, by proclamation of the Louisiana Senate and House, he was also recognized for a lifetime of commitment and service to the State of Louisiana.

In 2011, after 40 years of service, Will retired from his role as Director of Music Ministries at First United Methodist Church of Shreveport. He continues to serve FUMC part-time as Director of the Emmett Hook Center, a state-of-the-art performing arts center which opened in 2011. He works with the College Alumni Board on major projects as well. Will and current Centenary Choir director Dr. David Hobson also plan to continue the Choir's successful program of occasional alumni tours.

Meredith Williams, 2005, Operations Manager, Houston Symphony, Houston, TX

As Associate Director, Operations at the Houston Symphony, Meredith Williams plays an integral role backstage.  She spends most days developing production plans, managing the movement of the orchestra beyond their home base of Jones Hall, and ensuring that the show does go on for the orchestra's 150+ concerts each season.  While at the Houston Symphony, Meredith has successfully planned orchestra tours to Carnegie Hall, Florida, the United Kingdom, and Moscow.  In recent seasons she has taken a leadership role in the execution of Houston Symphony Family and Education productions.  

Prior to her time with the Houston Symphony, Meredith spent two years as the Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Akron Symphony in Akron, Ohio.  She was also the Manager of the Akron Youth Symphony during this time.  In 2007 she interned with the operations department of the Aspen Music Festival and School.  Meredith holds a Master of Arts in Arts Administration degree from the University of Akron, as well as a Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance degree and a minor in Business Administration from Centenary College of Louisiana.  During her years at Centenary, Meredith served as president of the Eta Lambda chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota and was active in the Hurley Chamber Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Chamber Winds.  Meredith currently lives in Crosby, Texas with her husband Ted, daughter Penelope, and their dog Sly.