Faculty & Staff

Arts

Christopher Bisset

Christopher Bisset

Instructor

Christopher Bisset is a native of Birmingham, Alabama. He received a bachelor of architecture from Auburn University. An experienced photographer and local relief print artist, Bisset has been teaching courses such as Understanding Your Canon DSLR at the Academy of the Arts since 2010.

Dan Brooks

Dan Brooks

Instructor

Dan Brooks graduated from Samford University with a degree in history and received a master of arts from Samford University in 1984. His thesis title was “The Mind of Wilcox County: An Antebellum History, 1819–1861.” Before becoming director of Birmingham’s Arlington House Museum and Gardens in 1985, Brooks taught in the Vestavia Hills and Homewood school systems. He has been active in Alabama’s historical circles, serving as president of the Alabama Historical Association and the Wilcox Historical Society and as an advisory board member for the Alabama Historical Commission. He retired from the Arlington House in 2010. Brooks now makes his home in Lowndesboro, Alabama, but he continues teaching his antiques course at Samford University as he has for a number of years.

Brett Bullard

Brett Bullard

Administrative Assistant

Brett Bullard is the administrative assistant at Samford University Academy of the Arts. He graduated from Samford University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, Cum Laude. Brett also holds a Class B teaching certificate from the Alabama Department of Education. As a student at Samford he served on the Student Government Association’s Student Judiciary Council and was a member of Phi Alpha Theta and Kappa Delta Pi, where he served as academic committee chairman. In April of 2014, Brett was awarded The Martha B. Ralls Award for Most Promise as an Exemplary Teacher and Highest Academic Achievement for secondary education.

Andrew Burrow

Andrew Burrow

Instructor

Andrew Burrow is a local artist who began his journey in 2004. His serendipitous hire as a professional videographer (having never worked with video!) thrust him headlong into the arts. During that time, he grew to love photography and then ran a small business for a number of years. He currently teaches stained glass at the Academy of the Arts. Having come to stained glass in 2011 as an experiment, it soon became a hobby and ultimately a passion. He loves sharing stained glass with others, either through his own work or through helping others discover its beauty for themselves. When he is not teaching stained glass, he is a full-time Latin teacher who holds degrees from Samford University, Yale University, and who is completing his PhD through St Mary’s University Twickenham. His website is www.andrewburrowstainedglass.com.

Lindsey Culver

Lindsey Culver

Lindsey Culver has worked as a professional photographer in Birmingham since 2009, specializing in baby and child photography. She owns Lindsey Culver Photography Studios and has a studio space in the booming Avondale neighborhood. She has a degree in International Business from University of West Florida. Her background is in finance, but quickly evolved after taking a few courses at Samford After Sundown and leaving her full time job to pursue her passions. Lindsey is a Homewood resident and is married with two children.  She is very involved in her church and The Wellhouse ministries in Birmingham.
Jean Dent

Jean Dent

Instructor

Jean Dent received her bachelor of arts in fine arts from Vanderbilt University, training from the Education for Ministry Program from Suwanee School of Theology, and a master’s certificate in project management from George Washington University. She is also a graduate of the Samford Photography Certificate Program. Photography has always been a part of her life, but after retiring from a career at AT&T, she decided to pursue it more seriously. Her favorite subjects to photograph are those of the sacred—churches, nature, stained glass and architecture.

Bo Doss

Bo Doss

Instructor

Bo Doss is a photographer, sculptor, middle-school teacher and adjunct instructor of photography in the Academy of the Arts here at Samford. He received his BA and MAE from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. A native of Trussville, Alabama, Bo has worked in the field of photography for 20 years and has been teaching photography for the past 4 years. When in the studio or classroom, Bo enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, restoring furniture, console gaming, fishing, carpentry, creating music and relaxing.

Scott Thompson

Erin Hardin

Instructor

Erin Hardin holds a B.S. in Sociology from Samford University and an M.Ed in Counseling from the University of Montevallo. Erin has had the honor of working under and learning from notable local artists Dori DeCamillis and Terry Strickland. Since that time, her work has been seen around Birmingham in area shows, festivals and galleries and has been featured in The Black and White, B-Metro, and on AL.com. She has been the recipient of awards from Energen and the Birmingham Art Association, and was one of 20 artists in the state chosen to take part in Heads Up, Alabama, a collaboration between the Cultural Alliance and the Alabama Psychiatric Association which used art as a means of promoting awareness of mental health. Pieces from her “Strange Reflections” series have been shown in area galleries and museums including Red Dot Gallery and Meridian Museum of Art, and can currently be viewed at Little House Gallery. “Strange Reflections,” which consists of photorealistic images of everyday objects and odd, distorted reflections of the objects, were all done in oil on copper or aluminum. Though Erin enjoys painting on a variety of surfaces, copper and aluminum remain her favorite. She feels that every time she paints she learns something new. She lives with her husband, daughter, and two dogs in Vestavia.

Angela Karen

Angela Karen

Instructor

Angela Karen started her photography studio in 2005, shortly after graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Angela is a regular contributor to B-Metro magazine and her work has also been featured or appeared in Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine, Seventeen Magazine, Nordstrom Bridal Suite, Unveiled, Pottery Barn Kids, in addition to several more nationally and locally read publications. Her work is a combination of advertising, editorial, lifestyle and celebrations and she is interested in conveying images that are both conceptual and authentic. For Angela, photography has always been about the lives she gets to explore, capture, and share. Her imagery captures an audience by bringing a storytelling spirit to every photo shoot. In Angela's spare time she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family.

James Knowles

James Knowles

Instructor

James Knowles is an artist and art educator living in Trussville, Alabama. He has taught Drawing and Painting for over 30 years. His paintings have won awards at several art shows and his work is in private collections across the country. James earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Montevallo. Acrylic paints are his favorite medium. The interplay between representation and abstraction in art has been his favorite subject recently. He explores that realm in his latest paintings, using thinned acrylics and allowing them to swirl and run.

Steve Logan

Steve Logan

Instructor

Steve Logan holds a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design from the University of Alabama and a juris doctorate from Cumberland School of Law. He worked for a number of years at Southern Progress as art director of the book division and director of the corporate division. After retiring in 2007, he has filled his time with running Steve Logan Calligraphy and Designs where he designs invitations for weddings. He has worked as calligraphy instructor for Samford Academy of the Arts for the past five years.

Anna McCain

Anna McCain

Instructor

Anna McCain holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts Education in Secondary Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. On top of teaching creative writing classes as an adjunct professor at Samford’s Academy of the Arts, she is also a middle school English and Theater Arts teacher. She enjoys reading, writing, and performing, and has a passion for teaching. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog, Bauer.

Jimmy McGowan pic

Jimmy McGowan

Art Coordinator

Jimmy McGowan is the art coordinator for the Academy of the Arts. He is a state-certified visual arts teacher with experience in the Shelby County School system and currently Mountain Brook City Schools. A native of Birmingham Alabama, McGowan graduated from the University of Alabama in Birmingham with a bachelor’s degree in art studio, minor in art history, and a masters in art education. He received his management training certificate in bank operations. McGowan is the founder and director of Big Art Camp and a member of the Alabama Art Education Association and National Art Education Association. He is married with two daughters and is an active member of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church.

Meg McKinney

Meg McKinney

Instructor

Meg McKinney is a longtime professional photographer holding both a bachelor of arts in television, radio, and film from Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, and a master of arts in journalism with a concentration in photojournalism from the University of Missouri. She has also participated in the Santa Fe Photography Workshop and week-intensive workshops in Maine focusing on on-location lighting and home interiors. Her experience includes working as a photographer for daily newspapers and corporate clients. She has also served as staff photographer for Southern Living where she specialized in on-location photography for travel features and home interiors. She is currently a contributing photographer for B-Metro magazine. You can view her work at www.megmckinneyphotos.com.

Mike Nelson

Mike Nelson

Instructor

Mike Nelson is an experienced photographer, professional event consultant, and owner of Michael L. Nelson Photography. He specializes in on-location event photography, corporate photography, weddings, and senior portraits. He got his education from Jefferson State and is a graduate of the Samford Academy of the Arts Photography Certificate Program. He started work as a photographer back in 1984. His photography can be seen on the album covers of recording artists Tayllor Hanson and Kim Scott and at his website www.mlnphoto.com.

Butch Oglesby

Butch Oglesby

Instructor

Butch Oglesby received his B.A. in Marketing from Georgia State University and his M.A. in Communications from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is currently the owner and creative talent for Blue Moon Studios, which he founded in 2006 in Birmingham, AL. In addition to his contribution to the arts, Butch has held positions with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and as the pastor of multiple churches.

Allyson Evans Roebuck

Allyson Evans Roebuck

Instructor

Allyson Evans Roebuck is a registered interior designer with more than 25 years of experience in designing both commercial and residential spaces. She has a background in architecture and interior design from Auburn University, philosophy and religion from Samford University and is pursuing a master’s degree in construction engineering at University of Alabama at Birmingham. With a love of drawing, sketching and teaching, she enjoys incorporating urban architectural subjects into her work and capturing the energy and essence of a place in her sketching work. Her background in architecture and design gives a technical vantage point for approaching drawing and sketching that is more realistic. As her interest in urban sketching has evolved over the years, there is a sincere desire to share the joy of drawing with others.

Scott Thompson

Scott Thompson

Instructor

Scott Th­ompson was born in 1973 in Birmingham, Alabama. He graduated from Samford University in 1998 with a bachelor of arts, as well as San Francisco’s Academy of Art in 2011 with a master of fine arts in studio art. Since then, painting has been a large part of his life. He expresses his love of painting through landscapes, horses, cattle and the working cowboy. He has a strong appreciation for the shapes, colors and transitioning light seen in nature. ­Thompson is attracted to the always changing atmosphere and the challenge it presents to an artist. He feels practice and repetition are two of the most important factors in becoming a good artist. Th­ese are the values that have guided his painting philosophy. ­He is currently an instructor with th­e Academy of the Arts at Samford University. His paintings can be viewed at Scott Th­ompson Southwest Art via Facebook.

Denise Trimm

Denise Trimm

Instructor

Denise Trimm has taught and served as an administrator everywhere from the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham to a fine arts charter school in Flagstaff, Arizona. She is a two-time graduate of the University of Alabama, earning a bachelor of science in secondary education, and an MFA in creative writing. In 2002, she was named Teacher of the Year by the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts. Soon after, Birmingham magazine featured her in its “Women Who are Making a Difference” edition. In 2010 she earned her national board certification in language arts. Trimm received a performance award in 2014 from Mountain Brook City Schools, where she teaches English and creative writing. She has a great passion for reading and writing, and her poetry, fiction and feature articles have won contests and been published in various magazines and newspapers across the country.

Carolyn Wass

Carolyn Wass

Instructor

Carolyn Wass is a local clay artist whose whimsical sculptures can be seen at regional galleries and art festivals. She is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a bachelor of fine arts in painting and ceramics and has been working professionally as an artist and instructor since 2002. She has been in more than 80 juried fine art shows including Birmingham’s Artwalk and Magic City Art Connection and is the recipient of numerous awards including judge’s choice at last year’s Art on “r” Mountain. Last spring she was featured in the exhibit “Three women, Three media” at The Alabama Center for the Arts. Her work is widely collected and is available at many regional galleries including Birmingham’s Naked Art gallery. In addition to her spring festivals, she will be having a solo show starting in March at Lowe Mill in Huntsville.

Languages & ESL+

Mary Delo

Mary Delo

Mary Delo was educated entirely at French schools, at the French Lycee in London and then later in Switzerland. She later went on to pursue a career at the United Nations and the Canadian Consulate. However, when moving to Birmingham she discovered her true love of teaching. She has since taught French for the last 30 years throughout Birmingham.

Monte Erwin

Monte Erwin

Monte Erwin holds a Master of Arts degree in English as a Second Language, Masters of Arts in Religious Education and has taught ESL/EFL for eight years. He speaks Latvian as a second language after spending six years in the former Soviet Republic of Latvia. He has also lived in the Caribbean islands for nine years. Monte has been a resident of Alabama for over ten years and has worked in both publishing and higher education. He has taught ESL/EFL in Riga, Latvia and at UAB, Gadsden State Community College, and now Samford University. His passion and call in life is to work cross-culturally and internationally. Monte loves teaching English, but particularly the exchange in working with other nationalities and languages.

Heather Kaiser

Heather Kaiser

Heather Kaiser, a native of Birmingham, AL, earned a BA in Spanish from Old Dominion University, with study abroad experience in Guadalajara, Mexico. After graduating, she served one year as a Young Adult Volunteer working with marginalized populations in Rosario, Uruguay, followed by another year in Ecuador as a Rotary Scholar. Upon returning to the United States, she completed her MA in Latin American Studies with an emphasis in political science from Florida International University. As a graduate student, she studied Portuguese language and Brazilian culture in Rio de Janeiro and received a Certificate in Brazilian Studies. She began teaching Spanish at King University (formerly, King College) in Bristol, TN, which inspired her to pursue a doctorate in Hispanic Linguistics. She earned a PhD in Spanish with a specialization in linguistics from the University of Florida in 2014. Her research interests include language variation, discourse analysis and pragmatics, particularly among speakers from the Southern Cone. At Samford University she teaches intermediate Spanish for the Department of World Languages and Cultures and Everyday Spanish for the Academy of the Arts. In her free time, she plays tennis competitively and travels regularly to Uruguay with her husband, David, and sons, William and Luke.

Mike Ledgerwood

Mike Ledgerwood

Dr. Mikle (Mike) Ledgerwood is Professor of Romance Languages and Linguistics and Chair of World Languages and Cultures at Samford University. He began the study of French at the age of 8 and continues to study “la belle langue”. He began German in high school and continues to study it as well. He began Italian in graduate school. He lived in Nice, France for a year where he spent a lot of time using his Italian in Italy. He recently returned to Germany and this past summer he vacationed in Germany and Italy, preparing him to teach this course.

Jessica Shelton

Jessica Shelton

Jessica Shelton recognized her passion for learning about different cultures and languages at a very early age. She along with her family, lived in various cities throughout the United States and abroad, such as London England as she progressed through grade school. After graduating from Ramsay High School she obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science from Dillard University and went on to work for Jefferson County Board of Education for 8 years. To fulfill her desire to teach, Jessica made a bold decision to live and teach abroad in Beijing China for a year. While in Beijing, she taught doctors, lawyers, teachers, and business executives Business and Conversational English. Upon returning to Alabama, Jessica decided to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she was a member of Phi Kappa Phi and where she also earned a Master of Arts Degree in ESL Education. Jessica continues to strive to create innovative and exciting classes in which all cultures and nationalities feel welcomed and supported in their endeavors to expand their knowledge base and use of the English language.

Music

Stephanie Archer

Stephanie Archer

Piano Instructor

Stephanie Archer received a bachelor of arts in music with a concentration in piano from the University of Mobile. She then completed a Master of Music in Piano Pedagogy from Louisiana State University where she studied pedagogy under Dr. Pamela Pike and performance under Gregory Sioles. Her performance experience includes numerous recitals and chamber orchestra concerts including performing as concerto soloist with University of Mobile Chamber Orchestra. She took her first job as a teacher in 2008. Her teaching experience includes private lessons and group classes for children, as well as courses for freshmen and sophomore music majors. Her professional affiliations include the Birmingham Music Teachers Association and Music Teachers National Association. She currently teaches piano at Samford University Academy of the Arts.

Melodie King

Melodie King Bobbitt

Piano Instructor

Melodie King Bobbitt has been teaching piano since 1995. In 1997, she began teaching through the Samford University Preparatory Music Department where she teaches private, group and camp music lessons. She served as the assistant director of the department from 2005-2015. Bobbitt has collegiate teaching experience at Samford University and the University of Montevallo. Pre-college, Bobbitt studied for 11 years with Patty Kirkley. She has a bachelor of music in piano performance from Samford University where she studied with Betty Sue Shepherd. She has a master of music in piano performance and a doctor of musical arts in piano performance from the University of Alabama where she studied with Amanda Penick. While a student, she was a winner in Alabama’s Federation competition, a two-time winner in Samford’s concerto/aria competition, honorable mention in Alabama Music Teachers Association (AMTA) and Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Artist, and she was featured three times on the PBS show Pianist at Work. Bobbitt is a member of Birmingham Music Teachers Association (past president, 2009–2011; chair of the Piano Solo Festival at Samford University; and Gold Cup Chair), MTNA, Metro Music Forum (past president, 2007–2009) and AMTA (state auditions coordinator).

Brett Bullard

Brett Bullard

Administrative Assistant

Brett Bullard is the administrative assistant at Samford University Academy of the Arts. He graduated from Samford University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, Cum Laude. Brett also holds a Class B teaching certificate from the Alabama Department of Education. As a student at Samford he served on the Student Government Association’s Student Judiciary Council and was a member of Phi Alpha Theta and Kappa Delta Pi, where he served as academic committee chairman. In April of 2014, Brett was awarded The Martha B. Ralls Award for Most Promise as an Exemplary Teacher and Highest Academic Achievement for secondary education.

Alice Butler

Alice Butler

Piano Instructor

Alice Butler holds a Master of Music in Piano Performance and Pedagogy as well as a Bachelor of Music in Piano Pedagogy and a Bachelor of Arts in Voice from the University of Montevallo where she graduated magna cum laude. Butler has served as collegiate faculty at the University of Montevallo where she taught college courses of music literature, piano pedagogy and class piano and served as Director of Preparatory Music and staff accompanist. She has also worked at Wallace State College in Hanceville as staff accompanist and vocal coach for the Wallace State Singers show choir. Currently, Butler lives in Cullman, Alabama and is organist for St. John’s Church in Cullman. Butler is the accompanist for several soloists, instrumentalists, chamber groups and choirs in North Alabama. Butler’s greatest experience and expertise lies in teaching piano. She has over 30 years of experience teaching private and group piano lessons to students of all ages, preschool through adult. Her students regularly participate in various piano events and competitions. Many of her students have been named winners in state and local competitions and have gone on to study music in college and attain careers in music. As an active adjudicator, Butler has experience judging a variety of piano festivals, auditions and competitions throughout Alabama and the surrounding states. Butler has served on the executive board of the Alabama Music Teachers Association as 2nd Vice President and as State Auditions Chairman. She has also held numerous positions with the Birmingham Music Teachers Association and the Alabama Federation of Music Club. In addition to being a member of the above organizations, Butler also belongs to the American Choral Director’s Association, American Orff-Schulwerk Association and the National Association for Music Education.

Nathan Dawkins

Nathan Dawkins

Piano Instructor

Nathan is a recent graduate of Samford University with a Piano Performance and Pedagogy degree, where he studied with Don Sanders. He has performed extensively as a soloist, as a part of a chamber ensemble, and as an orchestral pianist. Nathan’s honors at Samford included Dean's list, graduation with honors, Presidential Scholar, and recipient of the Mary Louise Shirley Hodges Scholarship and Hazel Boren Music Scholarship. He served as Pianist for the EMF Orchestra, EMMF orchestra, and several chamber ensembles at both Samford and Festivals. Nathan was a participant in master classes with Lowell Liebermann, William Wolfram, Stephen Gunzenhauser, and Jane McGrath. Additionally, he studies and performs as a conductor. Most recently, Nathan was the Assistant Conductor of the Endless Mountain Music Festival in Wellsboro, PA. Nathan joins the academy as a piano and theory instructor in the fall of 2016.

Josh Ferguson

Joshua Ferguson

Guitar Instructor

Joshua Ferguson studied guitar at Oklahoma Baptist University, and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. While studying there, he received six different scholarships and awards, including the Billy Appling Church Music Scholarship and the Charlotte Martin Music Scholarship. Currently, he is pursuing his Master of Music Education degree at Samford.

Monique Gannon

Monique Gannon

Voice Instructor

Since earning her Master’s degree in Vocal Performance at New England Conservatory, Monique has gone on to perform in various venues. She has been a featured performer with the North Carolina Theatre, Raleigh Little Theatre, Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, Kennedy Theatre, Temple Theatre, Burning Coal Theatre and Theatre in the Park.

Her vocal concerts across the country have included appearances with the North Carolina Symphony, Solaris Chamber Orchestra in San Francisco and the Rochester Romantic Symphony. Monique premiered her one woman show at the exclusive Rrazz Room in San Francisco in 2010. She opened for twice Grammy nominated singer Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco in 2007, reappeared at the Castro Theatre in August of 2012 to perform her new and improved one woman show and most recently performed her show at the Southside Center for the Arts and Humanities in Birmingham, AL. Monique is currently the Soprano section leader at the Southside Baptist Church. She is represented by SALT Model and Talent in Atlanta and has been featured on television and commercials.

Monique has also done post-graduate work with the University of Miami in Salzburg, Austria, Oberlin College in Urbania, Italy and the Bay Area Summer Opera Theatre Institute in San Francisco. Monique created MasterCamp, a summer arts program in Raleigh, NC, and served as Artistic Director from 2009-2012. She has taught privately for the last 10 years.

Monique currently has students studying at exceptional schools including The Berklee College of Music in Boston, Elon University and Ohio Northern University. One of her students just concluded a year-long Broadway National Tour of “MoTown” as “Little Michael Jackson.”

Jordan Kirchner

Jordan Kirchner

Violin Instructor

Jordan Kirchner is a senior Music Education major at Samford University. Since the age of four, Jordan has been taking violin lesson and been actively engaged in the music community of Knoxville, TN, her hometown. Since coming to Birmingham, Jordan has been actively involved in both the music education and the strings communities, teaching private lessons and attending many seminars and professional development opportunities. At Samford, Jordan takes part in the Samford University Orchestra, sitting first violin in their concerts and playing in many productions from the Samford Opera and Music Theatre departments. She is currently president of both the Samford Collegiate chapter of the National Association for Music Education and the Omicron Gamma chapter of Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity. In addition to already completing the first two levels of the Orff-Schulwerk teacher certification, she completed the Suzuki Method books through her studies as a child, and actively strives to continue the teaching of the Suzuki method in the years to come.

Connie Macon

Connie Macon

Executive Director and Piano Instructor

Connie Macon is the executive director of the Academy of the Arts. She began her Samford career as director of the Preparatory Music Department in 1989 and continues to teach piano for the academy. She has collegiate teaching experience at Samford University in class piano and piano pedagogy. Macon has been teaching for more than 30 years and is a nationally certified piano teacher. She is a member of Birmingham Music Teachers Association; past faculty sponsor for the Music Teachers National Association, Samford Collegiate Chapter; and the Omicron Gamma chapter of Delta Omicron professional music fraternity. During the 2009 Alabama Music Teachers Association conference, Macon received the Alabama Music Teacher Association (AMTA) Teacher of the Year Award, which is presented annually to a member who exhibits excellence in teaching, musicianship and service to AMTA and the community. Macon studied pre-college piano with Betty Gillum in Sylacauga. She graduated from Samford University in piano performance as a student of Betty Sue Shepherd and received her master’s in piano pedagogy from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, as a student of David Karp and Louise Bianchi. At SMU, she was a Meadows Scholar and worked as a graduate teaching assistant in class piano and in the preparatory division. Macon has served on the executive board of the Alabama Music Teachers Association as advertising chair. She is currently a co-chairman of Birmingham Music Teachers Association NFMC Solo & Hymn Festivals and is past president of Birmingham Music Teachers Association and the Metro Music Forum. As the creator and director of the Preparatory Department’s Adventures in Music Camp (grades 1–12), she has seen the camp grow in size and in creativity for the past 25 years with the help of many incredible teachers and university student assistants. She also directs All Aboard for Music Camp (ages 3–6).

Marissa Mayfield

Marissa Mayfield

Piano Instructor

Marissa Mayfield received her Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from the University of Alabama with secondary studies in voice. She is currently working on her Master of Music degree in Piano Pedagogy at Samford University studying with Dr. Kathryn Fouse. Marissa joined the Academy of the Arts music faculty in June 2015 teaching piano and theory.

Her teaching experience includes class piano, private piano and music appreciation courses at Wallace community College in Dothan, Alabama; piano instruction at Covenant United Methodist Church (Dothan); piano instruction at the Community Music School (Tuscaloosa). She has served as church pianist for Denton Road United Methodist Church (Dothan). Her professional affiliations include the Birmingham Music Teachers Association and Music Teachers National Association.

Ellen Mitchell

Ellen Mitchell

Voice Instructor

Ellen Mitchell is a mezzo-soprano from Marietta, Georgia. She has studied under Paul A. Richardson, Joseph Hopkins, and currently studies under Laura Doss. She recently won her category at the Collegiate National Association of Teachers of Singers  competition at the state level. Mitchell has participated in master classes with pedagogues Bruce Kolb and Stephen King. She is a section leader in the internationally renowned Samford University A Cappella Choir. She was also a participant in the choral master class with the King Singers. With the choir, she has been a soloist on the international stage in the Florilege Vocal de Tour Choral Competition. Mitchell is also heavily involved with the Samford Opera program, having been cast as the Ruth in last year’s Pirates of Penzance and is looking forward to being in the ensemble of Amahl and the Night Visitors this fall. She teaches voice at the Academy of the Arts.

Laura Beth Mitchell

Laura Beth Mitchell

Music Coordinator and Piano Instructor

Laura Beth Mitchell, Music Coordinator for the Academy of the Arts, is a nationally certified teacher of music in piano and holds a bachelor of music in theory and composition with university honors from Samford University and a master of music in piano performance and pedagogy, also from Samford. She is currently pursuing a doctor of musical arts in piano performance at the University of Alabama. Mitchell has taught private piano and musicianship classes in the Samford Preparatory Music Department since 2008 and taught various courses as adjunct faculty for the Samford School of the Arts division of music from 2011 to 2014. She was the winner of the 2010 Alabama Music Teachers Association Composition Competition in the young artist category, and her compositions were featured in a master class with composer Samuel Adler. Mitchell is an alumna of Omicron Gamma chapter of Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity and a member of Music Teachers National Association, Alabama Music Teachers Association, Metro Music Forum, Pi Kappa Lambda, Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Kappa Phi.

Samuel Nordlund 2

Samuel Nordlund

Cello Instructor

Samuel Nordlund is active as a performer, teacher and conductor. A cello instructor for the Academy of the Arts, Nordlund is also on the faculty of Samford University, where he teaches cello and plays with the faculty Samford Quartet. He has served as music director of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Central Alabama and as assistant director of performance activities at the Music Institute of Chicago. Nordlund is a member of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra and frequently plays with the Tuscaloosa Symphony. As a conductor, he has directed the 2013 Alabama ASTA Honors string orchestra and served as guest conductor for the inaugural concert of the Cave Run Symphony in Morehead, Kentucky. He is currently pursuing the doctorate of musical arts from the University of Alabama, where he has been a member of the Capstone Quartet, a graduate fellowship ensemble. Nordlund is currently collaborating with Kevin Chance to record all four of Lowell Liebermann’s Sonatas for Cello and Piano. After earning his bachelor of music degree in cello performance, magna cum laude, from The University of Alabama, Nordlund moved to Chicago where he earned his master of music degree at Northwestern University. His primary instructors have been Carlton McCreery and Hans Jensen. Additionally, he has studied at the Music Academy of the West, the Kent/Blossom Festival, Encore School for Strings, Brevard Music Center, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, and with teachers including Richard Aaron, Stephen Geber, Alan Stepansky, Jonathan Pegis and Richard Hirschl. In the summer of 2006, Nordlund was the teaching assistant for Hans Jensen at the Meadowmount School of Music. Nordlund has been a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, along with the Illinois Philharmonic, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he has performed with the symphony orchestras of Fort Wayne (Indiana), Elmhurst (Illinois), and Tupelo (Mississippi). He has been a substitute player with the Chicago, Milwaukee, Charleston and Alabama symphony orchestras. As a soloist, Nordlund has performed with the Huntsville Symphony and twice with the Huxford Symphony as two-time winner of the University of Alabama’s concerto and aria competition.

John Robertson

John Robertson

Piano Instructor

John Robertson teaches piano and theory at the Academy of the Arts. He holds a bachelor of music in piano performance (Bob Jones University, 2011) and a master’s degree in piano performance and pedagogy (Samford University, 2014). His teachers have included Kathi Lamb, Nancy Wingard, David Lehman, Amanda Penick, Ronald Shinn and Kenon Renfrow. Robertson also serves on the music faculty at Judson College, teaching piano, music theory, piano literature and piano pedagogy. He has performed as a collaborative pianist throughout the midwest and southeast and has served as staff accompanist at Bob Jones University, Samford University, Birmingham-Southern College and the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Robertson served as music director for the Opera Birmingham Home for the Holidays Concert in December 2011, and as an accompanist for the Opera Birmingham Opera Competition in May 2012. For the past two years, he has also served as a staff accompanist for the Vann Vocal Institute in Montgomery, Alabama.

Becky Thornton

Becky Thornton

Piano Instructor

Becky Thornton has been teaching piano since 1993. In 1996, she began teaching for the Samford University Preparatory Department and accompanying for Samford University. She has taught private piano, theory and camp lessons. Previously, she taught private piano and theory at Birmingham-Southern College Conservatory; Europäische Bibleseminar in Rudersberg, Germany; and private and class piano at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. Thornton studied private piano with William DeVan at Birmingham-Southern for one year. She has a bachelor of arts in applied piano from Lee University, where she studied with Phillip Thomas, and a master of music in accompanying from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she studied with Stephen Dubberly. While at Lee, she performed for three consecutive years in the honors recitals for her division and received the Lee University Music Department Award. She also received an honorable mention at the TMTA collegiate competition her senior year. Thornton is a member of Alabama Music Teachers Association (past adjudicator), Music Teachers National Association, Birmingham Music Teachers Association, Metro Music Forum and Birmingham Music Teachers Association (past chair of solo festival).

Jessica Wilbanks

Jessica Wilbanks

Piano Instructor

Jessica Wilbanks has taught private piano lessons, theory, and preschool piano at the Academy of the Arts for the past eight years and is a licensed Kindermusik educator. She earned a bachelor of music in piano pedagogy and performance from the University of Montevallo where she graduated magna cum laude, studying with Cynthia McRae. Wilbanks is a member of the Birmingham Music Teachers Association and Music Teachers National Association. In the fall of 2015, she will begin work on a MM in Piano Performance and Pedagogy at Samford University and will continue piano studies with Dr. Ron Shinn.

Matthew Wilson

Matthew Wilson

Piano Instructor

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Matthew Wilson was named a winner in the 19th International Chopin Festival in Mazovia, Poland. He is an alum of the Aspen Music Festival and School as well as the International Keyboard Institute and Festival held at Mannes College of Music in New York City. He has served on the faculty of Samford University’s Piano and Chamber Music Institute and the Huntingdon College Piano Academy. Matthew has also served as vocal coach and accompanist for the University of Alabama’s Opera Theatre department. Matthew completed his Bachelor of Music degree at Florida State University, his Master of Music degree at Samford University and is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Alabama. Matthew is happy to join the Samford Academy of the Arts.

Abigail Acker Workman

Abigail Acker Workman

Harp Instructor

Abigail Acker Workman is a harpist from Anniston, Alabama. She has studied under Susan Brady in Atlanta and now studies under Judy Hicks, principal harpist for the Alabama Symphony. Abigail is a member of the Samford University Orchestra. She has performed with the Alabama Symphony Youth Orchestra, The Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra, The Huxford Orchestra (of the University of Alabama), and most recently has performed as Second Harpist with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. She actively performs in professional, orchestral, and chamber settings and often freelances for weddings, churches, and other events. Abigail also has enjoyed her involvement in pit orchestras and has performed in various Samford University shows, including The Wizard of Oz, Amahl and the Night Visitors, and The Light in the Piazza. She is excited to expand her harp studio through teaching with the Academy of the Arts!