In 2010, Bobi Ezell graduated summa cum laude from the University of Montevallo with a Bachelor of Music in piano pedagogy and a Bachelor of Arts in political science. Continuing her music education, Miss Ezell graduated with honors from Baylor University in 2012 with a Master of Music in piano pedagogy and performance. Miss Ezell taught in the University of Montevallo’s Community School of Music, served as a graduate assistant piano instructor at Baylor University, and maintained a private piano studio in the Waco, Texas area. She is currently a piano instructor at Samford University’s Academy of the Arts and is an active member in the Birmingham Music Teachers Association.
Laura Beth Gable 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. Mrs. Gable 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 2011-2014. Mrs. Gable 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. Mrs. Gable 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.
Dr. Melodie King 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 has served as the assistant director of the department since 2005. Dr. King has collegiate teaching experience at Samford University and the University of Montevallo. Pre-college, King studied for eleven years with Mrs. Patty Kirkley. King has a bachelor of music in piano performance from Samford University where she studied with Dr. 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 Mrs. 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 and Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Artist, and she was featured three times on the PBS show Pianist at Work. King 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).
Kara Lancaster graduated from Samford University with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance in 2005. She won the Fletcher Morris Competition/Scholarship in 2001, the Samford Concerto-Aria Auditions Competition in 2002, and the Alabama Music Teachers Association Competition in 2004. She was a finalist in the Concerto-Aria Auditions in 2003 and 2004. A student of Betty Sue Shepherd, she was a member of Alpha Lambda Delta and the Dean's List while at Samford. She has performed with such distinguished artists as Marian Hahn and Christopher O'Riley. Although new to the Academy of the Arts, Lancaster maintained a private studio for the past ten years. She is a member of the Music Teachers National Association and a former member of the Illinois State Music Teachers Association.
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 over 30 years and is a nationally certified piano teacher. She is a member of Birmingham Music Teachers Association, the 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 Teacher of the Year Award. The award 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 Mrs. Betty Gillum in Sylacauga. She graduated from Samford University in Piano Performance as a student of Dr. Betty Sue Shepherd and received her Master’s in Piano Pedagogy from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, as a student of Dr. 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).
Ellen Mitchell is a mezzo-soprano from Marietta, GA. She has studied under Dr. Paul A. Richardson, Dr. Joseph Hopkins, and currently studies under Mrs. Laura Doss. She recently won her category at the Collegiate National Association of Teachers of Singers (NATS) Competition at the state level this past February. Ellen 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 a participant in the choral master class with the King Singers last spring. With the choir, she has been a soloist on the international stage in the Florilege Vocal de Tour Choral Competition. Ellen 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.
Suzanne Montgomery serves the Academy of the Arts as Director of Arts. She began working at Samford in 2007 as the Administrative Secretary for Metro College and then became Director of Samford After Sundown in July 2008. Montgomery received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Birmingham Southern College. She previously worked at Harvard University as an executive assistant in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Caroline Nordlund is a lecturer at Samford University where she teaches string methods, instrumental pedagogy, and plays in the Samford University Faculty String Quartet. She teaches violin at the Samford Academy of the Arts and at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She serves as the President for the Alabama chapter of the American String Teachers Association. Caroline plays in the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra and teaches at the Community Music School of the University of Alabama. She is the former director of the Scrollworks Youth Music School in Birmingham, AL, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to making music instruction available to all. Caroline earned a Master of Music in violin performance and pedagogy from Northwestern University as a student of Gerardo Ribeiro. At Northwestern, she was awarded the Richard and Helen Thomas Fellowship while a graduate assistant to Stacia Spencer and Dr. James Kjelland. Caroline is a former faculty member of the Northwestern University Music Academy where she taught violin and Kindermusik. Caroline is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda, American String Teachers Association and Music Teachers National Association. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Music in violin performance. She attended the Meadowmount School of Music, Aspen Music Festival and School, Spoleto U.S.A. and Sewanee Summer Music Festivals and participated in master classes and additional studies with Mimi Zweig, Vadim Gluzman, Benny Kim, Chee-Yun, Herbert Greenberg, Ian Swensen, Axel Strauss and Thomas Moore.
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. Samuel is a member of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, and frequently plays with the Tuscaloosa Symphony. As a conductor, Samuel 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, KY. 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. Samuel is currently collaborating with Dr. 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, Samuel 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, Samuel 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, Samuel 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 (IN), Elmhurst (IL), and Tupelo (MS). He has been a substitute player with the Chicago, Milwaukee, Charleston, and Alabama symphony orchestras. As a soloist, Samuel 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 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 of 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. John 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. John served as music director for the Opera Birmingham Home for the Holidays Concert in December of 2011, and as an accompanist for the Opera Birmingham Opera Competition in May of 2012. For the past two years, he has also served as a staff accompanist for the Vann Vocal Institute in Montgomery, Alabama.
Nedia Rooker serves the Academy of the Arts as Building and Program Coordinator. She began working at Samford in August 2012 as Program Coordinator for Samford After Sundown. Rooker studied mass communication with a focus on public relations from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. She received a master’s certification in project management from George Washington University. She retired from BellSouth/AT&T with 28 years of administrative and management experience. Fifteen years of that time was spent as Senior Project Manager supporting the build-out and implementation of wireless telecommunication systems throughout the United States. Her interests include designing textile art pieces such as quilts, dolls, and wall hangings.
Kim Shaw has been the Administrative Coordinator for Academy of the Arts Music since April of 2013. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of West Georgia where she was named outstanding print journalist her senior year. While working for the Randolph Leader, Shaw won second place in column writing in the Alabama Press Association Better Newspaper Contest. Although she does not sing or play piano, she has played hand bells with the Riverchase United Methodist Church Chancel Ringers for the past 10 years.
Trent Smith graduated Magna Cum Laude from Mississippi State with a Bachelor of Arts in Piano. His major teachers were Dr. Rosangela Yazbec Sebba and Dr. Jackie Edwards-Henry. During his time at MSU, Trent taught piano at the Pre-College Piano Program and held various chairs in the Golden Triangle Music Forum. A student of Dr. Ronald Shinn, He is currently pursuing a Masters of Music degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy at Samford University. Smith has taught Preschool Piano, private lessons, and group piano with the Academy of the Arts since August of 2013.
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 Dr. Phillip Thomas and a master of music in accompanying from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she studied with Dr. 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 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 Hults 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 University of Montevallo where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. She studied with Cynthia Jones McRae. Wilbanks is a member of Birmingham Music Teachers Association and Music Teachers National Association.
Rebecca Worthington is an active performer and teacher in the greater Birmingham area. She has appeared on stage and in concert across the southeast in productions with Opera Birmingham, Birmingham Music Club, and Bob Jones University Opera Association. In concert, Worthington has performed soprano solos in Handel’s Messiah and Schubert’s Mass in G. As a vocal instructor, she has successfully prepared many students for college and theatre auditions with former students currently studying vocal performance, commercial music, music education, and theatre at Belmont University, Samford University, Mississippi College, and the University of Southern Mississippi. Worthington is a NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) member and holds degrees in Vocal Performance and Church Music from Bob Jones University. In addition to teaching in the Academy of the Arts, Worthington also serves on the music staff at Shades Mountain Baptist Church.