PERFORMERS for “The Sound of Giving” Fall Concert – November 16, 2013
Featuring . . .
Grady Nichols (Saxophone). Grady lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but is a native of Siloam Springs, graduating in 1990. He started playing the alto sax in the 6th grade, and fell in love with the sound of smooth jazz after hearing it played in the background on The Weather Channel. Writing to the station, he asked if they’d send him a list of the performing artists, which they did. He immediately went out and purchased their music and started a lifelong study of this jazz genre, being influenced by David Sanborg, David Foster, Chicago, and a myriad of other artists in film scores.
Grady really found his element when a new band director (Keith Rutledge) arrived in Siloam Springs his sophomore year and began a jazz band. To improve his skill, he started taking lessons from Joe Davis, a well-respected sax player/instructor at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, about an hour away. Gaining more confidence in himself, Grady put together his own jazz band, recruiting the best from his high school and nearby John Brown University. While attending JBU, he majored in Communications and took many music classes in order to learn how to write and compose music, something he’s been doing very successfully on an international level ever since.
After graduating in 1994, Grady moved to Tulsa and became recognized on the scene for his mix of jazz and gospel hues. In 1996 he released his debut album, Between You and Me, and has followed that up with six more — Mysterious Intentions (1997), In the Fullness of Time (2001), Sophistication (2004), Take Me With You (2008), House Sax (2011), and his latest, Destinations (2012). He has become one of the most sought after saxophonists in the country, opening for or performed with Pavarotti, Ray Charles, The Temptations, Peter Cetera, The Beach Boys, Roy Clark, Kevin Eubands, Huey Lewis and the News, Ellis Marsalis, Bill Champlin, Herb Alpert, Chris Rodriquez, and the O’Jays. His music has been featured on The Weather Channel, Coca Cola, BET, the Muppets from Outer Space soundtrack, and many others.
Grady’s band members are David John (Guitar) Jo Nathan Watkins (Drums), Mike Wilson (Keyboard), and Chuck Tottress (Bass).
“This guy is really young. He’s really positive and he’s got maturity way beyond his years. His tone … his delivery … everything about him. There are a lot of guys out there with chops. Grady uses the chops to get to his heart and from his heart it gets to you.” — Bill Champlin, Lead Vocals for Chicago
“Grady Nichols’ technical mastery of the saxophone is only surpassed by his emotional mastery of his instrument. He can evoke just the right emotion for any of his songs without making you feel manipulated or that the feeling is contrived.” — Derek Winterburg, TheSmoothJazzSite.com
“The Tulsa based saxman may have been one of the least known performers on the bill at the Newport Beach Jazz Festival, but his appearance with some of the top saxmen in the genre confirms his emerging status as a star on the rise.” — Smooth Jazz News
“The title says it all…Sophistication. This indeed is a sophisticated, polished, impeccably produced and performed Smooth Jazz sax album! It sounds like someone who’s been around a long time, is totally comfortable with the music, and has surrounded himself with some of the best in the biz like Jeff Lorber, as well as Christ Botti, A. Ray Fuller and Paul Brown.” — Scott O-Brien, Smooth Jazz.com
“The dude has skills. They’re well displayed on Sophistication and with this release, Nichols is making a serious bid for wider audience appreciation. He deserves it too.” — Jeff Winbush, Jazz Review.com
“One of the hottest rising stars in Smooth Jazz….Grady’s got the goods! Grady Nichols is fast becoming a name to watch” — Mark Sanford, KOAI Dallas
For more info on Grady, please visit his Website at http://www.gradynichols.com/
LOCAL MUSICAL PERFORMERS & ACCOMPANISTS – Nov. 16th Concert (alphabetical order)
Michael Allard (Bassoon). Michael is a 2012 graduate of SSHS. This Fall he begins his sophomore year at DePaul University near downtown Chicago, working toward a degree in Music Performance in Bassoon. For the last three-years in high school he was the principal bassoonist for the Ozark Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and performed two-years at the CICA International Summer Music Festival in Eureka Springs. Enamored with the masters like Beethoven and Stravinsky, he is pursuing a career as a professional bassoonist.
After writing an essay to convince his seventh grade band director to let him play bassoon, he excitedly began his journey with this bass woodwind instrument. Michael has practiced hard and long to become the best all-around. As a junior in H.S., he placed 2nd chair, 1st band in the state competition; and as a senior, Michael placed 1st chair, 1st band. In order to participate in the marching band, he taught himself to play the alto sax. This sparked his interest in jazz, providing him the opportunity to play both the sax and bassoon in local jazz bands.
Michael loves music and hopes through hard work and God’s grace, he can share his love of music with everyone around him. Michael has performed in four of the five concerts produced by the Siloam Music Festival Series, and has been the inspiration for the Series’ Productions. Here are a couple of links to his amazing Mozart Bassoon Concerto and Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto performances.
CCF Ensemble – Michelle Confer, Stephen, Sbanotto, Kate Dewey, Derek Dewey, Jeanette White, Rose Jackson Sparrow (Community Christian Fellowship Church)
Michelle Confer (Soprano Vocalist). Michelle grew up in Carthage, Missouri, into a singing family. She has many fond memories of singing hymns in harmony with her grandparents and sisters on long road trips to Tennessee. She remembers one of her favorite Christmas gifts of the past being a set of ‘real’ plug-in microphones for her three sisters to sing together. Michelle took a liking to singing as a young girl and began taking voice lessons. After several vocal contests and choir experiences, singing in several churches, touring with “Highest Praise” from Ozark Christian College, and attending the Fine Arts Academy at Springfield’s SMSU, Michelle left to attend Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana, to pursue a degree in music. She fell in love with the idea of using her creativity and musical talent to teach children the joy of music. After receiving her degree in Music Education she went on to obtain her certification in Orff-Schulwerk music education. Until recently, she was the Children & Family Ministry Director at CCF in Siloam Springs. Her husband, Chris, is director of Career Development at JBU.
Stephen Sbanotto (Tenor Vocalist). Stephen sang his first solo in a mock wedding at Little People’s School when he was four-years old. By age seven he had his first role in community theater. By high school he was singing with the choir, and toured seven countries in three-weeks with a youth ensemble after graduation. At JBU he joined the Cathedral Choir, and later sang with the Singing Men of Arkansas. When he traveled to Ireland with a JBU group, James Patterson heard him whistle, recognized this to be a great gift, and encouraged him to develop that instrument, which he did. He has been in demand ever since to whistle in all kinds of venues. After getting his Masters of Counseling degree from John Brown, Stephen opened up his own private practice as a licensed therapist. Currently he is on the Board for the Sager Creek Arts Center, is the Musical Theater Publicist at JBU, and is the Event Coordinating Corporate Development for 28-Springs Restaurant. In the local theater scene, Stephen’s repertoire goes back a long ways. Most recently he was Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie, the Wolf and Prince Charming in Into the Woods, and Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast.
Kate Dewey (Soprano Vocalist). Kate is the Women’s Chorus director at John Brown University. She just began her 8th-year at JBU where she also teaches Choral Conducting and Choral Techniques. She grew up in a large Presbyterian church in St. Louis where big musical productions were common. Kate started singing in the children’s choir at church and continued in choirs right up through high school. After coming to JBU and getting a Bachelors degree in Vocal Performance, she went to the University of Arkansas and earned her Masters degree in Choral Conducting before coming back to JBU to teach what she loves. She still greatly enjoys singing in choirs and ensembles whenever opportunities arise.
Derek Dewey (Tenor/Baritone Vocalist). Like his wife, Kate, Derek came to JBU and majored in music with an emphasis in voice. Before college he was primarily involved in instrumental music, playing the trumpet in his high school band. But in college, after finding out that voice was where he belonged musically, he joined the Cathedral Choir and became active in leading worship and chapel services. Derek also became involved in a men’s barbershop quartet at JBU which was in demand at ballgames and other public events. He still loves to pursue opportunities to blend in vocal harmonies whenever his schedule allows.
Jeanette White (Alto Vocalist). Jeanette has a Bachelor’s degree in Worship Ministries from John Brown University. Growing up in a musical family, she learned to sing and play the piano by ear as a young girl. In junior high, she was a part of her family band, performing in little jamborees. During high school she became more serious in classical music, even though she had no formal training. But when she became a Christian she immediately got involved in the music ministry at her church. Loving the exuberance, passion, and spirit of the members of the local black gospel churches, she started getting involved by playing the piano for their choir and worship services. By doing this, she got on-the-job training when they started a song and expected her to find the key, chords, and transpose on the spot. After 20-years, she developed amazing skills both vocally and on the keyboard. Recently Jeanette accepted the position of Praise Team Leader at Peace Lutheran Church in Rogers.
Rose Jackson Sparrow (Alto Vocalist). See bio below
Ben Chesney (Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar). Ben is a native of Siloam Springs, graduating from SSHS in 1961. He is a well-known local professional country music musician, songwriter, performer, and producer. He has opened for Jack Greene, Jeannie Seeley, and Cal Smith, to mention a few. Ben also has played the guitar in shows with greats such as Johnny Bond and Johnny Western. Besides the guitar, Ben also plays the pedal steel guitar, violin, piano, and bass.
Ben produces a country music variety show that includes other semi-professional artists, clog dancers and also promotes younger talent to give them some exposure. His show includes singing his original songs from his new CD and he also does impersonations such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Elvis, which always brings the house down. Ben played his pedal steel guitar with area high schoolers and band teachers in the Top Teenagers Talent concert last April. To find out more about his latest CD with 10-original traditional country songs that he has composed over the years, visit http://benchesney.com/
Chesco River Band. Travis King (Guitar). Travis grew up in NE Arkansas in a musical family where he would have jam sessions with his Dad. He started off on the drums, and later learned how to play the bass and then the guitar. As an adult, he has played in several bands and shows, including the Sugar Creek County Show and various shows in Eureka Springs. For several years he played in the band, Runnin on Empty, who has backed up stars like Hank Thompson and Jeannie Kendall and opened for other greats like Merle Haggard. Travis has been playing with Ben and the Chesco River Band for over ten-years. Terry Grow (Drums). Terry is originally from St. Louis and taught himself to play the drums at age nine. Later he would travel with different bands for over fifteen-years, including Desert Fury and Southern Drive. Like Travis, Terry has been with Ben and the Chesco River Band for over ten-years. When asked what he liked about music, he replied that one just has to like doing what you’re doing. Ed Seward (Bass). Ed grew up in Alaska. When he was fifteen, his Dad brought home a Kay acoustic guitar and hung it on the wall, and said, “There you are, son.” He picked it up and started to learn on his own. Later he got a Beatles book, learned it, and joined a R & R band. After moving to LA, he started playing bass in a 3-piece country band that made the LA circuit. Ed later found himself in Nashville playing Sunday jams, but ended up moving to Arkansas where the pay was better. He’s been playing with Ben and the Chesco River Band for over ten-years.
Community Ensemble. This 12-member community ensemble has been specifically put together for this concert to perform a famous JBU Sound Generation song from the early 1970′s. It consists of the CCF Ensemble plus Kim Hayes (see bio below), Debbie Mays, Reece Watson, Ron Jeffries, Nathan Davis, and Skip Hernandez (see bio below).
Debbie Mays (Soprano Vocalist). Debbie and her husband, Randy, are part of the Arkansas Arts Council and perform music for kids and families that set the imagination soaring, warm the heart, get the feet tapping and the smiles dancing. The name of their act is The Kiddos, and their performances often use storytelling, puppets, and a mixture of old and new favorites. Debbie grew up in West Helena where she was very active in community theater and madrigals and also sang in her high school choir. After her junior year, she was elected to participate in the Arkansas Governor’s School for the Gifted and Talented in Conway. Currently she a pre-school teacher in Siloam.
Reece Watson (Tenor/Baritone Vocalist). Reece is the Pastor of Music and Worship at the First Baptist Church. He is a Church Music graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University. Reece sang his first solo in church at age three where his Dad was the pastor. Growing up as a PK, he continued to sing solos at church, nursing homes, school choirs, participate in drama and musicals, and even got to participate in a school choir in Madrid, Spain, when his Dad spent some time as a missionary in that country. In his junior year, he was an Oklahoma All-State vocalist before his Dad moved to a different pastoral district for his senior year. Reece is a member of the Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma.
Ron Jeffries (Tenor Vocalist). Ron sings and plays the guitar and percussion for Reminisce, a local talented musical trio that bring back fond melodic memories of yesteryear from the 50’s to 80’s. This group performed a I’ll Be Home for Christmas medley in the Christmas concert last year produced by the Siloam Music Festival. Reminisce plays for groups, parties, weddings, and special occasions. Ron is the custodial director at the First Baptist Church as well as a part of their worship team.
Nathan Davis (Bass Vocalist). Nathan is a 2007 graduate of Siloam Springs High School where he was a member of the SSHS Marching Band, playing trombone. He started singing in his church choir at age thirteen where he continues to be actively involved. Growing up in a musical family, his mother sings and plays the piano, his sister plays the clarinet and percussion instruments, and his dad plays the violin. Along with Skip Hernandez, Nathan sings bass in the Singing Men of Arkansas.
Gabe Edmondson (Vocalist, Guitar). Gabe grew up in a musical family, with his Dad and Uncle playing in gigs all over this area. Gabe just had to learn to play the guitar as well, being strongly motivated on his own. He gets great contentment and fulfillment playing a variety of songs, including original ones that he has composed. At age 16, along with about one-thousand other 15-18 year-olds from around the U.S., Gabe competed in the National Foundation for Advancement in Arts in Miami Florida. He placed 2nd in the Contemporary Popular Voice category. Since then he has performed in all kinds of music festivals and other venues around NW Arkansas, and continues to pursue his musical interests in a variety of ways. Gabe recently performed in the Home Concert production of the Siloam Music Festival Series.
Kim Hayes (Vocalist). Kim has a B.A. degree in Music with an emphasis in voice from John Brown University. She grew up in a musical family with her father playing guitar and mandolin, and other family members playing banjos, fiddles, and bass. As such, she loves to play and sing bluegrass. Hopefully we’ll hear some of that from her in one of our future concerts. She has also played the piano since the 3rd grade. Kim placed 1st place in National Association of Teachers Singing (NATS) competition in 1989, and came back and placed 1st place in the NATS regional adult competition in 2007. She was the lead singer in the opera, Senza Mamma (Sour Angelica), by Puccini in 1991, is currently a member of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas Choral (SONA), and recently had a part in The King and I that was playing in the Rogers Little Theater. She performed a breathtaking rendition of “O Holy Night” in the December Christmas Concert and “Shepherd on the Rock” Home Concert produced by the Siloam Music Festival Series.
Skip Hernandez (Vocalist). Skip is a 5th-grade science and math teacher at the new Intermediate School in Siloam Springs. He grew up singing at his church and sang in the high school choir. While attending John Brown University he sang in the JBU Choir and traveled with the Harmonaires. Skip has sang in the Choral of the Ozarks as well as several other choir groups around the area. He is a charter and current member of the Singing Men of Arkansas. Skip is in demand around the area for singing in weddings, funerals, veterans’s events, and more. He recently performed in SMF’s Home Concert. Here’s the link to one of the songs that he performed — I Asked the Lord.
Cathy Benn-Perkins (Poetry Composer). Cathy grew up in New Orleans as an only child to James and Florence Benn. In the 7th-grade English class, she was given an assignment to write a poem for her final grade at the end of the year. It was then that she fell in love with poetry. Since then Cathy has written over 200 poems, many on the spot after witnessing live events. She lost many of her poetry compositions during Katrina, but has been blessed with many new ones since then. This past March she entered a poetry contest and was a finalist. She attends the Word of Life Ministries Church where she recites a newly composed poem every week. Cathy is the mother of four with seven grandchildren, and is married to Stephen Wayne Perkins who has been a big inspiration for many of her compositions.
Keith Rutledge (Trumpet). Keith grew up in Arkadelphia. When his brother six-years older died suddenly in an accident, it was just expected that he would pick up his brother’s trumpet and continue to play. The school had a well-respected band director who was a great role model to the band kids. Keith’s other brother, three-years older, also played in the band and was a percussionist until he started playing football in high school. Keith made All-State in band both his junior and senior year, graduating in 1973. He then continued his schooling toward becoming a band director at Ouachita Baptist University, and received his Bachelor of Music Education degree a few years later.
Mr. Rutledge has been the Band Director for the Siloam Springs High School since July of 1987. He has seen the H.S. band grow from seventy-five to over two-hundred, and become one of the most awarded bands in the two-state region. In the past several years he has taken our band to the Rose Parade in Pasadena (2012), McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago (2010), Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington D.C. (2009), Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida (2008, 1998), and the Hollywood Christmas Parade in Hollywood, California (2005). In 2001 he took the band on a tour to Luxembourg, Germany, and Switzerland. Mr. Rutledge has written and arranged many popular band compositions, is an active member of the Ozark Mountain British Brass Band, and is on the Board of the Drums Corps International.
Rose Jackson Sparrow (Vocalist). Rose grew up in and around the New Orleans area. Her first main interest in music began when she became a member of the Mt. Herman Youth Choir. She continued to sing in school and community choirs and was part of a specialized four-person Praise Team that lead out in weekly worship in several mega-churches in the New Orleans area. Later she joined a small professional gospel group called Joyful!, now a part of the Jamalar Agency. Rose sang with this group and traveled around Europe off and on for about five-years. That’s when she started having a family which brought her back to Louisiana, where she continued to sing in church and community choirs. A few years ago the Lord brought Rose and her family to Siloam Springs, and she currently is a Resource Specialist for the Arkansas WorkForce Services. She is a member of the Community Christian Fellowship Praise Team and Choir, and has three children – Robert, Roger, and Erika. She continues to seek God’s leading and desires to honor Him by singing praises from her heart and from her own experiences in life. Rose has performed in four of the five SMF concerts. Here’s two of her most recent performances: Open My Heart and a duet with Kim Hayes, His Eye Is On the Sparrow.
St. James Gospel Adult Choir – Fayetteville. The Gospel Mass Choir from the St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville are under the direction of Pastor Stephen Ivey. Their Mission for Music is to provide an environment for active spirit guided response to God’s greatness through Praise and Worship. They seek to invoke holistic and authentic sensitivity to the guiding of the Holy Spirit through music and arts. Ministries include: Mass Choir, Youth Choir, Men’s Choir, Young Adult Choir, Liturgical/Praise Teams, MIME/Step Team, Theater and Musicians. The Vision of the Church is to be doers of the Word by demonstrating God’s love to the church body, and their love for God through evangelism, discipleship, worship, fellowship and service. The Mission of the Church is to Exalt Jesus Christ, to Emancipate Sinners, to Encourage the Saints, and to Elevate Society.
Klaudia Staples (Vocalist). Klaudia is originally from Michigan and grew up in a musical family with her Mom and Aunt singing around the piano. In school at the Academy, she started off in choir, but changed to tumbling which she enjoyed more. As an adult she sang in a mixed quartet for fun, and sometimes performed special music in church at informal events. Recently she has been a leader of one of the Worship Teams at her church. Klaudia is a certified sign language interpreter, and works for a ZVRS center in Bentonville, a Video Relay Service for the deaf with centers throughout the U.S.
Eugene Whitmore (Tuba) and brother, Ernest, grew up in the musical Whitmore family in Siloam Springs, starting out with piano lessons but adding brass instruments, thanks to Mr. Bill Bergen’s 6th grade Beginning Band. Eugene played Euphonium through high school and into college, but switched to Tuba in recent years. He plays regularly with many professional band groups around NW Arkansas, including the Ozark Mountain British Brass Band.
Ernest Whitmore (Trumpet). Like brother, Eugene, Ernest received early instruction in piano, music theory, and church music from his parents, Paul and Viola. He attended college at John Brown University where he studied music (trumpet) and mathematics. Ernest subsequently concentrated on organ study, first with Dr. Jan Helmut Wubbena and later at North Texas State University, where he earned the master’s degree in Organ Performance. Currently he is the organist at First United Methodist Church, Siloam Springs, and at Peace Lutheran in Rogers, as well as the Dean of the NW Arkansas Chapter of American Guild of Organist. In addition, Ernest is a member of the Singing Men of Arkansas.
Paul Phillips (Horn) moved from McAllen, Texas, to Siloam Springs in the late ’70s. He played with the JBU Concert Band, and also landed a job at Whitmores Music Center. Within a couple of years he married Paula Whitmore, the owner’s daughter, and they bought the business when Paul Whitmore retired.
Marilyn Jackson (Euphonium), originally from Weatherford, Oklahoma, ended up in Siloam Springs in time to graduate from SSHS – and to meet her future husband, Dwight, with whom she operated Jackson Electric for the past 30-plus years. She played Euphonium in the school band, but after graduation continued to play quintets with the Whitmore/Phillips clan plus Joe Walenciak. She still plays often with the worship band at Fellowship Bible of Siloam Springs.
Loree Todd (Trumpet) is from Springdale and attended the U of A where she double majored in music education and accounting. She currently works as a Finance Manager at Wal-Mart. She was drawn into the Whitmore Brass Quintet through her association with Eugene in the Ozark Mountain British Brass Band, where she is the Eb Cornet soloist. Little did she know how often she’d be called upon to play with the Whitmores, including numerous JBU Candlelight Services, family weddings, and Christmas parades. Loree also performs with the Arkansas Winds, NWACC Brass Connection, and has performed solo work at JBU and various area churches.
Young Ladies Quartet – Jordan Hunt, Aleah Eldridge, Hallye Swysgood, plus one more to come.
Jordan Hunt (Soprano Vocalist). Jordan will be a senior at Siloam Springs High School where she is involved with the Panther Singers, drama, Student Council and the Odyssey of the Mind program. She has taken private voice and piano lessons for several years and has had roles in Fiddler on the Roof, Little Shop of Horrors, High School Musical, Through the Looking Glass, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. As a sophomore, Jordan was selected by her peers in Panther Singers as the Female Vocalist of the Year. She also received the drama and honors public speaking awards last year bestowed by her teachers. Jordan enjoys singing at church and other events and plans to continue taking advantage of musical opportunities. She has performed in four of the five concerts produced by the Siloam Music Festival Series. Along with Becky Rollene, she sang a duet, For Good, in the 2nd Siloam Music Festival and another duet, The Prayer, with Conner Bedor in the recent Home Concert.
Aleah Eldridge (Alto Vocalist). Aleah is a junior Worship Arts major at John Brown University. She is from Longview, Texas, and went to Harmony High School where she was All-Region in the choir for four-years, and participated in the Texas State Solo-Ensemble contest. She is co-leader of the alto section in the JBU Cathedral Choir, and is also a leader of one of the Chapel Bands. Aleah and Hallye Swysgood placed third-place in the JBU Talent Showcase last year during Homecoming.
Mary Pierce (Soprano Vocalist). Mary is from Lees Summit, Missouri, and is in her freshman year at JBU majoring in Child and Family Studies. She grew up singing in her church and at school, and was a member of the Chamber and Concert Choirs in high school. For a couple of years she took piano lessons. Mary is in the Cathedral Choir at JBU, and is also a member of the Music Service Organization. After she graduates, she plans on going into mission work to help families in crisis worldwide.
Hallye Swysgood (Alto Vocalist). Hallye graduated from Siloam Springs High School in 2011 and was elected the Female Vocalist of the Year by her peers in the Panther Singers’ choir. She was All-Region and All-State in both her junior and senior years. Along with Aleah, she is co-leader of the alto section in the JBU Cathedral Choir. Together they placed third place in the JBU Talent Showcase during Homecoming last October. This year she participates as a member in one of the Chapel Bands. Hallye is a junior and is majoring in Business Administration and Accounting.
Al Baker (Violin). Al took violin lessons from the age of seven until he was seventeen. He started playing the violin in concerts at the age of eleven in Passaic, New Jersey, once under the direction of the late great violinist Isaac Stern (see photo to the right). At that Young People’s Concert in 1950, eleven-year old Al broke a string on his violin during the performance, and Issac Stern came on stage and fixed it for him so he could finish his song, and gave him one of his own violins afterwards. Thirty years later, inspired by a concert with Issac Sterns, Itzhak Perlman, and Pinchas Zuckerman at the Lincoln Center, Al once again picked up the violin and started playing as a member of the New Sussex Symphony of Northern New Jersey for the next 20 years. Later, after moving to Arkansas, he has participated in the Northwest Arkansas Civic Symphony.
Ruth Connelly (Cello). A graduate of Michigan State University, Ruth is a former English teacher who divides her time between playing the cello in the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra and small ensembles, writing young adult novels, and attempting to create fiber arts. A recent transplant from Houston, Texas, she lives with her husband and two unfriendly cats in Bella Vista.
Benjamin Davis (Violin, Viola). Benjamin is originally from Riverton, Kansas. He is a graduate of Pittsburg State University with Bachelor of Science degrees in both Mathematics & Physics with a minor in Music. He is currently a PhD Candidate in Space & Planetary Sciences at the University of Arkansas and performs with the University Symphony Orchestra and the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra. Ben particularly enjoys playing chamber music, specifically that of Mozart.
Corey Divine (Trumpet). Corey is a local freelance performing artist and a student at the University of Arkansas. He will graduate in December 2014 with dual degrees – Bachelor of Music in Music Education and Bachelor of Music in Trumpet Performance. He has performed in the University of Arkansas Wind Symphony, University of Arkansas Wind Ensemble, University of Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Razorback Marching Band, where he holds the title of head section leader, and the University of Arkansas Jazz Ensemble, where he has been a featured soloist. Corey is currently second trumpet in the Fayetteville Jazz Collective, and has performed with the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, Full House Band, NETA Band, Ozark Mountains British Brass Band, Carroll County Community Orchestra, Arkansas Winds, several pit orchestras including the recent Walton Arts Center production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes”, and many area praise and worship bands. His playing can also be heard on the musical score of the independent film “The Orderly” by Daniel Campbell.
Robert Docker (Cello). Dr. Docker is a visiting assistant professor of string music education at the University of Arkansas. He has previously taught at Penn State University while on a University Fellowship, and at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He has over a decade of orchestral teaching experience at the elementary and secondary school levels. He taught public school in Guilford County, North Carolina, and in Hanover County, Virginia, as well as teaching for two years at the Grier School, a private international girls’ boarding school in Tyrone, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Docker holds a Ph.D. in Music Education with cognates in sociology and string pedagogy from Penn State University as well as Masters and Bachelors of Music Education degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He has presented research at national and international music education conferences. His dissertation was on the topic of Music Teacher Job Satisfaction in High Poverty Urban Schools.
John McCullough (Trombone). John was one of the original members of the Sound Generation – the most well-known of all the music groups in the history of JBU, appearing on many TV shows and traveling the country. He has been a member of the John Brown University faculty since 1974 where he teaches in the College of Business. He and his wife, Judy, have had many students live in their home and have participated in numerous mission trips. They have three children and one grandchild.
Russell Morgan (Tenor and Baritone Sax). Russell was raised in a small rural community south of Fort Smith. His family always seemed to be a part of some musical group. In elementary school he was a part of the Little Gospel Singers group that were part of many local “sing-ins.” It was in the fifth-grade that he started playing the trombone before convincing his parents to rent a saxophone, which became his passion and source of great enjoyment. Russell won several awards and achievements throughout his high school years, and was offered a music scholarship in college. Instead he married his high school sweetheart and began work, which was the right choice for him, and is wonderfully and happily married today to the same beautiful woman thirty-years later. Ten-years ago he began playing his Sax again and started singing in some area churches. He loves being able to share his gift of music with others, with the desire to honor and glorify God in all that he does.
Sharon Norberg (Piano). Sharon is the organist for the First Presbyterian Church in Siloam Springs, and is an adjunct professor in the education department at John Brown University. After graduating from JBU with a degree in Music Education with an emphasis in piano, Sharon began a career teaching music in the K-12 school system that spanned 37-years before retiring. While a student at JBU, she played for the Cathedral Choir, traveled with the Harmonaires, and later became the pianist for the Choral of the Ozarks. She has taught many of the students who have performed in the past Siloam Music Festival concerts, including some of their parents. She recently accompanied Skip Hernandez and Mary Patterson in the Home Concert produced by the Siloam Music Festival.
Mary Patterson (Violin). Mary has been playing the violin for 16 years. She studied music education at the University of Arkansas where she was the concert mistress for the Symphony Orchestra. Mary has Suzuki training and has been teaching private violin lessons for six years. She has co-conducted the U of A youth orchestra, and taught after-school and community violin groups in Fayetteville, Tahlequah, and Siloam. Mary has a 2-year old son and a 3-month old daughter who keep her busy! She loves helping them discover music. She serves in the Primary for children at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Her husband, Nathan, is the owner of Upward Bound Gymnastics in Siloam Springs. She graciously accompanied some students in the “Top Talented Teenagers” concert in April of this year. She also graced everyone when she played Salut D’Amour in the August 25th SMF Home Concert.
S. Michael Shuman (Piano). Michael holds the Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from the University of Nebraska and the Bachelor of Music in Piano and Voice from Delta State University. He is currently instructor of Diction for Singers and Survey of Vocal Literaturea at the University of Arkansas and serves as their Director of Opera Workshop. He also serves as the Director of Music Ministries at First United Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville.
Michael has served the NW Arkansas region as a collaborative musician since 2006. He has been heard at the piano in various concerts and recitals given at the University of Arkansas, John Brown University, area churches and schools, and local theater productions. As a singer, he has performed locally in concerts given by the UA Master Chorale, theater productions by the Village Players, and local churches. Michael accompanied Rebecca and Donna Rollene in the 2012 “End of Summer” concert produced by the Siloam Music Festival Series. To view that performance, click here. Last December he played in the SMF Christmas concert, which can be viewed here.
Pat Skaggs (Trombone). Pat grew up in Ft. Smith before moving to Siloam Springs in Junior High. In High School he graduated with music honors and was the first person to perform as a student conductor during concert season. He went to John Brown University on a music scholarship hoping to play in the music group called the Sound Generation before they disbanded. He went on to get his Masters Degree in Counseling and has spent the last four years pursuing his PhD in Neural Physiology. Pat retired as the Police Chief at Lincoln AR. before going joining on with his current employment in Pharmaceutical sales. For the past several years, Pat has been playing in the Ozark Mountain British Brass Band, Ozark Festival Orchestra, and the Aurora Baptist Praise band.
Dakoda Tanksley (Guitar). Dakoda is 21-years old and has played the guitar since he was 15. By age 18 he started studying jazz, although he is influenced by many styles of music. His roots lie in the blues, but as he has matured on his instrument, he has incorporated elements of funk, jazz, fusion, and folk into his playing. Dakota’s goal in life is to be able to maintain a healthy living by being a performer and teacher. Music is his safe haven, and he truly cannot imagine life without it.
Todd Varnadoe (Guitar). Todd is a graduate of JBU and now works as a Treasury Management Advisor for Arvest Bank in Siloam. He grew up loving music and was playing the guitar by age five. Later he played and sang in his church’s Worship Youth Band. This same band won the Lift Student Ministries competition and were selected to be the Worship Band at a summer camp. Coming from Florida he attended the Baptist Bible College in Springfield, majoring in piano and voice until he switched over to the Youth Pastor Program. Todd has lived in NW Arkansas since 2006 and regularly leads out in one of the Worship Teams at Fellowship Bible in Lowell as well as the Mosaic/Fellowship Bible Church in Siloam Springs. He has been married to Adrienne for five-years and has two boys.
Trevor Walker (Trumpet). Trevor is a senior at the University of Arkansas studying Biology, with a minor in Spanish. He plays trumpet and violin, and has been in the jazz band for seven-semesters as well as the marching band for the last three years. Last year he served as leader of his 52-member section. Trevor is currently applying to medicals schools across the Southern and Midwestern United States, which involves many interviews. He hopes to one day have a career as an ER doctor, most likely in the state of Texas, and will always play jazz in his spare time with his family and friends.
Wayne Warnack (String Bass). Wayne started playing the violin at the age of fourteen when he lived in Houston, and eventually became a recording studio violinist on the side while working full-time as a radio announcer. In 1980 a close friend gave him a string bass. He bought a bow and started attending rehearsals of the Clear Lake Symphony Orchestra, and shortly afterwards began playing regularly with them as well as the Pasadena (Texas) Philharmonic until he moved to Arkansas in 1984. Today Wayne plays string bass in both the Arkansas Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and the Ft. Smith Symphony Orchestra. He is a Laboratory Technician by trade, but is also an ordained minister. Wayne and his wife, Sandra, oversee the Greater Works Ministries in Rogers.
Jordan Wilhelm (Trombone). Jordan is a senior at the University of Arkansas studying music education and minoring in business. He plays trombone and euphonium and has played in the University Jazz Ensemble, Wind ensemble, Wind Symphony, Razorback Marching Band and Hogwild Band for the past 4 years. This past summer Jordan played in the Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma National Intercollegiate Band in Springfield Massachusetts. Last May he was one of 30 euphonium players to receive a call back to take a live audition with the United States Air Force Band.