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Faculty

The faculty are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

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Larissa Kwong Abazia
Preacher

Larissa is the founder of Courageous Spaces, inviting others to co-create spaces for disruption, transformation, and change. She has served at all levels of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Vice Moderator of the 221st General Assembly, the General Assembly Committee on Representation, as a Transitional Presbytery Leader in NJ, Transitional Head of Operations for More Light Presbyterians, and in several congregational contexts.

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Sarah Abushakra
Senior High Choir Accompanist

Sarah is a pianist, teacher, and choral director living in Myrtle Beach, SC. She is Lecturer of Music (piano) at Coastal Carolina University. In addition to her academic work, she enjoys teaching piano independently and serving as Director of Music/Organist at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Conway, SC. Mrs. Abushakra holds a BA degree in Music from Coastal Carolina University and a MM degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Georgia.

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David Bjorlin
Routley Lecturer

David is the Assistant Professor of Worship at North Park Theological Seminary and Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts at Resurrection Covenant Church in Chicago. He received his PhD in History and Hermeneutics (liturgical studies) from Boston University School of Theology, and his research interests include congregational song, liturgical language, and worship’s role in spiritual and ethical formation. His first collection of hymns, Protest of Praise, was published in 2020 by GIA.

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Mark Britt 
Instrumental Ensembles Director

Mark joined the music faculty at Furman University in 1995 and served as chair (2010‒2020). He leads Furman’s Study in Italy program and is principal trombonist of the Spartanburg Philharmonic, the Hendersonville Symphony, and performs with the Greenville Symphony. His music degrees are from Appalachian State University, Northwestern University, and Florida State University. 2023 marks his tenth term as the Instrumental Music Director for the Worship & Music Conference.

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William P. Brown
Adult Bible Study Leader

Bill is the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary. His numerous writings explore the intersecting issues of ecology, justice, faith, and science from various biblical perspectives. Much of his teaching is driven by the desire to promote mutual, life-giving dialogue among diverse participants. Bill loves teaching Sunday school, and playing the piano is a close second (if he can find the time to practice). 

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Mark Burrows
Children's Choir Clinician

Mark is a composer, conductor, and educator whose music is published by many major houses. Mark received his undergraduate degree in music education from Southern Methodist University and his graduate degree in conducting from Texas Christian University. Mark currently serves as Children’s Minister at First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, where he lives with his wife, Nina, and their daughters, Emma and Grace.

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Brian Childers
Handbell Co-Director

Brian is an accomplished composer, conductor, and clinician in demand as a clinician and conductor at music conferences, festivals, and workshops across the nation. He serves as Music Advisor for Handbell Musicians of America and is on staff at Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, NC. Learn more about Brian, Bellissimo Publications, Ringing Deeply, and his conducting schedule at BrianChilders.org.

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Jonathan Crutchfield
Adult Choir Accompanist

Jonathan has served Morningside Presbyterian Church in Atlanta as Organist/Choirmaster since 2016. He received master and doctoral degrees in choral conducting, and has served colleges, universities, and churches. His organ skills have taken him around the world, most notably to play at the Vatican in Rome. Jonathan accompanies choirs and singers at Georgia State University. He accompanies the Atlanta Women’s Chorus and Coro Vocati, a professional choir. He is a published composer.

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Elisa Dekaney
Senior High Choir Clinician

Elisa is the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence at Syracuse University, Professor of Music Education, and Associate Dean in the College of Visual Performing Arts. Originally from Brazil, she has studied conducting with Eph Ehly and Gary Hill (University of Missouri‒Kansas City) and with Andre Thomas, Judy Bowers, Clifford Madsen, and Rodney Eichenberger (Florida State University). She has conducted all-state choirs, honor choirs, and choral festivals in the United States and abroad.

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Josh Dekaney
Drumming Seminar Leader

Josh is on stage and in the studio as a freelance performer playing percussion and drums with a soulful, deft touch, striving for community in music. He is part-­time Instructor of Percussion at Syracuse University teaching drum set, improvisation, American music, and Samba Laranja: the SU Brazilian Ensemble. Dekaney has performed with Mary Fahl, Peter Cetera, the Syracuse Vineyard church, Mark Hayes, Kaïssa, Syracuse Stage, and Aretha Franklin.

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Aaron Doll
Photography/Film Seminar Leader

Aaron is a teaching elder currently serving in the Coastal Carolina Presbytery. He has pastored congregations in Wilmington, NC, and Rochester, NY. He also works part time as a chaplain at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington. He plays ukulele, rides his bicycle, hikes in the parks, and reads lots of books. In March 2022, he and his son circumnavigated the Montreat Valley via the West Ridge and East Ridge trails, sleeping in the lean-to on Greybeard.

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Rachel Whaley Doll
Youth Small Groups & Activities Leader

Rachel has served as the Pastor for Faith Formation at Winter Park Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, NC, for eight years. She is a biblical storyteller and musician who enjoys creating, learning, and wrestling with faith questions with youth of all ages. Her husband, Aaron, and two teenage children fill life with laughter and adventure!

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Sandra Eithun
Handbell Co-Director

Sandra is a graduate of Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, WI, with an emphasis in the Kodaly teaching method, keyboard, and flute. She is currently on the faculty at Holy Family Conservatory of Music in Manitowoc, WI, leading the handbell program there. She has over 600 pieces for handbells in publication as well as several sacred keyboard books and teaching collections for the incorporation of handbells in the music classroom. She resides in Appleton, WI.

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Jason Max Ferdinand
Adult Choir Clinician

Jason is founding artistic director of the Jason Max Ferdinand Singers and director of choral activities at the University of Maryland. As evidenced by noteworthy awards, he has distinguished himself on the national and international stage. He is a published author and composer with GIA/Walton publications, featuring Teaching with Heart and the Jason Max Ferdinand Choral Series.

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David Gambrell
Lectionary Seminar Leader

David is Associate for Worship in the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship, Co-Editor of the 2018 Book of Common Worship, and a representative to the Consultation on Common Texts, the ecumenical body responsible for the Revised Common Lectionary.

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Nathaniel Gumbs
Organ Recitalist

Nathaniel has performed at many venues in the United States and abroad. He is Director of Chapel Music at Yale University, where he coordinates music for three worshiping communities: the University Church in Battell Chapel, and at Yale Divinity School in both Marquand Chapel and Berkeley Divinity School.

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Victor Johnson
Davis Flohr Middler Choir Clinician

Victor, a native of Dallas, TX, is the School  Choral Editor  for Sing!, the educational publishing division of Choristers Guild. A prolific composer and arranger, he has over 350 choral works, vocal solo books, and keyboard collections currently in print. Victor is in demand as a guest conductor, adjudicator, and clinician for music educators and students throughout the United States. He has conducted All-State and Regional Honor choirs in the United States and Canada.

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Mark Kemp
Professional Development Seminar Leader

Mark is the Director of Worship Arts at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. He has served PAM as Board Member, Worship and Music Conference Director, and now as Board President. Mark and Kelly have two sons, Cooper and Levi.

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Phil Kent
Instrumental Ensembles Assistant Director

Phil is in his nineteenth year as the Orchestra  Director at Lafayette High School, the School for the Performing and Creative Arts in Lexington, KY. He is a graduate of Western Kentucky University with a Bachelor in Instrumental Music Education and a Master in Music Education from Vander Cook College. He has performed with various professional groups such as the Woodford Community Theater, Bluegrass Area Jazz Ambassadors, Yellow Dog New Orleans Jazz Band, and the MetroGnomes Big Band.

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Suzie Lane - GenOn Ministries
Children's Bible Leader

Suzie is the Program Director for GenOn Ministries, where she designs resources, oversees writers, and edits all resources. She has served as Christian Education Director for several churches in the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee. Suzie and her husband live in Old Hickory, TN, and are members of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Nashville.

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Tony McNeill
Service Musician

Tony, affectionately known as “Dr. T,” is a sought-after worship educator, choral musician, consultant, and pianist. Dr. McNeill is a graduate of the Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies, Florida State University and Appalachian State University. He is the Founder/Curator for The Call 2 Worship Group, an online community promoting worship education, employment, and networking among musicians, clergy, theologians, and liturgical artists.

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Elizabeth Myers
Conference Administrator

Elizabeth is a lifelong Montreater. She grew up going to conferences, including the Worship & Music Conference, clubs, and worked on summer staff during college. She graduated from Presbyterian College in 2017, where she sang in the choir and studied education. Following graduation she served as a Young Adult Volunteer in New Orleans before returning to Clinton, SC, where she is currently a third grade teacher. She is thrilled and honored to be a part of this year's Worship & Music faculty.

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Liz Perraud - GenOn Ministries
Children's Bible Leader

Liz serves as Executive Director of GenOn Ministries, an organization that partners with churches to nurture and deepen intergenerational Christ-centered community through training, resources, youth conferences, and support. Liz has more than thirty years of experience in the field of Christian faith formation and frequently speaks and leads training. In her spare time Liz enjoys volunteering in her church, hiking with her husband, and spending time with her granddaughters.

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Steve Prince
Artist-In-Residence

Steve is the Director of Engagement and Distinguished Artist in Residence at the Muscarelle Museum of Art at William and Mary University. Prince is a mixed media artist. He philosophically utilizes the New Orleans Jazz funerary tradition of the Dirge and Second Line to symbolically, metaphorically, and historically grapple with loss and recovery through a biblical lens while concurrently focusing on social justice issues.

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Kendra Buckwalter Smith
Liturgist

Kendra serves as Director of the Worship Program at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, where she facilitates a vibrant worship life, helps students develop worship leadership skills, and guides theological reflection. She also serves as Associate Pastor for Discipleship at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA. Kendra has written for Call to Worship, Presbyterians Today, Connections Worship Companion, and Hymns and Hymnody: Historical and Theological Introductions.

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John Tyson
Children/Middler Accompanist

John is the Director of Music Ministries at Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Southern Pines, NC, where he oversees the adult chancel choir, handbell choir, youth music, and children’s music programs. He is a graduate of East Carolina University where he majored in music education as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow. John studied and performed at music festivals in France and Italy prior to teaching in North Carolina. In his free time he competes in dressage on his thoroughbred horse Jack Reacher.

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Eric Wall
Service Musician

Eric serves as the Gene Alice Sherman Associate Professor of Sacred Music and Dean of the Chapel at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin, TX. There he helps oversee the seminary’s worship and music life and teaches classes in music and worship. He is also the Conference Center Musician at Montreat during the summers. His wife, Mary, is the Austin Seminary registrar; their son, Tristan, is a church youth director; their golden retriever, Ernie, loves to sing during online worship.

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James Wells
Children's Music Leader

James currently serves as the Director of Youth and Children’s Music at Brentwood United Methodist Church and the Artistic Director of the Nashville Children’s Choir at Belmont University. Now in his twenty-fifth year of ministry at BUMC, James has led choirs of every age in addition to Orff ensembles and drum circles. His first ten professional years were spent in the fifth/sixth grade vocal music classroom. James is excited to be back with the children of Montreat and to learn and be inspired.