About

I was born in the small west Tennessee town of Paris and exposed to music from the very beginning owing to the fact that my mother, Peggy, is a church musician, choir director, and singer. She retired in 2011 from the music ministry at First Baptist after over 40 years of service.


My father, Jimmy, is Production Superintendent at the Paris Post-Intelligencer and an avid gardener. He writes a weekly column called The Garden Path.


I first began formal piano lessons with Larue Lowe, then later with Rae Shankle, who had been a student of Allison Nelson. Dr. Nelson is Professor Emeritus at the University of Tennessee at Martin and later when I was attending Henry County High School I studied piano with her also. Until her husband Harry’s untimely death, she had been part of the world renown two piano team Nelson & Neal, which was based in Paris. Mr. Neal had grown up in Paris and they met at the Curtis Institute of Music while they were students. Dr. Nelson is originally from Australia.

I was fascinated by the thick, sonorous orchestral sound of the 1923 Austin organ (replaced by a Schantz) at First Baptist so I began self-study of the organ in junior high school due to a lack of organ teachers in the area.


For a short while I took organ lessons with Maxine Clark, whose husband, Larrie, was on the voice faculty at Murray State University. I later studied with Ondra Farmer, and when she moved to Jackson, Tennessee, I succeeded her as Organist at First Christian Church at age 15.


Following high school, I attended Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and while I was there, I was pianist at First Baptist Church. After that, I attended Memphis State University in Memphis, Tennessee, where I studied organ with Carl Gilmer. Later I received my Bachelor of Music in Organ Performance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where I studied organ with David Mulbury and Roberta Gary. In Cincinnati I was a chorister and sub-organist at Calvary Episcopal under the direction of Kelly Hale, and I was confirmed there into the Episcopal Church in 1982.

Subsequently, I relocated to New York City and took up study for my Master of Music degree at The Juilliard School studying organ and improvisation with Gerre Hancock. Following this, I continued study at the Manhattan School of Music for the Doctor of Musical Arts in organ where I studied performance with John Walker and improvisation with McNeil Robinson.


I have a keen interest in improvisation, and I was a finalist in the St. Albans International Improvisation Competition in 1987, and a semi-finalist in the 1998 National Improvisation Competition of the American Guild of Organists. I have made recordings with the Boys Choir of Harlem, the U.S. Air Force, Pro Organo records and Sony/EMI. I served as Parish Musician at Christ-St. John Lutheran Church in West New York, New Jersey and Associate Organist at The Riverside Church, and I was Director of Music at Progressive Temple Beth Ahavath Sholom in Brooklyn for 18 years.


At present, I am Director of Music and Organist at The Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, Organist/Pianist/Music Director at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, Manhattan, and accompanist to the New York City Community Chorus at Holy Apostles in Manhattan.