BirminghamAGO POE 2013

BirminghamAGO POE 2013

POE Faculty

Joby BellJOBY BELL serves on the faculty of the Hayes School of Music, Appalachian State University, where he teaches organ and church music studies. His teaching specializes in memorization and practice techniques, service playing, choral accompanying, and maintaining grace under pressure. He holds degrees from Appalachian State University and Rice University. His acclaimed blog at deals with a comprehensive range of issues facing organists, including teaching philosophies, recital preparation, and church music subjects.

Herbert BuffingtonHERBERT BUFFINGTON is Organist and Associate Choirmaster at Peachtree Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Atlanta, Georgia – a position he has held for fifteen years.  Nationally recognized for his refined skill as an improvisateur, he won second prize in the 2010 American Guild of Organists (AGO) National Competition in Organ Improvisation in Washington, D.C. His organ improvisations have been featured on Minnesota Public Radio’s “Performance Today” and on American Public Media’s “Pipedreams.”

Mr. Buffington received degrees from Duke University and from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at The Johns Hopkins University.  European study was at the Vienna International Music Center and the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna, Austria.  His teachers have included Donald Sutherland, Fenner Douglass, Robert Parkins, Peter Planyavsky, William Weaver and Ronald Rice.  Organ improvisation study has been with Gerre Hancock, Bruce Neswick and David Dahl.

In addition to this Pipe Organ Encounter, Mr. Buffington will be performing widely throughout the Region in 2013. He invites you all to his performances. 

Jim CookJAMES COOK holds degrees in performance and in musicology from Birmingham-Southern College and The University of Texas. He joined the faculty of Birmingham-Southern in 1974 and holds a position as Professor Emeritus of Music, teaching organ performance. He has also been a member of the music staff of Birmingham's First United Methodist Church since 1974, now serving as Director of the Chancel Choir.

In addition to being an active member of Birmingham AGO, Dr. Cook is a member of the Organ Historical Society, and is on that organization’s National Council. He performed most recently at their National Convention in Northern Vermont and manages the OHS online Pipe Organ Database.

Laura EllisLAURA ELLIS is an Associate Professor of Music in the School of Music at the University of Florida. Dr. Ellis teaches undergraduate and graduate organ, harpsichord, and carillon. In addition to her duties as university organist, Ellis serves as curator for the Andrew Anderson Memorial Pipe Organ in the University Auditorium, the carillon in the Century Tower, and the historic keyboard instruments housed in the School of Music.

            A native of Minnesota, Ellis is a magna cum laude graduate of Luther College (Decorah, Iowa) and holds a Master of Music degree in church music and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in organ performance from the University of Kansas. Her major organ teachers have been William Kuhlman and James Higdon. While in residence at the University of Kansas, she studied carillon with Albert Gerken. 

Pat FitzsimmonsPATRICIA FITZSIMMONS is Organist at Birmingham’s Edgewood Presbyterian Church, and is retired from Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham, where she taught for 30 years. She earned degrees in piano from Florida State University and in organ from the University of Alabama, where she studied with Warren Hutton. She received her doctorate from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where she was a pupil of Russell Saunders.

Dr. Fitzsimmons has played recitals throughout the United States and has been recitalist and lecturer at Regional AGO conventions. 

Faythe FreeseFAYTHE FREESE, Professor of Organ at the University of Alabama School of Music, holds degrees in organ performance and church music from Indiana University.  She has held faculty positions at Indiana University, Concordia University in Austin, University of North Dakota-Williston, and Andrew College.  As a Fulbright scholar and an Indiana University/Kiel Ausstausch Programme participant, she studied the works of Jean Langlais with the composer in France, and the works of Max Reger with Heinz Wunderlich in Germany.  Her organ teachers have included Marilyn Keiser, Robert Rayfield, William Eifrig and Phillip Gehring.

With performances described as “powerful …masterful… impressive … brilliant,” Dr. Freese is in demand as a recitalist throughout the United States, Germany, Denmark, South Korea and Singapore.  She was a featured artist and lecturer at the 2010 American Guild of Organists National Convention in Washington, D.C. and will be a featured performer at the 2011 American Guild of Organists Region IV Convention in Greensboro, NC in June 2011. Dr. Freese recruits and teaches undergraduate and graduate organ students majoring in Organ Performance and Church Music at the UA School of Music. 

She has recorded several compact discs, and is the author of publications entitled Sunday Morning Organist: A Survivor’s Guide for the Pianist and Sonus Novus: Intonations and Harmonizations (Concordia Publishing House).   She is on the roster of Concert Artist Cooperative.

Marcia HeirmanMARCIA HEIRMAN began studying piano at age 4 and switched to organ study at age 12.  She studied throughout her middle school and high school years with Dr. Roberta Bitgood, former AGO National President and composer.  Her undergraduate organ study was with Dr. Albert Bolito at Albion College in Michigan.   After years of playing for churches in Battle Creek, MI, Atlanta, GA, Eugene, OR and in The Netherlands for five years, she returned to graduate organ study with Dr. Marilyn Mason and Dr. James Kibbie at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she completed a Masters of Church Music (2006) and Doctorate of Musical Arts in Liturgical, Church, and Synagogue Music (2008). She served for five years at First United Methodist Church, overseeing the installation of an antiphonal/new chapel organ for the church in 2009. 

Dr. Heirman is currently the Director of Music at First Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, NC, where she directs choirs, handbell choirs, and a church orchestra, in addition to teaching organ and voice privately. She is also a licensed Kindermusik instructor.  Her family includes three young adult children and a daughter in law, all of whom are blessed to be very accomplished and living out their careers in Brighton, England; Baltimore, Maryland, and Detroit, Michigan.  She cites requiring musical education for all of them as the reason for their success!

Dan lawhonDAN LAWHON is a Kentucky native.  He received a Bachelor of Music degree from Belmont University, studying organ with Helen Trotter Midkiff.   He received his Master of Church Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the School of Church Music at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where he studied organ with Boyd M. Jones, II and Donald P. Hustad.  He studied conducting with Jerry M. Warren and W. Irwin Ray, Jr. at Belmont and S. Milburn Price at SBTS.

Dr. Lawhon was Organist/Music Associate at First Baptist Church Huntsville for nine years before accepting the post of Organist and Choirmaster at Baptist Church of the Covenant in Birmingham in 2008.  Dr. Lawhon has served on the adjunct music faculties for SBTS, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Oakwood College, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and currently Samford University.  

He is the Musical Director for the Heritage Ringers of Huntsville, an auditioned handbell choir.  He is currently the Chair-Elect for the Area VI American Guild of English Handbell Ringers.  

Jeff McLellandJEFF McLELLAND is the Director of Music and Fine Arts at Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. His responsibilities include that of organist, the direction of all choral activities, and the administration of the nationally prestigious November Organ Recital Series and annual Religious Arts Festival. Prior to his appointment at Independent Presbyterian Church in 2000, McLelland worked for seventeen years in academia in Mississippi as organ professor at Mississippi College and William Carey University.  

A native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Dr. McLelland received degrees in organ performance from The University of Southern Mississippi, The Eastman School of Music, and The University of Alabama, where he studied with Paul Andersen, Russell Saunders, and Warren Hutton respectively.  McLelland performs frequently throughout the eastern United States for churches and AGO chapters and was a featured performer at the 1997 and 2001 Southeast Region Conventions of the AGO. The IPC Choir performed throughout Italy in the summer of 2007 and Prague, Bratislava and Vienna in 2011.   

Andrew RisingerANDREW RISINGER, a native of Texas, holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Organ Performance from Baylor University where he studied with Joyce Jones. He earned a double Master of Music degree in Organ Performance and Choral Conducting from The University of Alabama where he studied organ with J. Warren Hutton and conducting with Sandra Willetts.  Risinger currently serves as Organist and Associate Director of Music at West End United Methodist Church of Nashville, Tennessee.  Mr. Risinger also teaches on the adjunct music faculty of Belmont University.  In 2007 he was named Curator of the Organ for the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which houses the Martin Foundation concert organ built by Schoënstein & Co.  There Mr. Risinger regularly performs demonstration recitals and is primary organist for the symphony.   

As a concert artist he has performed throughout the United States including performances at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, and Trinity Church, Copley Square in Boston.  Mr. Risinger has also performed as a soloist with the Illinois Symphony as well as the Nashville Symphony.  His performances have been heard on National Public Radio broadcasts of Performance Today as well as on Pipedreams

Stephen SchaefferSTEPHEN G. SCHAEFFER became Director of Music and Organist Emeritus at the Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, Alabama in August 2012 after a tenure of 25 years in this position. From September 1997 until his retirement, he assumed the additional duties of Master of the Cathedral Church of the Advent Choir. Prior to his appointment at the Cathedral in 1987  he was a tenured member of the music faculty at Presbyterian College, Clinton, South Carolina, where he was also chairman of the Department of Fine Arts.

Dr. Schaeffer is a graduate of the St. Thomas Choir School in New York City. Following graduation from Davidson College he pursued work at the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati receiving the Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees.  He holds the First Prize in Organ from the Conservatoire National de Région in Lyon, France. Dr. Schaeffer’s teachers were John Mueller, Wilmer Welsh, Gerre Hancock, Roberta Gary, David Mulbury, Wayne Fisher, and Louis Robilliard. Dr. Schaeffer has concertized in England and France, throughout the Southeastern United States and at St. Thomas Church, New York City. He is frequently engaged for recitals, clinics, and organ consultations. In March 2012 he recorded his first solo compact disc on the 1988 100 rank Möller organ at the Cathedral, the organ which became his first “project” at the Cathedral. He has other compact discs with The Cathedral Church of the Advent Choir, all available at, or at He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Birmingham Chapter of the AGO and holds membership in the Association of Anglican Musicians, where he has served in many leadership capacities, and the Organ Historical Society.