Faculty

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The faculty of Carolina Music Academy are teachers who aren't just focused on making a name for themselves. Our music instructors are quality teachers who have a true passion for imparting their musical experience and knowledge to their students through music lessons.

Our Faculty

Alan Knight - guitar, mandolin, ukulele

Alan Knight

Alan Knight has a long and extensive career in music, performing, teaching, lecturing and recording. Growing up in New Orleans, LA and exposed to many different styles of music at an early age, Alan was performing in concert bands, marching in Mardi Gras parades and learning to play and perform on the guitar outside of his regular school activities. His first performance was for his elementary school graduation ceremony. Alan would later go on to play blues and jazz in nightclubs with notable local talents such as Percy Sledge, Jean Knight and Wynton and Branford Marsalis.

After receiving his B.A. in guitar performance from the University of New Orleans, Alan studied classical guitar with Christopher Berg at the University of South Carolina and received a M. M. in guitar performance. He met his duo partner, Jeffery Harris in school and formed the Harris/Knight Duo. Together, they toured the southeast and receive critical acclaim for their performances and the CD, Sound of Two. Alan has performed at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, on the Public Radio stations in New Orleans, LA and in Columbia, SC both as a soloist and with the duo.

Alan has maintained a thriving private studio at the Carolina Music Academy and teaches guitar and guitar ensemble at Columbia College. Many of his students have received degrees in music and placed in festival competitions. Alan has extensive recording experience both as a performer and as a home studio engineer. His summer guitar camps for students of all ages have resulted in many original and varied music recordings, as they learn creative songwriting and recording techniques.

Alan's twenty years of teaching experience is founded on the idea that the love of music is something that can be developed and nurtured in anyone. Everyone has the potential to participate in music and not simply listen to others. He understands that the time he has with students is an important opportunity to impart the gift of music-making and plant the seeds that, in turn, can be passed to future generations.

Austin Smith - guitar

Austin Smith

Austin is a Columbia native, preparing to graduate from the University of South Carolina with a degree in choral music education. Austin graduated from Dreher High School in 2011; Austin discovered classical guitar while a student at Dreher.

Austin says:
I enrolled in the Music University of South Carolina in the Fall of 2011, where I have pursued both my own musical growth and the principles behind successful music education. I plan to stay in Columbia, and want to lead others on teh path of musical development that I myself began while taking private lessons locally.

English Morris - organ

English Morris

Often I have felt I was born to play the organ. I actually have memories of seating myself, as a very young child, in front of a piece of furniture vaguely resembling a keyboard. My parents were church goers, and every Sunday after the final amen, I made a bee-line to the organ to watch the organist play the postlude. My grandfather gave me a small electric table-top organ for Christmas and I learned to pick out hymn melodies by ear and later, learned to harmonize those melodies with the three main chords in the key of C major. That was 55 years ago. After earning a degree in organ performance and serving as a church organist, professional accompanist and choral director for 44 years, I still love playing the organ. It is one of my greatest pleasures to teach others how to play.

Many of my students are sitting organists who want to expand their technique, increase the ability to use the full tonal resources and palette of colorful stops, or gain proficiency in expressing the music at the organ. Some are church pianists who find themselves on the organ bench when the church purchases one. At their "day jobs," my students run the gamut of professions and trades.

All my students seem to have one thing in common, namely, the desire to learn to play the organ correctly and to gain the confidence that comes from really knowing what one is doing. For this reason, I teach tried and true methods that are used throughout the world to train organists. Students who patiently practice and master the exercises and etudes gain a solid foundation and control of the hands and feet (yes, there is a keyboard that is played by both feet). They then are quite able to move through a sequence of organ literature from all periods and styles. From Amazing Grace to A Mighty Fortress and from a wedding processional to a Bach Prelude and Fugue, the months and years of practicing correctly instill an ability to truly express oneself in the art of organ playing, lead in worship, and reflect the majesty of God through The King of Instruments.

Jami Hawkins - piano

Jami Hawkins

Jami Hawkins has over 30 years' experience as a piano teacher. In the past she has held positions as organist, pianist, and choir director. She served at Ebenezer Lutheran Church as Associate for Communications and Learning Ministries, working with Ebenezer's children's choir and annual Music Camp. Jami brings a love of music and a love of children to her teaching. She holds a BA degree from the University of South Carolina, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society.

Of her teaching, Jami says:
My goal is to teach a love and enthusiasm for music in a nurturing studio environment. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is a love and appreciation of the arts. I have always been grateful to my own parents for providing me with piano lessons as a child. They gave me a legacy of love for music, which I have passed down to my own children, one of whom has recently graduated college with a Vocal Performance degree. Teaching piano helps me to bring that love of music to an even wider audience.

Robert Neese - piano, organ, theory

Robert Neese

Robert Neese studied Music Theory and Choral Conducting at the University of South Carolina, later going on to receive his Master's Degree in Church Music from New Orleans Theological Seminary. Robert is co-founder and conductor of the Arpad Darazs Singers, who celebrate their 25th anniversary this year. The singers have also been selected to perform at the Circular Congregational Church in Charleston as part of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival of Churches and Synagogues. In 2007, Robert performed in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. as part of South Carolina Day, and in the winter of 2013, he served as a judge for the vocal auditions of the Tri-District Arts Consortium.

Of his own love of music and teaching philosophy, Robert says:
Having studied music since the age of 9, I am a person who loves music, a person who has some understanding of music, and one possessed of the desire to share it with others. I have a keen interest in music theory. Having majored in theory at the University of South Carolina, I believe its teaching is an important part of any music lesson. The trick is to be persuasive and interesting enough with it that the student enjoys learning. It just seems to me that it's easier to learn a piece of music if one understands how it's built and how it works. As to philosophy, I believe learning music should be fun, and make every effort to see that lessons are pleasant and enjoyable.

In May, 2016, Robert conducted a small ensemble of former USC Concert Choir members in three short pieces at the birthplace of Arpad Darazs in Jaszbereny, Hungary.

For fifteen years, Robert has served Ashland United Methodist Church in Columbia. His present position is Organist and Director of Traditional Music.

Karen Shevenell - voice

Karen Shevenell

When asked about her background in music, CMA voice faculty member Karen Shevenell explained:

I am a native of Columbia, SC. I have been involved in choral groups, both at school and church, since kindergarten. My piano studies began in 2nd grade, and continued into College, with a total of 12 years of study. I've had a total of 9 years of private vocal study, beginning in my Junior year of High School.

Karen Fowler Shevenell received her Bachelor of Music degree from Columbia College, Columbia, SC, in 1983, with an emphasis in Church Music and Vocal Performance. Karen received her Masters in Church Music from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, in 1987, with an emphasis in Church Music and Vocal Pedagogy.
From High School through graduate school, Karen has had various roles in musicals, operettas, and Opera scenes: Pitti-Sing (The Mikado), Mrs. Molloy (Hello Dolly), Ruth (Pirates of Penzance), Fiordiligi (Cosi fon tutti), to name a few. Karen currently sings in 2 choral groups: The Sandlapper Singers, directed by Dr. Lillian Quackenbush and Cola Voce, directed by Dr. Larry Wyatt. She has had solo opportunities in both groups.

Of her teaching style and philosophy, Karen says:
I have taught both male and female students, ages 10 to adult. I begin each voice lesson with stretches, vocalizes to warm up the vocal cords, and breathing exercises that encourage proper support from the diaphragm. The vocalises, for the beginning student, also aid in determining the range of the voice. All of the above-mentioned assist the student to sing a variety of styles of music, while maintaining good vocal health.
Especially with children and youth, I guide them in the selection of music that is age-appropriate in subject matter, and is comfortable for their voice range.

Haley Kovach - violin

Haley Kovach

Haley Kovach first embarked on music lessons as a second grader because playing an instrument sounded fun, only to discover several years later that music had become important enough to dedicate her career to it. A graduate of Whitworth University with a degree in violin performance and a teacher with several years of experience, Haley is now located in Columbia, SC, studying violin pedagogy at the University of South Carolina while playing in the USC Graduate String Quartet and in several regional orchestras. While available to teach all ages and ability levels, Haley especially enjoys working with children and seeks to promote a love for music in her students, so that regardless of skill level, students will find enjoyment in playing and listening to music and will become people who love and support the arts.