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Department

Choir

Dr. Rick Piersall

Rick Piersall is the Department Chair for the Department of Music.  Rick is a co-founder of the South Dakota Vocal Arts Festival and has directed operas at Stephen F. Austin State University, Houston Baptist University, and the University of South Dakota. He has appeared in leading roles with the Utah Lyric Opera, Center for Contemporary Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Longleaf Opera, El Paso Opera, Opera at Lehigh, Opera Fort Collins, Opera Iowa, Opera North, Amarillo Opera and the Abilene Opera Association. Among his roles are Mozart’s Figaro, Reverend Olin Blitch in Susannah, the title character in The Boor by Argento, Don Fernando in Beethoven’s Fidelio, and Tony in the musical The Most Happy Fella.

Samuel Cook

Samuel Cook is ACU’s Artist in Residence and has performed operatic and solo vocal repertoire throughout the United States and Europe.  He attended the Johns Hopkins University Peabody Conservatory of Music and Indiana University and pursued advanced training with Carlo Bergonzi and Renata Tebaldi in Busseto, Italy. Among Cook’s operatic roles are the Duke (Rigoletto), Nemorino (L’Elisior d’Amore), Narciso (Il Turoc in Italia), Count Almaviva (Il Barbiere di Sivilia), Belmonte (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Alfredo (La traviata) and Don José (Carmen). Along with his operatic roles, Cook has performed internationally as a sensitive song and lieder recitalist whose programs encompass an intriguing and varied repertoire from Bach’s oratorios and passions to Liszt’s romantic Sonetti di Petrarca to a rich and heart rendering solo recital of Negro spirituals.

Jeff Goolsby Department of Music

Jeff Goolsby

Jeffery Goolsby is Director of Choral Studies at Abilene Christian University, where he conducts the A Cappella Chorus, University Chorale, and Chamber Singers. He teaches courses in choral conducting and choral methods and supervises the choral music education program. Prior to joining the ACU faculty, he taught for ten years in successful high school choral music programs in the Dallas and Houston areas. He is in demand as a clinician, consultant, and adjudicator throughout the state and has served in numerous regional and state capacities with TMEA, ACDA, and UIL. He holds the Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Abilene Christian University, where he was named a University Scholar; the Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from Louisiana State University; and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Conducting from Texas Tech University. Professional affiliations include TMEA, TCDA, ACDA, NCCO, TMAA, and Pi Kappa Lambda. 

 

The ACU wildcat mascot dancing

Brandon Houghtalen

Brandon Houghtalen is the Associate Director of Bands and an Assistant Professor of Music at Abilene Christian University, where he directs the Big Purple Marching Band, Basketball Band, conducting the Concert Band and supervises the instrumental music education program and studio horn. Additionally, he is the hornist of the Key City Winds woodwind quintet. He previously held conducting positions at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of New Mexico, and in the public schools of Fayette County, Georgia. Houghtalen earned degrees in music education and conducting from the University of Tennessee, University of Colorado, and Arizona State University, where his primary conducting teachers include Gary Hill and Allan McMurray. He is an active member of the Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, National Band Association, and the College Band Directors National Association. In 2015, Houghtalen was a featured clinician of the First National Band Camp of Guatemala and also joined the faculty of the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts. An active arranger, his editions of the music of W.C. Handy, James Reese Europe, and the 369th Infantry Regiment Band have been performed throughout the country.

Mike Rogers

Mike Rogers

Mike Rogers is Assistant Professor of music and serves as the music theory/ear training coordinator as well as the Director of Jazz Studies for the school of music. Rogers holds a PhD in music theory from the University of North Texas, a master’s degree in Music Education/Jazz Studies from the University of North Texas, and a bachelor’s degree in music education from Texas Christian University. Rogers has performed with the Dallas Jazz Orchestra, Pete Peterson and the Collection Jazz Orchestra, the Harvey Anderson Big Band among others. Before teaching music theory, Rogers was a Texas UIL Sweepstakes band director, having taught schools throughout central Texas. An active member of the Society for Music Theory and the Texas Society for Music Theory, he has presented papers at various regional music theory conferences across the United States. Dr. Rogers’s research interests include jazz tonality, jazz pedagogy, music theory pedagogy and ear training pedagogy. He serves as chief arranger, editor, and music director for the Acappella “Praise and Harmony” series.

 

Greg Straughn

Dr. Greg Straughn, PhD

Dr. Greg Straughn has taught music history and theory courses at Abilene Christian University since 2000. He holds a masters and doctorate in Musicology from the University of North Texas. In his professional career, he has performed as a cellist with the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra and the Denton and Dallas Bach Societies. His scholarly work has centered on nineteenth-century opera, specifically Wagner’s Parsifal and the ensemble structures in the works of Jules Massenet. Since 2009, he has held a variety of administrative roles at ACU, including Honors Dean, Associate Provost for General Education, Interim Provost, and, currently, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The ACU wildcat mascot dancing

Susan Teel

Susan Teel joined the Abilene Christian University music faculty in 1997 where she serves as instructor of music education, musicology, and strings.  She holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree with piano emphasis from Abilene Christian University and a Master of Music Education degree from The University of Georgia and joined the ACU faculty after teaching fourteen years in public and private elementary schools in Abilene. Mrs. Teel and her husband, Allen, have performed for thousands of area elementary students under the auspices of Young Audiences, Inc., a locally administered national organization that sponsors arts in the schools. Their duo, Strike Two, used a wide array of percussion instruments to teach students about musical styles from around the world. She also plays viola, violin, or piano in the ACU Orchestra as needed and is the accompanist for the Chorus Abilene Children’s Chorus.

Orchestra

Dr. Steven Ward

Dr. Steven Ward is Professor of Music and Director of Orchestra and Bands at Abilene Christian University, the Music Director/Conductor of the Civic Orchestra of Abilene, and teaches courses in conducting. Prior to his appointment at ACU, he was the Music Director/Conductor of the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra in Kalamazoo, MI, Director of Bands at Hope College in Holland, MI, and Music Director/Conductor of the Grande Ronde Symphony Orchestra in La Grande, OR where he also served as Instructor of Music at Eastern Oregon University. He has served as conductor for the orchestra and faculty ensembles at the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts in since 2006.

Dr. Allen Teel

Dr. Allen Teel joined the Abilene Christian University music faculty in 1985 and currently serves as professor of percussion and world music. An active performer, he serves as principal timpanist with the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra where he performed as co-soloist with Robert Van Sice on the world premiere of Martin Bresnick’s Grace: Concerto for Two Marimbas and Orchestra. He has performed and presented clinics at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC), the Texas Music Educators Association Convention, and the Texas Bandmasters Association Convention. Teel teaches applied percussion lessons for majors and non-majors, directs the ACU Percussion Ensemble and Steeldrum Band, teaches percussion methods courses, and works with percussionists in the marching band, wind ensemble, and concert band. He also teaches courses in world music and serves as the director of the instrumental division. Dr. Teel is a graduate of West Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, and the University of Georgia.

Adjunct Professors

Adjunct Professors

David Amlung

Trumpet

Photo of David Amlung, instrumental instructorDavid Amlung joined the music faculty at Abilene Christian University in 2015. He previously held faculty positions at Middle Tennessee State University and Indiana State University and was an Associate Instructor of Trumpet at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music for two years. Amlung is a dedicated teacher and has maintained extensive private studios in the Oklahoma City (OK), Cincinnati (OH), Bloomington (IN), and Nashville (TN) areas.

Amlung regularly performs with orchestras throughout the U.S. and has performed with the Oklahoma City and Columbus (IN) Philharmonic Orchestras, the Huntsville (AL), Richmond (IN), Danville (IL), Jackson (TN), Columbus (IN), Hamilton-Fairfield (OH) Symphony Orchestras, as well as the IU Festival Orchestra and Bloomington Camerata Orchestra. He has played under the baton of esteemed conductors David Robertson, Giancarlo Guerrero, Mario Venzago, Joel Levine, Otto-Werner Mueller, Gregory Vajda, David Hayes, Joseph Colaneri, Paul Nadler, and David Effron.

An active chamber musician and recitalist, Amlung has appeared in solo and chamber situations throughout the U.S. Performance venues have included Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall (New York City), Symphony Space (New York City), Civic Center Music Hall (Oklahoma City), Von Braun Center (Huntsville, AL) and also the Capital University Conservatory of Music, Texas Christian University, the University of Denver, Georgia State University, Austin Peay State University, the University of Memphis, Bard College, Murray State University, Belmont University, Wichita State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Indiana State University, Indiana University, Mannes College the New School for Music, and the University of Oklahoma.

He has competed numerous times in the National Trumpet Competition in both the Solo and Ensemble divisions. He was an Honorable Mention Finalist in the Undergraduate Division of the 2003 competition and was a member of the 2nd and 3rd place award winning University of Oklahoma Trumpet Ensemble at the 2003 and 2004 competitions, respectively. He was also a Semi-Finalist in the Solo Divisions in 2002, 2004, and 2007.

Jeff Cottrell

Low Brass

Photo of Jeff CottrellDr. Jeffrey Cottrell, adjunct professor of low brass, is an active performer, teacher and award-winning composer. At Hardin Simmons University, he serves as the associate dean of the School of Music, and teaches trombone, euphonium, and tuba, as well as composition, computer music, and the HSU Jazz Ensemble.

Dr. Cottrell performs on tuba with the Key City Brass Quintet and trombone with the “oldies” rock band Johnny D and the Doo-Wops. He also plays trombone for the local dance band Fanfare, lead trombone for the West Texas Jazz Orchestra, and trombone and euphonium with the San Angelo based combo Jazz Concho. He has performed with the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra, the Irving Symphony, the Dallas Wind Symphony, the Dallas Tuba Quartet, Cap Rock Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, Martha and the Vandellas, Dash Riprock and the Dragons, the Hi Roller Band, and numerous other ensembles on trombone, euphonium, and tuba. He has been featured as a soloist with several ensembles over the years such as the San Angelo Symphony, the Mansfield Wind Symphony, the Summit High School Jazz Band, and the Hardin-Simmons Concert Band. Dr. Cottrell can be heard on recordings with the North Texas Wind Symphony for the Klavier Wind Project and the GIA Teaching Music Through Performance in Band. He has also recorded with the blues artist Keith Taylor, and for other groups such as Brave Combo, Six Flags Over Texas, and The ET’s, He is greatly in demand as a teacher and clinician across Texas, and has placed many students in the Texas All-State Band and Orchestra in addition to the Dallas Youth Orchestra and the Ft. Worth Youth Orchestra.

Jeff’s first love is composing and arranging. He has numerous published works that have been performed around the world in various venues. His compositions include works for choir, orchestra, concert band, jazz band, brass quintet, trombone ensemble, and tuba-euphonium ensemble. In 2006 he was honored with The International Tuba-Euphonium Association’s Harvey Phillips Award for Composition Excellence for euphonium featured in jazz/rock/fusion, and in 2013 his tuba-euphonium composition Tuba Loca was recorded for the CD release of Spainphonic by the internationally known Spanish euphonium artist Juan Jose Munera. He was also honored as the Texas Music Teachers Association Commissioned Composer for 2015.

Neemias Santos

Cello

Photo of Neemias SantosOriginally from Brazil, Cellist Neemias Santosbegan musical studies at the age of 9. Before moving to Texas, Neemias attended Penn State University. He was a member of the graduate string quartet that toured Argentina, and principal cellist of the Baroque Ensemble. At Penn State he served as a teaching assistant, and received numerous scholarships, and received a Masters Degree. Neemias has won numerous orchestra auditions in Brazil, Portugal, and the US, and has toured as a soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe and South America.

An avid composer and conductor, his North Shore Suitefor string orchestra and soloists was premiered in March 2019, and other compositions have been performed extensively in Brazil, Europe, Switzerland, and the US.

Neemias is currently working towards completion of his Doctoral studies at Texas Tech, studying with cellist Jeffrey Lastrapes, and serving as recording engineer. He is a recipient of the coveted Helen Devitt Jones Graduate Fellowship, as well as other scholarships.

In Abilene, Neemias teaches at Abilene Christian University and with the Abilene Independent School District, and performs frequently with faculty and local musicians, including recitals at the universities and on the Chamber Music Series at the Church of the Heavenly Rest.

Susie Rockett

Oboe

Photo of Susie RockettOboist Susetta Dunn Rockett currently sits in the Janeen Holms Gilliam Chair (second oboe/English horn) with the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra. She is also the Concert Series Coordinator at the Church of the Heavenly Rest in Abilene, TX.

Ms. Rockett received her degrees in Music Education and Performance from Texas Tech University, and a Master’s in Oboe Performance with distinction from the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass., where she studied with Wayne Rapier. Ms. Rockett has also studied English horn with David Matthews and Steven Lickman.

She is a frequent recitalist, clinician, and maintains an active teaching schedule, but most of all loves performing chamber music with her incredibly gifted colleagues – Key City Winds. Ms. Rockett lives in Abilene with her husband and two daughters who love the oboe!

Janelle Ott

Bassoon

Photo of Janelle OttDr. Janelle Ott is adjunct professor of Bassoon at Abilene Christian University. In addition to her collegiate duties, Dr. Ott works directly with middle school and high school students in Abilene and Wiley. She also maintains a large private studio in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Recent orchestral engagements include the Abilene Philharmonic, Midland Odessa Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Summer Musicals at Bass Hall, Shreveport Symphony, and Texarkana Symphony. She is a member of Key City Winds, the Artists-In-Residence of the Heavenly Rest Chamber Concert Series.

Dr. Ott holds a dual bachelor’s degree in Music Performance and German from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Following her graduation from Luther College, Dr. Ott enrolled at Wichita State University, where she received her Master’s of Music and performed as the second bassoonist of the Wichita Symphony. She received a Performance Diploma from Indiana University in 2009 and earned a Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of North Texas. Her principal teachers are Kathleen Reynolds, William Ludwig, and Nicolasa Kuster. While at UNT, Ms. Ott performed as the winner of the UNT Concerto Competition as well as principal of the Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra. She can be heard on several GIA Wind Works recordings, including Encryptions, Revelations, and Genesis.

Kevin Smith

Double Bass

Photo of Kevin SmithKevin Smith currently serves as the Executive Director of the Abilene Philharmonic Association, and adjunct double bass instructor at Abilene Christian University. With a direct linage to the Guarneri violin makers, Mr. Smith has had a deep appreciation for orchestral music since a young age. He began his double bass studies at the age of ten and his early teachers included Cliff Wallach Greenberg, Serge Dor, and Gabriel Torres. Mr. Smith went on to earn his undergraduate degree from Florida State University where he studied with the distinguished Associate Professor of Double Bass, Melanie Punter. With a growing performance career, he has performed in numerous concerts with the Broward Symphony Orchestra, New River Orchestra, EChO (Electronic Chamber Orchestra), Rokafonik Philharmonik, and served as principal for the University Symphony Orchestra and FSU Opera at Florida State.

After graduating from Florida State University in 2013 with a Bachelors of Science in Business Management and Music, Mr. Smith worked as the Operations Director for the Palm Beach Symphony. During that time he created the organization’s first Education and Outreach programs that reached over 12,000 students annually, managed the organization’s $1.3 million annual budget, and was successfully awarded the organizations first six grants totaling over $100,000. Most recently, Mr. Smith served as the Interim General Manager for the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center. An accomplished Eagle Scout, Mr. Smith enjoys camping, hockey, and college football.

Erin Weber

Viola, String Quartet, Violin

Photo of Erin WeberErin E. Weberis Adjunct Professor of Violin and Viola at Abilene Christian University and recently finished a season with the Midland-Odessa Symphony & Chorale as Principal Second Violin and Second Violin of the Permian Basin String Quartet. She earned her Master of Music degree from Texas Tech University as a teaching assistant under Professor Annie Chalex Boyle and her Bachelor of Music degree from Southwestern University, where she studied with Dr. Eri Lee Lam. While at Texas Tech University, Erin performed outreach concerts in West Texas communities as a member of the Texas Tech University String Quartet and served the Texas Tech University String Project as a violin instructor and graphic designer.

In 2009 Erin won the concerto competition at Southwestern University and was the featured soloist with the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra as the Amarillo Symphony Guild’s Young Artist competition winner in 2008. Erin has frequently accompanied chorales such as the Lubbock Chorale and Amarillo Master Chorale, and has performed chamber music concerts with Chamber Music Amarillo and as a guest artist of the Lake City Arts Chamber Music Series in Colorado. As an orchestral musician she has performed with multiple ensembles, including the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra, the Amarillo Symphony, and the Austin Civic Orchestra. Her previous orchestral leadership roles include serving as Acting Concertmaster of Lubbock Symphony, Co-Concertmaster of the Texas Tech University Symphony Orchestra, and Co-Concertmaster and Principal Second of the Southwestern University Orchestra. Erin has also engaged in several national and international music festivals, including the Round Top Festival Institute, Lake City String Academy, Hot Springs Festival, Madeleine Island Chamber Music Camp, and the IES Vienna Summer Music Festival in Vienna, Austria. She has had the privilege of performing in masterclasses for such teachers as Thomas Rosenburg, Paul Cantor, Charlie Castleman, and Kevork Madirossian. Her pre-collegiate teachers include Beverly de la Bretonne, who reared her in the Amarillo College Suzuki Program from age 3, and Dr. Keith Redpath.

Nurturing students’ creativity and facilitating their musical expression through developing reliable technique are Erin’s principle motivations for teaching.

Alex Carpenter

Flute

Photo of Alex CarpenterAlex Carpenter, a native of Abilene, Texas, has been teaching music since 2011. She received her Bachelor of Music in flute performance and music theory/composition from Hardin-Simmons University in 2014 and her Master of Music in the same concentrations from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2019. She has taken lessons and participated in masterclasses with flutists such as Demarre McGill, Mark Sparks, Richard Sherman, and Jonathan Keeble. She has won honors in multiple solo/chamber competitions and has premiered numerous new works. While in Illinois she founded the Southern Illinois Junior Flute Choir, giving local middle and high school students the opportunity to perform flute-specific repertoire with their peers and occasional performances alongside the Southern Illinois Flute Choir, made up of amateur community members and college students. She currently is adjunct of instructor of flute at Abilene Christian University, as well as Hardin Simmons University and McMurry University.

Stacey Nash

Jazz and Electric Bass

Stacey completed her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Hardin-Simmons University, with trombone as her primary instrument. After teaching band, orchestra, mariachi, and guitar in Texas public schools, as well as teaching jazz theory and jazz ensemble at the University of Texas (Permian Basin), she attended the Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop in 2008, which led to an opportunity to obtain a Master’s degree in Jazz Studies at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. She graduated in 2011 from the jazz bass studio of Chris Fitzgerald.

Stacey has performed professionally in numerous ensembles, symphonies, big bands, combos, musicals, recordings, and orchestras on trombone, string bass, and electric bass. In addition, Stacey worked for two cruise lines as a bassist and musical director (2011 – 2019), giving her a unique opportunity to collaborate with gifted, inspiring performers from all over the world.  

As a music educator, Stacey’s passion is to assist students in mastering the fundamentals of music and developing independent learning techniques.