Music Department Faculty
Click on any faculty member's name to see a list of achievements.
Dr. Stephen W. Sachs, Professor of Music and Music Chair at Belhaven University since 2004, has been active as a piano soloist, duo-pianist, chamber musician and accompanist in the U.S., Costa Rica and France. Dr. Sachs is a founding member of the Belhaven Piano Trio. He has appeared as soloist with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra (MSO), the Jackson Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra of Jackson, MS, the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival Orchestra under Dr. Kenneth Nafziger, the Richmond Symphony, the Eastern Mennonite University Symphony, the Cumberland Valley Chamber Orchestra, the Ohio University Symphony Orchestra, and the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra. In February, 2013 Sachs performed Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491 with the MSO of Jackson, MS under the direction of Maestro Crafton Beck. Other concerti performed with orchestra include Concerto No. 1 in E-flat by Franz Liszt, Wanderer Fantasie by Franz Liszt, Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin, Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58 by Beethoven, Fantasy in C Minor for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra (The Choral Fantasy), Op. 80 by Beethoven, Concerto in C Major (Elvira Madigan), K. 467 by Mozart; Concerto in D-flat by Aram Khachaturian, Aubade by Francis Poulenc, Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise by Chopin, Double Concerto in E-flat Major, K. 365 by Mozart, Concerto for Two Keyboards in C Major, BWV1061a by J. S. Bach, The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens and Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 (harpsichordist) by J.S. Bach. By special invitation, Sachs has performed at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose, the Hall of the Americas, Washington, DC, the Brahms Festival at The Catholic University of America, the American Liszt Society in Washington, D.C, and Music at La Gesse, Boulogne-sur-Gesse, France. Numerous local performances have occurred at Belhaven University, Mississippi College, Tougaloo College, St. Paul's Episcopal Church Chamber Music Series in Meridian, MS, for the "Music in the City" series of Jackson, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra Chamber Series, at the University of Southern Mississippi, at the University of New Orleans, as an orchestral pianist with the MSO, and the MacDowell and Chaminade Music Clubs.
Sachs received the MS Humanities Council, Belhaven University 2011 Humanities Teacher Award for his paper on "The Art of Teaching through Encouragement and Critical Thinking" which was presented three times to state-wide music teachers meetings. He presented a paper and performed at the College Music Society Regional Meeting/Roger Sessions Symposium, Elon College, 1996 and received a research grant from Eastern Mennonite University for a paper titled "Mostly American Duo Piano Music Composed since 1960". He appeared frequently at the Garth Newel Chamber Music Center, Hot Springs, VA in addition to numerous appearances in Washington D.C., Roanoke, VA, Colona, IA, Goshen, IN, Sarasota, FL, Lancaster, PA, Lansdale/Souderton, PA. Competitions include: Semi-Finalist in Young Keyboard Artists Association, Grand Rapids, MI, 14th Annual University of MD International Piano Competition, Robert Casadesus 5th International Piano Competition, OH, Winner of Ohio University Concerto Competition, Winner of Youngstown Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, OH.
He earned the D.M.A. degree in piano performance from The Catholic University of America studying with Dr. Thomas Mastroianni and Dr. Bela Nagy, the M.M. degree in piano performance from Ohio University as Trisolini Fellow studying with Richard Syracuse, a B.A. degree in music and a B.S. degree in music education from Lebanon Valley College studying with William Fairlamb and additional study with Dr. Donald Isaac at Arizona State University. Sachs has also coached with Horatio Gutierrez, Lili Kraus, Raymond Lewenthal, Garrick Ohlsson, Gyorgy Sebok, Eugene Jennings, and chamber music with cellist Leighton Conkling.
Dr. Sachs serves as Director of Music Ministries at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Jackson where he plays the organ and directs the choir. Under his direction, The Covenant Choir has presented Handel's "Messiah", Pergolesi's "Magnificat", Vivaldi's "Gloria", Vaughn-Williams "Five Mystical Songs", and "Te Deums" by Walton, Hayes, and Rutter. Sachs served on the board of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra from 2007-2010 and sat on the Artistic Advisory Board. From 1978-2004, Dr. Sachs served on the faculty of Eastern Mennonite University teaching piano and music theory and directing the Wind Ensemble, the Jazz Ensemble, and the Swing Sisters vocal ensemble. He founded the community jazz band Just Jazzin' in 2000, which still performs regularly in the Shenandoah Valley.
Dr. Paxton Girtmon (2007) Professor of Music
B.M.E, Northwestern State University
M.M.E. Northwestern State University
D.M.A. University of Southern Mississippi
Dr. Paxton M. Girtmon, Associate Professor of Music, is Director of Bands and Music and oversees the music education program. He is in charge of all aspects of the Marching, Pep, and Concert Bands, as well as, the large and small ensembles in the spring terms. He supervises student teachers, as well as teaching instrumental method courses and instruction, instrumental orchestration, also undergraduate and graduate level conducting courses. Dr. Paxton earned his D.M.A. from The University of Southern Mississippi and his B.M.Ed. and his M.M.Ed. at Northwestern State University. Dr. Girtmon has performed professionally with the Shreveport Symphony and Northwestern/Natchitoches Symphony where he performed with Jazz legend Pete Fountain, the world renowned Ray Charles, and former "Tonight Show's" band leader, "Doc" Severinsen. Dr. Girtmon has served as Associate Director of Bands/Coordinator of Music Education, and Assistant Professor of Music at Jackson State University. He published frequently in national magazines and periodicals for music education and research. He also maintains an active conducting schedule and is a frequent honor band clinician and adjudicator for concert band events around the nation. Dr. Girtmon's most precious and valuable treasures are his family: Lauren, Calvin, Jace and Georgia.
Dr. Andrew Mark Sauerwein is Associate Professor of Music. As a teacher of composition and theory, he oversees the theory and musicianship curriculum, teaches various courses in theory and composition, and directs the Composers Forum. He has also contributed to Belhaven's Worldview Curriculum and provided lectures on music for the High Scholars program, which is part of Belhaven's Virtual Campus. Dr. Sauerwein earned his PhD in music composition from Duke University. He also holds a Master of Music and Bachelor of Music from the University of Oregon, as well as an Associate of Arts in Biblical Studies from Multnomah University. A native of the Northwest, Dr. Sauerwein came to Belhaven in Fall 2005 after a visiting appointment at Northwestern College of Iowa. He is married to Quita and has two children, Christopher and Hannah.
Dr. Christopher Shelt (1999) Professor of Music
B.M.E., Florida State University
M.A., Columbia Biblical Seminary
M.Div., Reformed Theological Seminary
M.M., Mississippi College
D.M.A., University of Southern Mississippi
Dr. Christopher Shelt is the Coordinator of Vocal Arts, Choral Arts and Music Ministries at Belhaven University where he serves as Professor Music. A baritone soloist, vocal clinician, Church Music consultant, choral conductor, and published author, Dr. Shelt has studied with many of the world's finest vocal and choral artists including Roy Delp, Lara Hoggard, Don Neuen, and Sir David Willcocks. He spent a sabbatical at the Robert Shaw Choral Institute shortly before Mr. Shaw's death. In addition to numerous recital and oratorio appearances, Dr. Shelt has performed operatic roles in Rossini's The Barber of Seville and Weill's Street Scene. He has conducted professional vocal workshops locally and internationally, and is a frequent adjudicator in area vocal and choral competitions.
A full member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and of the American Choral Directors' Association, Shelt's students have distinguished themselves in recordings, in teaching roles, in Church ministry, in vocal competitions, and in graduate studies. Shelt has prepared and conducted many classic choral works such as Handel's' Messiah, Pergolesi's Magnificat, Haydn's Missa in Angustiis, Bach's Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland, and Vivaldi's Gloria. He has performed 20th century repertoire collaboratively, staging Britten's Gloriana Dances, Leavitt's Missa Festiva, and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with dance ensembles.
Under Shelt's direction, Belhaven University commissioned and performed the world premiere of John Cheetham's O the Depth. Through the last 16 years, Shelt has prepared Belhaven choirs for community performances of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Mendelssohn's Elijah; and Walton's Belshazzar's Feast. He was invited to be guest conductor of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra performing portions of Mozart's Vesperes de Confessore with the Belhaven Choir in 2004. Dr. Shelt was a clinician/conductor in The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra Summer Orchestral Institute in 2004. As Musical Director for many of Belhaven musical theater productions since his arrival, Dr. Shelt has led performances of The Fantasticks, Kiss Me Kate, Once Upon a Mattress, The Pirates of Penzance, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Oklahoma!, Fiddler on the Roof, Geraniums and Wrens, and The Gondoliers. He was also the Artistic Director for the Belhaven Opera Arts productions of Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief (2010), The Telephone (2010), and Seymour Barab’s A Game of Chance (2014). He was Artistic Director for a series of children’s opera productions, all composed by Seymour Barab, with a target audience of school-age children, including Little Red Riding Hood (2012), The Toy Shop (2012), The Pied Piper of Hamelin (2013), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (2014) and Maker of Illusions (2015).
In 2006, Dr. Shelt founded Belhaven Connections, an ambassadorial Christian ministry primarily made up of Belhaven musicians building winsome relational, cultural, and artistic bridges through music performances and educational events. Belhaven Connections has visited Peru numerous times, as well as Zambia, Uganda, and Japan. Shelt was invited to Indonesia in 2013 to do a week of consultation, lectures, and master classes on leadership, foundations of a Christian worldview, vocal pedagogy, choral music, and Music Ministry for the Conservatory of the Universitas Pelita Harpahan. Shelt received the Humanities Teacher Award by The Mississippi Humanities Council in both 2001 and 2004 in conjunction with public lectures entitled "Bach's Cantatas: Art and Theology in Counterpoint (2001)" and "Genius During Time of War: Franz Josef Haydn's Missa in Angustiis (2004)."
Dr. Shelt served as Chair of Music at Belhaven University from 1999-2004, a time of the department's revitalization, growth, and relocation to new facilities. He has published church related articles in The Christian Observer (1995), Reformed Theological Review (1996), the Southern Baptist Convention Church Music Conference Journal (1998), and Discovery (2001). In 2014, Shelt was invited by Jackson Prep School to envision and conduct the Jackson Prep Camerata, an advanced performing vocal ensemble that explores and performs a varied tapestry of the very best of vocal chamber music. A leader in Church Music for 35 years, Shelt continues to promote the revitalization of biblically principled worship and music ministry using a multi-faceted strategy of modeling, teaching, professional education, and literature.
Song Xie is Professor of Music in violin and viola, Conductor of the Belhaven Symphony and Chamber String Orchestra, Chamber Music Coach, and Violinist of the Belhaven Piano Trio at Belhaven University.
As a concert soloist, Mr. Song has played concerti and other solo masterpieces with many orchestras In China and the U.S., repertoire includes Beethoven Violin Concerto, Wieniawski Violin Concerto No.1, Mozart concerti, Carman Fantasy and many more. He received the Excellent Performance Award at the Chinese National Violin Competition in 1984, won the LSU Symphony Concerto Competitions in both 1991 and 1994, and was one of the three finalists at Chautauqua Festival Concerto Competition in New York. With God's blessing, Mr. Song has developed a strong, excellent string program at Belhaven University that enjoys a high quality reputation on the state, regional, national and international stage. Belhaven string students competed in many top level competitions with some of the highest level students from many top conservatory and music schools in the nation.
Mr. Song Xie is committed to the excellence of string performance and string education. His students have won numerous competitions, including but not limited to, the MSO Concerto Competition, MTNA State and Regional Competitions, MMTA and ASTA Mississippi State competition, many other concerto/string competitions in MS, AK, UT, AL, NY, SC, KY, MFMC scholarship awards, final/semi-finalists at WA, IN, TX, and some international competitions. His students have been accepted with outstanding scholarships to many top conservatories and universities in the nation to continue their graduate study include University of Michigan, Rice University, Easterman School of music, Peabody Conservatory and Julliard School of music, others actively teach in private studio, music schools, serve as missionary or won auditions successfully as professional orchestra musicians. Mr. Song believes that God has a unique calling for each student that is completely different. We all strive for excellence as we answer the Lord's calling in our lives here in the Belhaven String emphasis. He has also developed the Belhaven Orchestra and Chamber Music programs.
Mr. Song keeps a very busy performing schedule in solo, chamber music, Orchestra and conducting. He is currently the Principal Second Violinist of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, a position he has held since 1998. To teach and to share his music talents is his desire; to share his personal experience of God's love and caring in the professional music performing world for young students is a wonderful answer to his prayer. Mr. Song served as President of Mississippi Chapter of the ASTA (American String Teacher Association) from 2006-2008. He frequently judges many local and regional string competitions, and has actively taught and still teaches in many summer string/orchestra Festivals including: Masterworks Festival, IN, Mississippi Symphony Orchestra String Camp, Millsaps Chamber Music Camp, MS, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, MI, and CICA String Festival, AR.
Before his current positions at Belhaven University and with the MSO, he was on the faculty of Guangxi Institute of Arts,(China), Mississippi College, Millsaps College, and Jackson State University. He has also served as Assistant Concertmaster of Lyric Mountain Festival at PA, Principal Second Violinist of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp Festival Orchestra MI and Masterworks Festival Orchestra, IN, Concertmaster of Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra and Delta Symphony Orchestra here in Mississippi.
Song Xie received his BA from Guangxi Institute of Arts and Shanghai Conservatory of Music, his MM is from Louisiana State University. He has studied with many wonderful professors include ShiXiang Zheng, Sally O' Reilly, Camila Wicks. He resides in Jackson living with his wife Renee Chen and two sons, Caleb and David Xie.
Mr. Adam Almeter, Low Brass Adjunct
Mrs. Nancy Bateman, Adjunct Music Professor in Cello since 2005, received both her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Music from Wichita State University and pursued advanced musical studies at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. She has performed as a cellist in the Wichita Symphony from 1974-90, the Omaha and Lincoln Symphonies from 1990-93, and the Mississippi Symphony from 1993 until the present. She has performed as a soloist as well as in various small ensembles for weddings, funerals, and church services since 1974. She has enjoyed starting and maintaining String Music Programs at both First Presbyterian Day School since 1999 and the Veritas School since 2002, as well as teaching a Summer String Orchestra Workshop at Jackson Prepartory School for three summers and the Mississippi Symphony Summer Camp for several summers. Since 1999, she has started over hundreds of children on a stringed instrument, as well as prepared many private students for festivals, competitions and auditions. God has blessed Mrs. Bateman and her husband, Jim, with five children through whom she has learned very much about teaching. Mrs. Bateman understands what a great honor, privilege, and responsibility it is to teach, especially young people who are making career choices at this time in their lives.
Mr. Dennis Bonds, Adjunct Music Professor in Jazz Guitar since 2009, has been blessed to appear on well over one hundred-fifty recordings as not only a guitarist, but at times, a producer, composer, arranger, bandleader and recording engineer. He is the founder and director of God First, a music ministry he formed in 2005. Together with the group, Dennis has released one recording project to date, "The Guest of Honor", which is a musical celebration of the birth of Christ. Dennis is, perhaps, most proud that he is now a professor of Jazz Guitar Studies at his beloved alma mater, Belhaven University! He also works as a private music instructor. With all that he is involved in, however, Dennis still makes time to be a part of his local church's music ministry! Of this, he said, "When you get past the so-called accomplishments and awards, and come to where my heart is, you will find a worshipper there!" Dennis J. Bonds resides in Jackson, MS with his wife and three children.
Mr. Richard Jess Brown, Jr., Adjunct Music Professor in Double Bass and Electric Bass. He received a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Memphis and a Master of Music from DePaul University. Mr. Brown won the Graduate Competition Award at DePaul University in 1985, performing the first two movements of the "Dragonetti Concerto in A Major for String Bass" and the "Koussevitzky Concerto for String Bass" in which he earned the opportunity to study and perform with Warren Benfield, Joe Guastafeaste and other members of the Chicago Symphony. He arranged and performed Nina Simone's "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl" produced by Grammy Award Winning singer, Cassandra Wilson, it was the first rendition ever recorded. He has been noted for classical and jazz performances in publications and magazines including Down Beat, Coda, Cadence, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Boston Globe and others. He has recorded for P.B.S. and National Public Radio. He has performed with many legendary artists including Andre Watts, Gary Karr, Ed Wilkerson, Freddie Hubbard, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Gary Bartz, Dave Brubeck, and "Doc" Saverinson of the Tonight Show Band. He can be heard on such recordings as "The Memory is a Living Thing" by Lester Senter, written to commemorate Pulitzer Prize Winner, Eudora Welty. "The Standards of Living" by Barry Leach, "8 Bold Souls" by Ed Wilkerson of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and numerous live performances recorded by the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Brown frequently performs and records in various professional ensembles where he is needed. He performed in Tokyo, Japan with the Belhaven Connections Team in May of 2010. He has released a contemporary jazz CD entitled "Homemade Brew" which can be viewed on iTunes. He has been dedicated in helping students to grow and achieve. Mr. Brown produces and teaches on Internet Radio with listeners world-wide. He came to Belhaven University in the fall of 2008. He credits his mother and father for piously supporting his musical endeavors.
Dr. Ben Burge, Adjunct Music Professor. Dr. Ben Burge is in his second year as the Director of Marching Band after coming to Belhaven University in the summer of 2014.
Burge is a Mississippi native and began his formal study of music at Pearl River Community College and later earned degrees in Music Education from Mississippi State University and The University of Southern Mississippi. Burge was a performing member of the Pearl River College band and choir programs and served as drum major of the Spirit of the River Marching Band.
At Mississippi State, Burge was named Drum Major of the Famous Maroon Band and was also a performing member in the spring bands and saxophone ensembles. Burge holds the Doctor of Education in Leadership degree from the Riley School of Education at Walden University.
Prior to his appointment at Belhaven, Burge was a successful band director in the public schools of Mississippi. His bands enjoyed growth and success in both concert and marching. The color guard and dance groups under his direction also enjoyed successful performance and competition schedules throughout the southeast.
Burge’s groups traveled in performance and competition to many events including BOA Regionals, USBANDS Regionals, MHSAA State Championships, MBA State Festivals, the nationally televised Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, the National Concert Series in Washington D.C., Universal Studios Parades, Walt Disney World stage and parade performances, Six Flags stage and parade venues, MA Dance Nationals, UDA Dance Nationals, MA Auxiliary Nationals, Mississippi Indoor Association events, the Vanderbilt Invitational and many other venues.
Burge is a member of several professional organizations that include the Mississippi Bandmasters Association, Phi Beta Mu, Phi Mu Alpha, CBDNA, NBA, and has served on the board of directors for several regional clinic associations.
He is a past president of the Capital District Band Directors Association. He frequently serves as a clinician and judge for various clinics and contests throughout the region. Burge also assists with small ensembles and the wind band program at Belhaven.
Burge resides in the Flowood area with his wife Cindy and two children, Max and Emma.
Mrs. Sybil Cheesman, Adjunct Music Professor in Flute since 2004, was born into a musical family. Piano lessons were followed by flute lessons at an early age. Throughout her educational experiences, she was blessed to perform in numerous musical settings including band, chamber music and orchestra. Mrs. Cheesman has been with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra since 1972. She became principal flute and one of the founding members of the MSO woodwind quintet in the fall of 1978. Her responsibilities include all performances of the MSO and playing concerts at every elementary school in Jackson, Clinton and Hinds County. She performs concerts locally, teaches at Mississippi College, Belhaven University and has an active private flute studio. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi (B.M., M.M.), she has performed with the Meridian, Pensacola, Gulf Coast and Mobile symphonies. She performs regularly with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and is principal flute of the Mississippi Opera Orchestra. She is the founder and director of Magnolia Flutes, a community flute choir. Her husband, Bob, is also a member of the MSO. They have two children.Mr. Frank Dolansky is Adjunct Professor, and teaches courses in the audio, video, lighting, and software technical area for both music and theatre. He holds a B.A. from the University of Buffalo, and an M.F.A. from Michigan State University. He also serves as our Facilities Coordinator for the entire Belhaven University Center for the Arts, where he oversees all the scheduling of arts events, as well as the technical aspects of lighting, audio, video, and software as it pertains to running the weekly chapels, and other BU and outside events that take place here throughout the year. Frank and his wife Theresa have one son, and attend church at Southside Assembly of God here in Jackson, MS. Frank is thankful to serve Jesus Christ through the arts. His scripture to live by comes from Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”