Faculty

Benjamin Bertin

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Subject Area: Piano

Canadian pianist Benjamin Bertin draws inspiration from artist-ambassadors Leonard Bernstein and Yo-Yo Ma in his endeavors to share timeless music with diverse audiences. As a pianist, Bertin has been deeply influenced by the artistry of Grigory Sokolov, Glen Gould, and Emil Gilels, whose characteristic sincerity, intimacy, and individuality continue to serve as ideals in his playing.

Throughout his studies Bertin’s interest has gravitated toward Russian music, with works of Rachmaninoff, Medtner, Prokofiev, and Scriabin featuring prominently in his repertoire. Benjamin’s passion for Russian piano music is evidenced by numerous awards: including second prize for Scriabin’s 8th Sonata at the FSU Russian Romantics competitive festival, and top prizes for performances of Medtner and Prokofiev Sonatas at the Brandon Festival of the Arts (MB).

Recent projects have included performances of John Cage’s Sonata XII for prepared piano and new works by composer Stephanie Pieczynski and coachings on interpreting Bach and Couperin with harpsichordists Peter Watchorn and Shalev Ad-El. A committed chamber musician and duo partner, Bertin has won praise for his sensitive collaborations. Currently he is preparing works by Crumb, Pärt, Debussy, and Franck for upcoming performances with violinist Casey Mink.

Benjamin has performed numerous lecture recitals, special concerts for children and the elderly, and in 2010 appeared as guest artist and masterclass clinician at Southwestern College (KS). As a teacher, Bertin has had the opportunity to work with a variety of individuals and groups from beginning to collegiate levels. He currently serves on the piano faculty of Clayton State University Music Preparatory School in Atlanta.

Benjamin Bertin completed undergraduate studies with Alexander Tselyakov at Brandon University (MB). He received a Masters at Bowling Green State University with Thomas Rosenkranz and pursued further graduate study at Florida State University with Joel Hastings. Bertin currently studies with Alexander Kobrin.

Cheryl Childers

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Subject Area: Piano, Organ

Cheryl Childers studied music at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.  She has been playing organ and piano for churches for 45 years and has been teaching since 1975.  Cheryl has been on the faculty for SOTA for 8 years.  She has been married 23 years and has 2 adult children in college.  She lives in Carrollton where she and her husband have been playing piano and organ for the First Methodist Church for 22 years.

Andrea Chitwood

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Subject Area: Voice

Andrea Chitwood is the School of the Arts director and private voice instructor as well as Young Musicians Choir director at First Baptist Church Newnan, GA. Andrea has been Sr. High Choir assistant for the past 20 years taking students on annual tours and festivals including destinations across the US, Europe and Japan.

Andrea has served on the Young Musicians Task Force Team for the GA Baptist Convention since 2006 and is a member and soloist of the Jubalheirs, an all women’s choir through the GA Baptist Convention. She has served as Young Musicians clinician for the State Baptist Conventions of GA, SC and NC. Andrea holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Anderson University, in Anderson, SC and has taught in elementary schools in South Carolina, Texas and Georgia. The Chitwoods have two daughters Ashlee Grace, 13 and Abbey Rose, 9.

Rev. Lee Chitwood

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Subject Area: Voice, Conducting

Rev. Lee Chitwood is a native of Williamston, South Carolina and has been the Minister of Music at First Baptist of Newnan since August of 2000. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina and a Master of Music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas with concentration in voice. Lee has extended study with Peter Halverson in voice and Rene Clausen in conducting at Concordia College in Fargo, North Dakota and Anton Armstrong in conducting at St. Olaf College in St. Paul, Minnesota during sabbatical study in 2005.

Rev. Chitwood has performed solo work in the continental United States, Alaska, Russia and Romania. Major works include Handel’s Messiah, Schubert’s Mass in G, Greg Nelson and Bob Farrell’s Saviour and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs. Lee is an advocate for youth choirs hosting the Georgia Baptist Youth Choir Festival in 2004 and served as guest conductor in 2005. Lee has also been featured Youth Choir Clinician at Church Music Georgia for the Georgia Baptist Convention in 2008 and 2009, the Church Music Conference of The Southern Baptist Convention in 2010 and the Tennessee Baptist Convention Church Music Conference in 2011. For the past 20 years Lee has taken youth choirs on annual tours across the United States and abroad to Europe and Japan. Since 2008 Lee has been adjunct professor at Brewton Parker College teaching Church Music and Worship. Lee is a member of two professional choral groups, The Sons of Jubal and the 2000 Grammy nominated male chorus The Century Men and has been soloist in both groups.

Lee and his wife Andrea have two girls, Ashlee Grace and Abbey Rose.

Erin Fenton

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Subject Area: Trumpet, Teeny Tykes & Tunes

Erin Fenton has a Bachelor’s degree in Trumpet Performance from Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois.  There she studied with former Chicago Symphony Orchestra members such as Vincent Cichowitz and Charles Geyer, and performed with the university orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz band and various small ensembles.  Prior to college, she grew up in Fayette County, where she began studying the trumpet at age 10, and went on to participate in regional Honor Bands, Georgia All-State Bands, Solo and Ensemble Festivals, and the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program.  Currently, Erin performs with the First Baptist Church of Newnan orchestra during weekly worship services.  She has also served as the 3-year-old Children’s Choir director since 2008 and loves the opportunity to teach children the fundamentals of music each week.

Brian Messler

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Subject Area: Guitar

Brian Messler has been teaching American guitar styles and form at School Of The Arts since 1996 when he was first invited by Sandra M. Carter. From 1991 to 2001, he and his wife, Jodie, performed over 1500 professional engagements as an acoustic blues and jazz duet. In addition to Brian’s solo work and an electric contemporary blues and jazz ensemble. The repertoire was Americana and improvisational. During these years as a full time performer the venues ranged from Borders Book stores to large corporate and private events, including frequent Folk Art exhibition openings at the High Museum of Art.

Since 2001, Brian and Jodie have been teaching private music lessons full time and raising three children in McDonough, Georgia, where they have lived since 1998.