Bio

I was born in Union S.C. in 1952. My parents weren’t Southerners so I’ve never had the accent but I’m definitely a Southerner.

Times were so different then. Life was simple, at least for the kids. In the Summer we played outside all day. We ate lunches and snacks at whichever house we were near at the time. We rode our bikes everywhere, explored creeks and woods, climbed trees, and pretended we were Tarzan. The worst things that happened to us in a day were bee stings, splinters, scraped knees, or stubbed toes.

One thing that struck fear in our hearts were KKK rallies which happened not far from our neighborhood. I well remember cross burnings over there. It was part of growing up in the South in the 50’s, as were the signs in stores and restaurants saying who could enter and who could not.  As a young kid I couldn’t process my feelings about those signs but I knew they were wrong.

My biggest challenge as a kid was my glass eye. I lost my eye to cancer when I was 2 and got my first glass eye at age 3.  The eye looked and felt like what it was – artificial.  I got called names and made fun of so I tried hard to hide the fact that I had it.  I carried those wounds for a long time.  As an adult I see how having a challenge like that helped make me who I am, for better or for worse, but I hope for better.

Other than that I had an idyllic childhood with wonderful parents, activities I loved, hobbies I was passionate about – chief among my hobbies being rock collecting, exploring, and inventing – and although we weren’t wealthy in money we were wealthy in traditions, heritage, and learning opportunities. Mother was a first class musician/pianist and Daddy was a soil scientist. He loved music as much as she did and saw to it that their very first piece of furniture as a young struggling couple was a stereo. So the story goes, they ate meals on a cardboard box but they had music!

I did lots of things with my father when I was a kid. He took me roller skating, fishing, rock collecting, and horseback riding. We walked in the woods together, rescued turtles off the road, and played catch. Where we lived there were still Indian arrowheads plentiful in the red clay soil, also quartz crystals which we collected by the jarful. Daddy had a telescope and we viewed the moon with its craters and Saturn’s rings. He had a sailboat and I was his first mate.

Mother was our strict and loving tutor, teaching us music, chores, housekeeping, manners, proper English, and a love for beauty and animals.  She also accompanied me on all of my flute solos over many years of contests and recitals, and I know that my ability to ‘play by ear’ and improvise comes directly from her.

As children, my sister and I were surrounded by music and it most definitely informed our lives. When I was five I asked my father how to whistle. He said “Like this” so I copied him, was successful, and have been whistling ever since. My father also loved a great variety of music and delighted in having records playing before, during, and after meals. Russian music was some of his favorite and we were treated to lots of Rimsky-Korsakov, Kabalevsky, Borodin, Shostakovich, and of course Tschaikovsky. Mother taught piano and accompanied just about everyone in town so we were also treated to tons of great piano music. Our favorite times were when she improvised animal sounds at the piano and we acted out the animals as she played. Whether it was the whistling, the great recordings, or the piano lessons, music took hold in my life and I have my parents to thank.

Pretty soon I was ‘pretend conducting’ symphonies in front of our stereo and imagining myself as a great conductor. The imaginary conducting career gave way to band in the fifth grade. My first choice of an instrument was the drum but I was too small to carry the large marching snare. The flute won out after the three days it took for me to get my first sound. Awards I won in high school and college for my flute playing weren’t the result of dazzling technique. I just worked hard and felt the music deeply. The flute became an extension of me, although it was a piccolo solo I played at a high school band concert which won me the nickname “Chirpy.”

After completing a Bachelor’s of Music Education from East Carolina University and a Masters of Flute Performance from Kent State University, God broke in upon my life and replaced a performance focus with a ministry focus. I taught flute for many years, including at a small college in Pennsylvania, but I returned to school in 1989 and earned a Master’s of Divinity from Regent University with a focus in world missions. A graduate internship in Ghana West Africa fueled my love for ethnic music. The African influence can be heard sprinkled here and there in my arranging and especially in “The Gift Of Love” on my first album “Refreshing.”

I was raised in the Methodist church but began my spiritual search in earnest when I went to college. I started asking “Who am I?” and “What is the truth?” These questions led me through Transcendental Meditation, Nature worship, and eventually to Jesus whom I’ve come to know as the lover of my soul. I’m forever grateful to my music major friend whose persistent prayers, patient sharing, and unabashed joy ushered me into the love of Christ. After my light-bulb moment I understood very little about the Christian faith but I knew 100% that Jesus was real and that he was with me.  In the years since then he’s been with me in the worst times, the best times, and all the times in between.

There have been many challenges to my faith over the years and I credit all of them as the building blocks for my relationship with God as well as the fabric of my music. If there’s anything good, unique, or honest in the music I write and play, it comes from the relentless love of God and outpouring of mercy upon my life.

For some 25 years music was my full-time work.  I taught flute, performed regionally, and held several church music director positions.  As seasons changed so did my responsibilities. The mid 90’s through 2005 found me caring for my parents until both of their passings. Those years were some of my richest and most treasured.

Grieving years gave way to decisions about work and a desire to do something other than teach. A series of ‘starving artist jobs’ were as challenging as they were enriching and ultimately propelled me to seek the Lord about making a move to the mountains. My mother was from the Rockies and I always believed that somehow, through her, the mountains were simply in my blood. When God opened doors for me to move to Western N.C. I jumped at the chance and have never looked back.

I love my life in the mountains and know I’ll never tire of the healing beauty that surrounds me here. God has blessed me in this little valley I call home. I take long walks on these back roads and allow my senses to come alive all over again every day.  My walks are my best creative time.

During the tourist season I work for the Great Smoky Mountain Association at a visitor center north of Cherokee. It’s an idyllic setting where my soul and spirit are nurtured by simply being there. I count myself so fortunate to work for the most visited National Park in the country where I meet visitors from all over the world.

On the music front I still perform with a group ‘back East’ – Bill Leslie and Lorica – a Celtic band I’ve been with for about 17 years.  I’ve also been greatly enriched here in the mountains to rub shoulders with bluegrass music for the first time in my life. At the Visitor Center we have a bluegrass jam on the big porch on first and third Saturdays during the season and it has been huge fun joining in and learning the tunes. The flute isn’t exactly a bluegrass instrument but thankfully they have received me warmly! Click here to listen as I jam at the Park.  I’m also involved in a songwriter’s group and have enjoyed renewed song writing since moving to the mountains. You can hear some of my songs under the Blog tab.

It’s a beautiful day in the mountains!  I hope it’s a beautiful day where you are too!