Jeffery AmesJEFFERY L. AMES, Assistant Professor of Music, serves as Director of Choral Activities at Belmont University.  His prior appointments include Assistant Director of Choral Activities at Baylor University and Director of Choral Activities at Edgewater High School and Lincoln High School in Florida.

As a choral clinician, Dr. Ames has conducted senior and junior high school mixed and male choirs at the state and regional conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and the Music Educator’s National Conference, including the inaugural Florida Male All-State Chorus (2005).  He has performed internationally in the countries of Italy (2005-2007) and Costa Rica (2005). An accomplished accompanist, he has performed with well-known conductors such as André Thomas, Allen Crowell, Dan Krunnfusz, Lynne Gackle, Bradley Ellingboe, and most recently with Anton Armstrong and the 2007 Texas All-State Mixed Choir.

With a growing reputation as a distinguished and well-respected composer and arranger, Dr. Ames’ music has been premiered by the Florida Music Educators Association (1996), the Florida American Choral Directors Association (1998), the Southern Division of ACDA (2002), the National ACDA Conference in Los Angeles (2005), and most recently at the 2007 National ACDA Conference in Miami.  His compositions and arrangements are published by Colla Voce Music, Earthsongs, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, and Walton Music Corporation.

Professor Ames holds the Ph.D. in Choral Conducting/Choral Music Education and a Master of Choral Music Education degree from Florida State University, and a Bachelor of Music degree, with at double major in Vocal Performance and Piano Accompanying, from James Madison University.  He is the first recipient of the 2005 ACDA James Mulholland Choral Music Fellowship. (From Belmont University Website)


Muriel Anderson

Composer, guitarist, and harp guitarist MURIEL ANDERSON has composed music since about age five. She fell in love with the guitar at an early age and learned every style available to her, beginning with folk, bluegrass and jazz. She received a degree in music from DePaul University and went on to study with classical virtuoso Christopher Parkening and with Nashville legend Chet Atkins. Her current CD “Nightlight Daylight” is a culmination of her creative spirit and has won 11 awards including Global Music Award’s Best Instrumental Composition for “A Bakers Dozen.” Books of her original music include “New Classics for Guitar and Cello” and her works have been performed by the Nashville Chamber Orchestra and Chicago’s Vox Caelestis among others. She is founder of the Music for Life Alliance charity and the Muriel Anderson’s All Star Guitar Night®.


Cassandra Bailey-Langjahr

Cassandra Bailey-Langjahr is a 2014 graduate of Trevecca Nazarene University by way of Colorado Springs, CO. During her time at Trevecca, she studied vocal performance, songwriting, conducting, composition, and orchestration. Her first choral work, “From Oversea”, was recorded by the Trevecca Madrigalians and performed on their Best of Both Worlds Tour in 2015. She is honored to have such a prestigious ensemble as Portara to bring her work to new life. Cassandra is currently the Studio Manager at The Ballroom – Green Hills, a section leader at the Cathedral of the Incarnation choir, and is preparing to record an album of original works this May.


David Bridges has written and arranged music for performing groups ranging from volunteer church choirs to professional orchestra and choral organizations.  Many of these pieces were commissioned by these various groups. He has over 100  commercially published pieces of choral and handbell music with major publishing companies including a choral piece that was first published in 1989 and is still being published and performed in the United States and abroad.

He presently is a Lecturer in the School of Music at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.



Reagan Casteel picture

Reagan Casteel is a composer, pianist, and clarinetist from Nashville, TN. She discovered composition in the middle of her junior year, while in school at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School, and completely fell in love with writing music when she attended Interlochen Arts Camp the following summer (2015). There, she studied with Dr. Rob Deemer, composed five new works, and received a Fine Arts Award in composition. She is currently completing her senior year at Interlochen Arts Academy, where she studies with Dr. Cynthia Van Maanen. Her works have been read by various ensembles including the IAC World Youth Wind Symphony and the IAA Orchestra, and performed numerous times on Student Recitals at Interlochen. Her music has been recognized in multiple competitions, including the Interlochen Fanfare Competition (honorable mention) and the Ithaca College Jazz Composition Competition (honorable mention). She is currently working on a new work for wind ensemble, a chamber work to be performed at the end of this school year, and a collaboration with some of her classmates to create a theatrical work that addresses body image issues in teens.  Upon graduation, Reagan will attend college as a Music Composition major, where she hopes to expand her musicianship and cooking abilities.

Timbre Cierpke

Timbre Cierpke is a prolific composer, songwriter, vocalist, and harpist based in Nashville TN. Her works have been performed throughout the US and Europe in cathedrals such as Notre Dame in Paris and St Peter’s Basilicia in Rome. She has toured as a soprano and harp soloist performing original works with full orchestra and choir in cathedrals throughout Scandinavia. She incorporates classical minimalism and romanticism with elements of math-rock and folk-rock gleaned from her years touring with her band “Timbre”. She has collaborated and performed with famous artists such as Jack White (of the White Stripes), Tom Jones, and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs. She recently released a double album, Sun & Moon, which explores the relationship between classical music and folk-rock. Timbre’s music can be heard at

dunnevant portarashot

Patrick Dunnevant, a composer, conductor, and baritone, joined Portara’s leadership team as Assistant Director during the 2015/16 season. He received his B.M. in Music Education from Belmont University and M.M. in Composition from Westminster Choir College, where he was a member and soloist with several of their world-renowned choirs, including the Westminster Choir, Symphonic Choir, and the early music ensemble, Kantorei. His compositions, which have been praised for their “lustrous sonic colors,” (ArtsNash), have been performed by several regional and All-State honor choirs, and are published by Colla Voce Music and GIA Publications, Inc.
In addition to Portara, Patrick serves as Coordinator of Vocal Music for the Nashville Chamber Music Series, a collective dedicated to creating intimate performances of contemporary classical music in unconventional settings. He also sings as a member of the Nashville Symphony Chorus and a section leader at West End United Methodist


Daniel Elder

As a prolific writer of vocal and instrumental music, Daniel Elder ties these genres together to create forms and aesthetics that are at once lyrical and textural, drawing its roots particularly from the impressionist movement. Critics have hailed his works as “deeply affecting” and “without peer,” with emotional evocations ranging from lush lyricism to jagged polyphony. Daniel’s compositions have been performed extensively in the USA as well as in Austria, Italy, Spain, and a recent recording in London by the Grammy-award-winning Eric Whitacre Singers. The first commercial album of Daniel’s choral works, “The Heart’s Reflection – Music of Daniel Elder” was released in October 2013 by Westminster Choir College (Princeton, NJ) and Naxos of America, and debuted at #53 on the overall classical Billboard chart. Daniel’s choral music is published by GIA Publications, Inc. (Chicago, IL) and Carus-Verlag (Stuttgart, Germany), and his instrumental music by Imagine Music (Medina, NY). Learn more at


Multi-platinum selling singer/songwriter/producer Ben Folds first found mainstream success as the leader of the critically acclaimed Ben Folds Five. He has gone on to have a very successful solo career, recording multiple studio albums, a pair of records documenting his renowned live performances, a remix record, music for film and TV, as well as numerous collaborations with artists from Sara Bareilles to William Shatner.

In 2013, he composed “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra” to critical acclaim. Since then, Ben has continued his global symphony performance quest, recently recording a new album that features the concerto along with a host of new songs that overlap pop and classical worlds with a fresh, exciting sound he has dubbed “chamber rock.”

Magic comes from Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!, a 2009 album produced by Ben Folds featuring collegiate a cappella music groups from the United States. Folds became interested in a cappella music after hearing his song “Brick” performed by an Ohio University group.



Don Hart

Don Hart is an award-winning arranger and composer.  He has worked with numerous headlining artists in studio and live situations such as Martina McBride, Trey Anastasio (Phish), Lyle Lovett, Sam Bush, Brandi Carlile and Wynonna; his work has been performed by major symphony orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the National Symphony.  Don’s choral arrangements have been published for use in church and school, and his music has served a variety of purposes in national and international broadcast media.


Matt Kinney

Matt Kinney moved to Nashville in 2011, and is an active composer and multimedia artist, with endeavors reaching various corners of the country and abroad. Since his move to Tennessee, Matt has steadily expanded his role in Nashville’s artistic community, collaborating with multiple new music ensembles, visual artists, and galleries. Constantly seeking to broaden his palate, Matt is currently focused on co-curating a program entitled patchbay, which presents live collaborations between visual artists and composers.



Carl Marsh

Born in Memphis, Tennessee , Composer/Arranger/Conductor Carl Marsh enjoys creating music that blends his Classical Symphonic/Chorale training with his Blues/Rhythm and Blues/Gospel roots.  “I’ve Known Rivers” is an example of this métissage.

His works have been performed by orchestras and choirs around the globe, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Irish National Orchestra,  Minnesota Orchestra and Chorus, Welsh Chamber Orchestra, New Zealand Chamber Orchestra; Montreal, Stockholm, Beijing, Jakarta, Atlanta, Memphis and Nashville Symphonies.

A Nashvillian for over 30 years, Carl is an active participant in the Nashville Composer Collective, the city’s rich and diverse creative community, and its songwriter/recording industry.


Gary Nash

Gary Powell Nash, a native of Flint, Michigan is Associate Professor of Music at Fisk University in Nashville, TN where he teaches and coordinates courses in music theory, technology, composition, applied woodwinds and conducts the Fisk Jazz Ensemble. Nash holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from Michigan State University.
As a composer of Western classical music, Nash has composed musical works for orchestra, band/wind ensemble, choir, art songs (four in Chinese), electroacoustic works and instrumental chamber compositions, including two short film scores. His music has been performed in all major regions of the United States and abroad on the continents of Asia and Europe.
Nash has received numerous grants, commissions and awards for his compositions including the 2007 UNCF/Mellon Foundation Faculty Seminar in Ghana. Others include Tennessee Music Teachers Association Composer of the Year, 2005-6, Mississippi Arts Commission, American Composers Forum, Carnegie Hall and Fulbright, where he was Visiting Professor of Music Composition at University of the Philippines-Diliman, May 30, 2000 – March 28, 2001. Nash’s scores are published by, Tuba/Euphonium Press and Dorn Publications. 11 of his compositions are featured on compact disc with five of those appearing on
Albany, Centaur and Citadel Records labels. (bio from )

Thom Schuyler

Thom Schuyler was born and raised in Bethlehem, PA and relocated to Nashville, TN in 1978 to pursue a songwriting career. Over the course of the ensuing decades he has created a catalog of tunes recorded by over 200 artists including five #1 songs, five other Top-5 songs and five additional Top-10 songs. Included in his repertoire are 16th Avenue by Lacy J. Dalton, A Long Line of Love by Michael Martin Murphy, Love Will Turn You Around by Kenny Rogers and My Old Yellow Car by Dan Seals. Thom was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011. Thom has been married to his wife, Sarah Tallu, for 37 years. They have three children and two grandchildren. During his time in Nashville Thom has served as both President and Chairman of The Country Music Association, President of The Nashville Songwriters Association, Chairman of The Nashville Songwriters Foundation and Sr. Vice President of RCA Records where he started and/or helped to guide the careers of Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Alabama, Clint Black, Lonestar, Lorrie Morgan and others. Along with his friends, Don Schlitz and Fred Knobloch, Thom is credited with launching the writers-in-the-round format at the world-famous Bluebird Cafe’. Thom earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biblical Studies from Lancaster Bible College and currently serves on the staff of Woodmont Christian Church in Nashville.



Jason Shelton has served as Portara’s assistant director since its inception, and moved into the position of Artistic Director during the 2015/16 season. A published and award-winning composer, Jason has worked with choirs all around the country and specializes in creative, collaborative programming.  In addition to his work with Portara, Jason is the Associate Minister for Music at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville, where he has served since 1998.

Formerly a Franciscan brother, Jason received an MDiv from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2003 and was ordained to the Unitarian Universalist ministry in 2004.   He studied theory and composition with Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB (St. Meinrad College, IN), and Drs. Wesley Vos & Jeffrey Kowalkowski (DePaul University, Chicago), and conducting with Robin Fountain and Dr. David Childs (Vanderbilt) and Dr. Jo-Michael Scheibe (USC).  Jason’s compositions are published by Santa Barbara Music and Yelton Rhodes Music.