National Conference for Sacred Music

January 3-5, 2018
Charlotte, NC

Leading the Church’s Song


Featured Clinicians:


Isabelle Demers, Zebulon M. Highben, Heather Potter, André Thomas, and Ed Tompkins.

Worship Leaders:

David Bone and Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Thompson

Sponsored by Augsburg Fortress, MorningStar Music, and Hinshaw Music, with additional support from ALCM, PAM, and FUMMWA.

National Conference for Sacred Music is a unique conference designed to provide the practicing church musician with fresh new ideas to help create a vital, growing music ministry. The emphasis of this conference is to provide a wide variety of new approaches to revitalize and reinvigorate the church’s passion for music in worship. Sessions will include the following:

  • New worship planning ideas for your congregation and choirs
  • Choral technique classes with an emphasis on deepening the spiritual experience for the choir member
  • Reading sessions featuring new publications from Augsburg Fortress, Hinshaw, and MorningStar Music
  • Sponsorship by three different denominational groups: the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, and the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts
  • Workshops for working with children
  • Handbells
  • Morning worship

Registration Fee: $150.00
Meal Plan (Wed dinner and Thu/Fri lunch): $45.00

Hotel Information for NCSM
There are many hotels in the area, but we have reserved a block of rooms at The Dunhill Hotel; 237 N. Tryon St; Charlotte NC 28202 From the The Dunhill, you can easily walk 2 blocks to First Presbyterian Church at 200 West Trade St. Charlotte, NC 28202. Please call the hotel directly to reserve your room at 704-332-4141. Mention National Conference for Sacred Music to receive the conference rate of $149.00. (Vintage Queen) or $179.00 (Deluxe Queen). You may also reserve on line by clicking here.

The conference rate is good Tuesday through Friday. You must reserve by Monday, December 12, 2017, in order to receive the conference rate.




Day One

Wednesday, January 3

2:00pm-3:00pm Registration – Browse exhibits
3:00-3:15 Welcome, introduction, and announcements – Sanctuary
3:15-4:30 Way Over in Beulah Lan… Understanding and Performing the Negro Spiritual – André Thomas
5:00-6:00 Dinner (part of meal plan)
6:15-7:15 Workshops
1. Festival Service Rehearsal – André Thomas and Isabelle Demers
2. Workshop for those who do not wish to sing – Using Traditional Elements to Create Vibrant Worship – David Bone
7:30pm – 8:00pm Opening worship with the NCSM Faculty – Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Thompson & David Bone
8:00 Onward Social Gathering/Exhibits

Day Two

Thursday, January 4

9:00am-9:30 Morning Worship– Jacqueline Thompson and David Bone
9:45-11:00 Workshops
1. New Organ Repertoire – Isabelle Demers
2. 500 Years of Singing – Zebulon Highben
3. Writing Liturgy -Jacqueline Thompson
11:00-11:30 Break
11:30-12:30 Reading Session 1 Multi Publisher – Zebulon Highben
12:30-1:30 Lunch (part of meal plan)
1:45-2:55 Workshops
1. Baroque for Beginners: Introducing Children to Historical Composers – Heather Potter
2. Transcriptions/Reductions for Service Playing – Isabelle Demers
3. Handbells – Ed Tompkins
3:00-4:00 Reading Session 2 Multi Publisher – André Thomas
4:00-4:15 Break
4:15-5:30 Workshops
1. A Primer on Composing for the Church – Zebulon Highben
2. A Positive Approach to Rehearsal Techniques – André Thomas
5:30-6:30 Friday Festival Rehearsal – André Thomas and Isabelle Demers
6:30 Onward Free Night

Day Three

Friday, January 5

9:00am-9:30 Worship – Jacqueline Thompson and David Bone
9:40-10:55 Workshops
1. A Primer on Composing for the Church (repeat) – Zebulon Highben
2. Handbells (repeat) – Ed Tompkins
3. Avoid the Avoidable: Planning and Procedures to maximize rehearsal – Heather Potter
10:55-11:30 Break/Visit Exhibits
11:30-12:30 Reading Session 3 Multi Publisher – Heather Potter
12:30-2:00 Lunch (part of meal plan)/Visit Exhibits
2:00 Exhibits Close
2:00-3:00 Workshops
1. Transcriptions/Reductions for Service Playing (repeat) – Isabelle Demers
2. 500 Years of Singing (repeat) – Zebulon Highben
3. A positive Approach to Rehearsal Techniques (repeat) – Andre Thomas
3:15-4:30 Rehearsal for Festival Service – André Thomas and Isabelle Demers
4:30-7:00 Dinner on your own
7:00 Festival Service with André Thomas and Isabelle Demers


David Bone

David L. Bone is the Executive Director of The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. In this position, he manages the program and financial affairs of The Fellowship. David has served in this capacity since 1991. In addition to this full-time position, David is the co-author of “The United Methodist Music and Worship Planner” and “Prepare! A Weekly Worship Planbook.” David was on the worship planning teams for the 2012 and 2016 General Conferences of The UMC.

David holds Master of Music degrees in Sacred Music and Choral Conducting from Southern Methodist University. David attends and volunteers in the music program at West End United Methodist Church in Nashville, TN and is a regular clinician at local and national events in the areas of music, worship, and choral conducting.

Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Thompson

An Ordained Elder in the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Thompson is currently on leave of absence. Jackie enjoys singing, playing the piano, ringing handbells, writing liturgy, offering liturgical dance and praying with her camera.

Jackie is a graduate of the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary and earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music & Dance. Originally from Dayton, Ohio she has served as a church musician in Ohio, Missouri and Iowa, has worked as a performing artist and teaching artist, and was the owner of the Potpourri Fine Arts Academy in Ottumwa, Iowa.




There is no shortage of organists who make their instruments roar; and while her power was never in question, Demers made the instrument sing.” (Peter Reed, Classical, England, 2016)

With playing described as having “bracing virtuosity” (Chicago Classical Review) and being “fearless and extraordinary” (Amarillo-Globe News), ISABELLE DEMERS has enraptured critics, presenters, and audience members worldwide for her spell-binding performances. A native of Québec and a graduate of the Juilliard School, Ms. Demers is Organ Professor and Head of the Organ Program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Her recital for the joint International Society of Organbuilders – American Institute of Organbuilders convention in 2010 so enchanted the audience that she “left the entire congress in an atmosphere of ‘Demers fever’.” Her concert at the 2010 national convention of the American Guild of Organists, in Washington, D.C., was received with great acclaim not only by critics, who deemed it “one of the most outstanding events of the convention” (The American Organist), but also by the standing-room-only audience, which called her back to the stage five times.

She has appeared in recital at the cathedrals of Cologne and Regensburg in Germany, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Royal Festival Hall in London, the Royal Opera House of Muscat (Oman), Melbourne Town Hall (Australia), as well as major universities and concert halls in the United States, among them Disney Hall (Los Angeles), the Kimmel Center (Philadelphia), the Wanamaker Organ (Philadelphia), Yale University, Benaroya Hall (Seattle), Spivey Hall (Georgia), and the Spreckels Pavillion (San Diego). Highlights of her 2016-17 season include performances at the Maison Symphonique and the Basilique Notre-Dame (Montréal), the Forbidden City Concert Hall (Beijing), at Santa Rita (Torino, Italy), with the Grand Rapids Symphony (MI), as well as for the OHS convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Ms. Demers is in continual demand by her fellow colleagues as witnessed by repeat performances for regional and national conventions of the American Guild of Organists (Minneapolis, 2008; Washington D.C., 2010; Hartford, 2013; Austin, 2013; Indianapolis, 2015; Houston, 2016), the joint convention of the Institute of Organ Builders and International Society of Organbuilders (Montréal, 2010), and the Royal Canadian College of Organists (Toronto, 2009; Kingston, Ontario, 2016).

On a recent broadcast of Pipedreams, presenter Michael Barone featured the Fugue from Reger’s Op. 73, describing it as “a masterful score, here masterfully played,” and Ms. Demers as, “definitely a talent to watch, to hear”. Fanfare Magazine proclaimed her first CD (Reger) “superbly produced” and a “brilliantly played program.” Her recording of the organ works of Rachel Laurin was released in June 2011, her recording of Max Reger’s Seven Chorale-Fantasias in November 2012, and Bach, Bull, and Bombardes, was released in May 2013.

Isabelle Demers is represented in North America exclusively by Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists, LLC.


ZEBULON M. HIGHBEN is Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Muskingum University, a liberal arts college of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in New Concord, Ohio. He leads Muskingum’s choral program and teaches conducting, choral methods, choral literature, and applied voice and composition.

Choirs under Highben’s direction have toured domestically and internationally and been featured at numerous conferences and festivals, including ACDA of Minnesota, the Ohio Choral Directors Association, the Ohio Music Education Association, and the St. Olaf College Choral Festival. He has served as a guest conductor, clinician, and lecturer throughout the United States, and in 2016 represented the U.S. as a Conducting Fellow in ACDA’s International Conductors Exchange Program with South Korea. In 2015, he won the American Prize in Conducting (College/University Chorus Division) for his work with the Muskingum Concert Choir and Chamber Singers.

Highben’s choral and liturgical music is frequently commissioned and widely performed by churches, schools, and arts organizations. More than fifty of his works are published domestically by Augsburg Fortress, Boosey & Hawkes, Colla Voce, GIA, and MorningStar Music, and by Gehrmans Musikförlag in Sweden. Honors include the Raabe Prize for Excellence in Sacred Composition, a Faith Partners grant from the American Composers Forum, numerous ASCAP Performance Plus Awards, and Finalist standing for the 2014 American Prize in Choral Composition. He edited the Augsburg Chorale Book and the Augsburg Motet Book, and is a frequent contributor to the Sundays & Seasons worship planning resource.

A native of Ohio, Highben studied at Ohio State University, Luther Seminary, and St. Olaf College, and holds the DMA in conducting from Michigan State University. He serves on the boards of the Ohio Choral Directors Association and the Institute for Liturgical Studies at Valparaiso University, and is a deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


HEATHER WILLIAMS POTTER, Artistic Director of the Charlotte Children’s Choir of Community School of the Arts, holds degrees in music education and choral conducting from Furman University, Arizona State University, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Additionally, she has completed Level III in the Choral Music Experience certification course and holds Choristers Guild Children’s Choir Leadership certification. Dr. Potter has trained singers in the middle school, high school, and college classroom, and she has taught music education methods courses for undergraduates.

In addition to her work with the Charlotte Children’s Choir, Dr. Potter serves as the Director of Music with primary responsibility for children at First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gastonia, North Carolina. In this role, she works weekly with kindergarten through fifth grade children. As an active clinician, Dr. Potter frequently conducts treble ensembles for music conferences, festivals, and honor choirs. She is often invited by churches and organizations to provide training for children’s choir directors and volunteers. She has published articles relating to training young voices and developing choral programs in churches, and she recently completed the introduction for Of Primary Importance, volume III published by Choristers Guild.

Dr. Potter is immediate Past-President of the Choristers Guild National Board and serves on the advisory board for the Choristers Guild Institute. She has served ACDA as the North Carolina and the Southern Division R&S Chair for Children and Youth Community Choirs. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, Kenney, and their children Syl and Calvin.


ANDRÉ J. THOMAS, the Owen F. Sellers Professor of Music, is Director of Choral Activities and Professor of Choral Music Education at Florida State University. A previous faculty member at the University of Texas, Austin, Dr. Thomas received his degrees from Friends University (B.A.), Northwestern University (M. M.), and the University of Illinois (D.M.A). He is in demand as a choral adjudicator, clinician, and director of Honor/All-State Choirs throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, New Zealand, and Australia.

Dr. Thomas has conducted choirs at the state, division, and national conventions of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). His international conducting credits are extensive. They include conductor/clinician for the International Federation of Choral Musicians, summer residency of the World Youth Choir in the The Republic of China and the Philippines, winter residency of the World Youth Choir in Europe, and a premier performance by an American Choir (Florida State University Singers) in Vietnam. He has been the guest conductor of such distinguished orchestras and choirs as the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in England, guest Conductor for the Berlin Radio Choir and the North German Radio Choir in Germany, the Netherlands Radio Choir, The Bulgarian Radio Choir and Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, Tallahassee Symphony, China’s People’s Liberation Orchestra and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. Since 1988, he has also served as Artistic Director of the Tallahassee Community Chorus.

Thomas has also distinguished himself as a composer/arranger. Hinshaw Music Company, Mark Foster Music Company, Fitzsimons Music Company, Lawson Gould, Earthsongs, Choristers Guild, and Heritage Music Company publishes his compositions and arrangements.

Dr. Thomas has produced two instructional videos “What They See Is What You Get” on choral conducting, with Rodney Eichenberger, and “Body, Mind, Spirit, Voice” on adolescent voices, with Anton Armstrong. His recent book “Way Over in Beulah Lan’. Understanding and Performing the Negro Spiritual” has quickly become a major source in this area of study. The African Diaspora Sacred Music honored Dr. Thomas as a Living Legend. In 2011, Thomas’ dedication to and accomplishments in the choral arts were recognized by his peers in Chorus America when that the organization presented Dr. Thomas with its Distinguished Service Award.

He is a past president of the Florida ACDA and the past president of the Southern Division of ACDA. In March 2017 The American Choral Directors Association awarded Andre Thomas it’s highest award the Robert Shaw Award.


EDMUND F. TOMPKINS has served as Minister of Music and Organist at Morning Star Evangelical Lutheran Church in Matthews, North Carolina, since February 2004. Prior to this, Ed had served as Director of Music/Organist in churches in Durham, NC; Nashville, TN; and Richmond, VA. Ed directs two adult vocal choirs, two inter-generational handbell choirs, a youth handbell choir, and two instrumental ensembles as well as vocal and instrumental opportunities for children. Ed is a graduate of Duke University and Scarritt Graduate School. He has conducted handbell festivals in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia and Maryland and served on the handbell faculties at Montreat Conference on Worship and Music, Massanetta Church Music Conference, Music and Worship Arts Week at Lake Junaluska, Lutheridge Summer Music Week, Lutheridge Handbell Weekend, and Ringing at the Springs (Massanetta Springs) weekend. He and his wife Judy live in Indian Trail, North Carolina.



500 Years of Singing: Exploring Lutheran and Reformed Choral Traditions – Zebulon Highben

Martin Luther and his colleagues famously created the German chorales and created a prominent place for vernacular hymns in their worship orders of 1523 and 1526. But Luther also loved choral singing, and a robust repertoire of choral music developed contemporaneously with the chorales. But what exactly is the Lutheran choral tradition, and what are its musical, textual, and liturgical parameters? Using repertoire from the new Augsburg Chorale Book and its sister volumes (the Augsburg Motet Book, the Chantry Choirbook, and Bach for All Seasons), this session will answer these questions and highlight the various streams of Lutheran choral music, from the sixteenth century to the present day.

A Primer on Composing for the Church – Zebulon Highben

You don’t have to be a published composer to write music! For centuries, church musicians have composed psalm tones, psalms refrains, calls to worship, hymn tunes, and descants for use in their own parishes. This workshop will review basic principles of composition that are most applicable to these types of liturgical music. Later in the session, participants will put the principles into practice as we collaboratively compose some new liturgical music.

A Positive Approach to Rehearsal Technique – André Thomas

Way Over in Beulah Lan…Understanding and Performing the Negro Spiritual – André Thomas

Using Traditional Elements to Create Vibrant Worship Services – David Bone

With planning and creativity, so called “traditional” worship services can be exciting and relevant. The class will explore the creative use of resources that are readily available.

Writing Liturgy Emboldened by the Spirit – Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Thompson

Come and be inspired to create new liturgies and shape new prayers. We will begin with references to assist with the preparation of bulletin materials and then introduce you to different liturgical voices. You will be encouraged to think, imagine and verbalize the concerns of your particular context in shaping a liturgical piece.

New / Recent Organ publications – Isabelle Demers

Transcriptions/Reductions for Service Playing – Isabelle Demers

How do we play something originally written for orchestra on the organ – what to keep, what to cut, how to register it.

Baroque for Beginners: Introducing Children to Historical Composers – Heather Potter

Teaching strategies for guiding children towards more classical oriented repertoire.

Avoid the Avoidable: Planning and Procedures to Maximize Rehearsal – Heather Potter

Practical side of working with children – plan the logistics!