Consent Preferences

2024 PRESENTERS

— Alphabetical by first name.


Alexander Constantine has served the Second Congregational Church, Greenwich, as their director of music since 2001. He is active in the NYC and Fairfield AGO chapters. He loves many different types of music and has included everything from standard choral repertoire to contemporary Christian anthems, gospel hymn arrangements, and even a Dixieland trio into their services. He is a musical theatre enthusiast and has directed many musicals during his years as an educator.



Amanda Udis-Kessler is a sociologist (PhD, Boston College), social justice educator, writer, church musician, hymnwriter, sacred music composer, and liturgist. Find her music at queersacredmusic.com and her writing at amandaudiskessler.com. Her book Abundant Lives: A Progressive Christian Ethic of Flourishing will be released by Pilgrim Press in May 2024. Her book Cultural Processes of Inequality: A Sociological Perspective will be released by Anthem Press in July 2024. Contact Amanda at amanda@amandaudiskessler.com.



Minister, musician, and musicologist, Braxton D. Shelley is a tenured associate professor of music, of sacred music, and of divinity in the Department of Music, the Institute of Sacred Music, and Yale’s Divinity School. A musicologist who specializes in African American popular music, his research and critical interests, while especially focused on African American gospel performance, extend into media studies, sound studies, phenomenology, homiletics, and theology. 

After earning a BA in Music and History from Duke University, Shelley received his PhD in the History and Theory of Music at the University of Chicago. While at the University of Chicago, he also earned a Master of Divinity from the university’s Divinity School.



Dr. Craig Scott Symons began his tenure as Minister of Music at First Congregational Church of Greenwich in 2010. He has a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from University of Michigan, where he studied with Robert Glasgow and James Kibbie. He has been active in a number of groups, including ACDA, AGO, Fellowship of Methodist Musicians and Choristers Guild. He is the director of Conference 2024.



Rev. Cydney Van Dyke serves as the associate pastor of First Congregational Church of Greenwich. She earned her MDiv from Harvard Divinity School and was ordained in 2016. She is an avid singer, loves A Cappella, and believes church should be really fun.



Ellen Dickinson is Director of Bell programs at Yale University, where she runs the carillon program and directs the Yale Handbell Ensemble. Dozens of her students have completed the certifying exam of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North American (GCNA), and many hold carillon positions around the country. In 2020, Ellen was commissioned by a consortium of colleges to write A New Carillon Book, a beginning carillon lesson book featuring diverse music from many people and places, as well as original music.

Ellen is Artistic Director and Founder of Music on the Hill, an independent music organization with five performing ensembles, including two handbell ensembles, and music education opportunities. Over a period of twenty-five years, Ellen served as Music Director and Organist of five churches. She has introduced hundreds of people to handbell ringing. Her commissioned works include music for handbells, carillon, and chorus. Ellen holds the Master of Music in organ performance from the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music, and the Bachelor of Arts in music from Yale College.



Eric Elley provides consultant services to UCC Conference churches that need assistance defining and creating a digital presence. Eric can:

Recommend hardware and software solutions for digital ministry that fit within your church's budget and technical experience.

Assist congregations as they form digital partnerships within their community and beyond.

Guide churches in digital ministry best practices.

Visit the digital ministry page at: sneucc.org/digital for more information and resources.

Eric has been a technologist for churches for more than 15 years and enjoys riding his new e-bike on area trails.



Greg Chestnut has served as Minister of Music since 1989 at the First Congregational Church of Sarasota, Florida where he developed a comprehensive graded choir and arts program for 4-year olds through high school. He has presented workshops in national settings and served on the Worship Planning Team for General Synod 2011. He first came to the UCCMA at Conference 2013 where he presented a workshop on “Engaging Children and Youth in Worship.” From 2019-2023, Greg was the President-Elect and President of UCCMA. He received his Bachelor and Master Degrees in Organ from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.



Janet Yieh has been newly appointed Director of Music at Church of the Heavenly Rest on the Upper East Side in New York City, where she oversees a vibrant music program for all ages, conducts the choirs and plays the 138-rank Austin Organ. For seven years, she served as Associate Organist at Trinity Church Wall Street, where she played weekly services, founded the St. Paul’s Chapel Choir, accompanied the Grammy-nominated Trinity Choir and Trinity Youth Chorus, and worked closely with the music and liturgy departments.

In 2020, Janet co-founded a new platform ‘Amplify Female Composers’ with Carolyn Craig, which launched a December Advent Calendar Project of daily Advent and Christmas music by women composers sung by 25 international parish, cathedral and university choirs, and has made over 65 video recordings of choral and organ music available online. She also contributes research to an international sacred music database called “A Great Host of Women Composers.”



Jim Boratko gained a love for choral music at a very early age. As a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, he sang with both the Cadet Chapel Choir and the Cadet Glee Club. With those groups, he sang at St. Thomas’ Cathedral in New York, the National Cathedral, and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He was very active in barbershop quartet singing, both with choruses and with a quartet, A Family Affair, the latter of which went on to compete at the international level.

He graduated as a music teacher from Central Connecticut State College, taught public school music in the Winchester Public School system, was rehearsal pianist for the Nutmeg Ballet Company, and toured professionally with the top 40 band, Countdown.

More recently, he is a founding member of Gaudeamus, a Grammy award winning chorus based in Torrington, CT. With this group, he’s had the good fortune to perform at Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City with noted musicians such as Pete Seeger, the Paul Winter Consort, and Paul Halley. He’s also directed or played in numerous Broadway musical productions, including Godspell, and A Chorus Line.

Throughout his entire music life, he’s been involved with church music as an organist and choir director, at churches in Burlington, CT, Winsted, CT, and his current post, the First Church of Christ, Congregational, in West Hartford, CT. Jim brings all of these varied interests and experiences together in his approach to music, preferring to perform works in as authentic a style as possible, but with something special and unique with each performance.



Kathleen Theisen, NCTM (Nationally Certified Teacher of Music), is an award-winning educator, composer, conductor, pianist, organist, and soprano who performs throughout the NYC metro area.

She teaches K-5 music and chorus in Darien Public Schools, where she co-directed the district elementary honors chorus for five years and has led the summer Junior Musical Theatre Workshop for students in K-5 for seven years. She has also been on faculty at WCSU, Dana Hall School (Wellesley, MA), Madison Country Day School (Madison, WI), and Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts (Natick, MA).

Kathleen has served as Organist and Music Director at First Congregational Church, Ridgefield, CT since October 2019 and is active within the American Guild of Organists.

She debuted with the Metropolitan Opera Extra Chorus in 2003 and continues to perform as a singer and a pianist. She is the principal pianist with Ridgefield Symphony and played with Bridgeport and Waterbury Symphonies. She also has a strong interest and background in educational technology.

She is a frequent presenter at music conferences, and she is also the founder of dozens of online Professional Learning Communities for musicians and music teachers, including GoogleClassroom for Music Teachers, Elementary Music Teachers Sharing Ideas, Professional Voice Teachers, and Professional Piano Teachers.

Theisen earned the MM in piano performance and piano pedagogy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996



Rev. Liz Garrigan-Byerly provides leadership for the Area Conference Ministry (ACM) team assuring that the ACMs work as agents of transformation. ACM’s bring adaptive change by provoking and nurturing discipleship, new life, and creative partnerships in and through the love and justice of Jesus in our clergy, churches and Associations. She also provides support to the Unified Fitness Review Committees, Conference-wide Committee on Ministry Steering Team and General Synod delegation.



Rev. Dr. Maxwell Grant has been the senior minister of Second Congregational Church, Greenwich, since 2012. He holds multiple degrees from Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Yale Divinity School and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He is active in the Southern New England UCC Conference and the Fairfield West Association.



Nathan Avakian is a multi-talented artist with specialized interests and experience in organ performance, musical arrangement and composition and lighting design.

His fascination with the theatre organ began at age four with a visit to the Portland Organ Grinder restaurant. He began organ studies with Donna Parker at age eleven and has also been frequently coached by Jonas Nordwall. Since winning the American Theatre Organ Society Young Theatre Organist Competition in 2009, Nathan has provided theatre organ entertainment across the United States and internationally. In 2011 he completed a six-week concert tour of Australia and New Zealand. From 2011 to 2013, he served as the Youth Representative on the American Theatre Organ Society Board of Directors managing programs that recognize and support the work of young organ students.

Currently based in New York City, Nathan works as a freelance lighting designer and design associate with organizations including Historic Hudson Valley, Princeton University, New York Stage and Film, CAP21 Theatre Company, Purchase Opera, and the Lighting Design Group.



Concert organist Nathaniel Gumbs has performed at many venues in the U.S.A. and abroad. He is Director of Chapel Music at Yale University where he coordinates music for three worshiping communities: the University Church in Battell Chapel, and at Yale Divinity School in both Marquand Chapel and Berkeley Divinity School.

Gumbs earned his undergraduate degree from Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia and his Master of Music degree from Yale University. In 2021, he completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Eastman School of Music. His principal teachers include Steven Cooksey, David Higgs, and Martin Jean.



Pat Larrabee is a graduate of Smith College, majoring in chemistry and admitted to Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society, with a masters from Johns Hopkins. She's a techie, teacher and genealogist at heart, which led to her interest in history. Her 8th great-grandparents co-founded the town of Greenwich, CT, in 1640, so her love of local history abounds!



Rev. Patrick Collins is senior pastor of First Congregational Church of Greenwich. He has an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling and sports psychology as well as his Master of Divinity degree.



Rev. Dr. Peter Stickney has served several churches in Maine as their organist and choir director including UCC congregations. He is a minister in the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC) and is pastor and musician at the Newfield Congregational Church in Newfield, Maine. Peter currently serves as the chaplain for UCCMA and writes a monthly blog called Epiphanies from the Mill House on the UCCMA website. He is on the planning committee for the United Church of Canada’s new hymnal, Then Let Us Sing!




Steven Russell is the owner of Becoming Sound. He is a licensed massage therapist, working in Matawan, NJ. He is a yoga teacher, practicing yogi for 19 years, and has been a professional musician since 1983. After studying at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, he obtained a Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, where he sang and toured with Joseph Flummerfelt and the Westminster Choir, studied choral pedagogy with Frauke Haasemann, and studied piano with Harold Zabrack. Steven is a certified teacher of music in NJ, and taught music in elementary, middle, and high schools in NJ. He obtained a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where he studied conducting with Richard Westenburg, and organ with David Drinkwater, and directed the Rutgers University Queens Chorale for 14 years. Steven was the conductor of the New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus for 12 years, the interim conductor of the Shrewsbury Chorale, and an assistant conductor of the Monmouth Civic Chorus. He now is the founder and conductor of Ravine Crossing Chamber Chorale based in Matawan, NJ. Steven was the founding president of the New Jersey Choral Consortium, served on the board of the New Jersey American Choral Directors Association (NJACDA), and on the board of the Eastern Division of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), where he gave several yoga workshops at the divisional and national conferences.



Tom T. Shelton, Jr. is Associate Professor in the Department of Performance Studies at Westminster Choir College of Rider University. He teaches classes in Sacred Music, Conducting, and serves as the conductor for the University Chorale. Shelton serves as the Director of Music for Children’s and Youth Choirs at Princeton United Methodist Church and as an Associate Conductor with the Princeton Girlchoir Organization. He has been active with the American Choral Directors Association, serving as National President (2017-2019). Shelton has conducted and adjudicated festivals, workshops and honor choirs throughout the United States as well as Hong Kong; Jarkarta, Indonesia; Belarus; and Sri Lanka. He has compositions published by Choristers Guild, Colla Voce Music, G. Schirmer, Galaxy, GIA Publications, Growing in Grace Curriculum, Heritage Music Press, Hinshaw Music Company, Musicspoke.com, Santa Barbara Music Press, and Walton Music. Learn more at www.tomsheltonmusic.com.


WORSHIP, MUSIC & MINISTRY



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