Joy of Music School Advisory Council

The Joy of Music School Advisory Council consists of former board members and others who have demonstrated exemplary dedication to the School’s service in the community. They are afforded the opportunity for public expression of support for the School’s programs, and for continued involvement in the life of the School.


  • Bill Arant
  • Jerry Coker
  • Bill Davis, Sr.
  • James A. Dick, School Founder (1920-2011)
  • Marilyn Dick
  • Robert Harvey
  • David Traver

Council Members


The Ven. Dr. Jerry Askew is Archdeacon of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee and serves as Deacon at St. John’s Cathedral. In addition, he serves as a spiritual director and Diocesan Missioner for Small Parish Vitality.

Since arriving in Knoxville in 1985, Jerry has served as the Dean of Students and Associate Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Affairs at the University of Tennessee; President & CEO of the East Tennessee Foundation; Senior Vice President of St. Mary’s Health System; President & CEO of the Alliance for Better Nonprofits; and, most recently, as Interim CEO of the Knox Education Foundation. He has served on the boards of over 60 nonprofit organizations at the local, state and national levels. He currently serves as Board Chair of the Episcopal School of Knoxville and Capital Campaign Chair for Grace Point Camp and Retreat Center.

Jerry received his B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was a Morehead Scholar, M.S. from the University of Memphis, and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.  He is a graduate of EfM and received his deacon training at the University of the South. Jerry is married to attorney Robyn Jarvis Askew. The Askews have two married children and four delightful grandchildren.


Angela Batey recently served as Interim Director of the UT School of Music and is currently Associate Director of the School of Music for Graduate Studies, Director of Choral Activities, and the James Cox Professor of Music. She conducts the UT Chamber Singers and teaches conducting courses at the graduate levels. Batey is also Director of Music at Farragut Presbyterian Church, past-President of the Tennessee American Choral Directors Association, and is currently serving on the Executive Board of Southern Division ACDA. Batey holds two degrees from Birmingham-Southern College in Music Education and Musical Theatre, a master’s degree from The Florida State University in Music Education, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Conducting from the University of South Carolina. She is enthusiastic about the mission of the Joy of Music School.

Harold Black

Harold A Black is Emeritus Professor of Finance at UT. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Georgia where the UGA Terry College of Business has announced a named professorship in his honor. UGA has also recently named its new freshman dormitory for him, along with two others who integrated its freshman class in 1962. Black’s PhD is from the Ohio State University and his faculty appointments include the University of Florida, Howard University, and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. He was appointed by President Carter to serve on the first National Credit Union Administration Board and has been a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve and at the Congressional Budget office. Black is past chairman of the Nashville branch of the Federal Reserve of Atlanta and has published extensively in the leading journals in business and economics. He served on the boards of two of the nation’s largest financial institutions and his consulting clients are among the leading law firms and financial institutions in the country. His continuing contributions to the Joy of Music are immeasurable.


Susan Brackney is a dedicated and hard-working supporter of the Joy of Music School. She has tirelessly served on the Board of Directors for several terms. Susan is herself a skilled musician who plays the piano and cello, and she is passionate about ensuring that other children have the same opportunities to learn and excel. Susan’s exceptional work in fundraising and leadership has helped bring years of success to the Holiday Sparkles and Spirits gala. She continues to actively support the School and its mission.

Donald Brown

Donald Ray Brown is an American jazz pianist and producer and a recently-retired professor of music at UT. Over the years, he has been a major supporter of the Joy of Music School having worked directly with several of the students – many of whom rose to notable careers in music. Brown, who was raised in Memphis, learned to play trumpet and drums in his youth. From 1972 to 1975, he was a student at Memphis State University, by which time he had made piano his primary instrument. He performed with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers from 1981 to 1982, then took teaching positions at Berklee College of Music from 1983 to 1985 and at UT from 1988 until his recent retirement. Brown has recorded for Evidence, Muse, and Sunnyside labels.

Ashley Capps

Ashley Capps founded AC Entertainment in 1991, a music promotion company based in Knoxville that specializes in venue management and services, event booking and production, and event marketing and sponsorships. ACE are the co-producers of the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival with Superfly Productions and the producers of the WayHome Music & Arts in Barrie, ON, the Forecastle Festival in Louisville, Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, and the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit in Asheville. Capps got his start as a music promoter in Knoxville during the 1970s, where he booked events at UT and off-campus venues. In 1988 he opened a music club in Knoxville called Ella Guru’s, which he closed in 1990 to re-focus his energies on forming AC Entertainment. The global entertainment giant Live Nation fully purchased AC Entertainment last January; Capps will remain with the company as senior director. Over the years, Capps has been honored for his countless contributions to the arts and continues as a long-time support of the Joy of Music School.

F. Michael Combs

Michael Combs is the Founding Board President of the Joy of Music School and has served several terms on the board. He and James Dick met with other community leaders in 1997 to develop plans for a music school specifically for disadvantaged children, and today we realize James’s dream. Michael is Associate Principal Timpanist of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and Professor of Music (retired) at UT. His special recognitions include the Tennessee Arts Academy “Lifetime Achievement” Award, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Resolution of Commendation, the Tennessee Music Education Association “Lifetime Achievement” award, and Phi Eta Sigma award for excellence in teaching. This past year, he received the Percussive Arts Society “Lifetime Achievement” Award in Education at their international conference.  Michael is a member of the Leadership Knoxville class of 1998 and has served as a director on the boards of the Tennessee Theatre, the Bijou Theatre, James White’s Fort, and as a Commissioner on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Commission. In addition to his active schedule on community boards, Michael works part-time for Knox County Schools as a substitute teacher and also as a volunteer for the East Tennessee History Museum, taking school groups through that historical collection.

Aram Demirjian

Aram Demirjian is the eighth music director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and has served as guest conductor of orchestras that include the Philadelphia, Sarasota, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New England Conservatory, North Carolina, Omaha, Portland, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Tucson symphonies. From 2012 to 2016, he served as Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony. In addition to being honored with the 2020 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award, Aram also received the 2018 Solti Foundation U.S. Buccheri Opera Residency with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the 2011 Robert J. Harth Conducting Prize from the Aspen Music Festival.  Aram holds a joint Bachelor of Arts in Music and Government from Harvard and a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from The New England Conservatory.

Pete Finch

Pete Finch is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, BusinessWeek, Golf Digest, and many other publications. A big fan of pop and rock music, he plays bass guitar and sings backup in a couple of NYC-based rock bands. Currently, he helps edit the Joy of Music School Newsletter.

Becky headshot 2 Square Crop (1)

After Becky Hancock graduated from the University of Tennessee, her professional career began in arts administration when she moved to New York City to work for a prestigious public relations firm representing international classical musicians and performing arts organizations. She returned to Knoxville to work for AC Entertainment, managing the daily operations of Tennessee Theatre, and has served as the Executive Director of the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation since 2013 where she oversees all activity at the Theatre, directs 25 full-time staff, serves as the public face of the organization, and works with the Board of Directors to fulfill the mission and long-term vision of the Official State Theatre of Tennessee.

Before starting her role at the Tennessee Theatre, she spent six years as Assistant Director of Knox Heritage. Becky is a member of Leadership Tennessee’s Class X, Leadership Knoxville’s Class of 2006, and the Executive Women’s Association. She recently was recognized as a finalist in YWCA Knoxville’s annual Tribute to Women and currently serves as chair of the national board of the League of Historic American Theatres. She has served on boards for Visit Knoxville, Downtown Knoxville Alliance, 91.9 Inc, Historic Rugby, TN, and the historic Bijou Theatre. She faithfully served as a member of The Joy of Music School Board of Directors and dedicated her time and talents as a volunteer teacher at the School.

Natalie Haslam

Natalie Haslam has served on a great many boards in our community, including a term on the board of the Joy of Music School during the early days when James Dick was establishing the school. During those formative days she was instrumental in her support and guidance. Natalie has served our community as an active volunteer and philanthropist over many years in more ways than we would have room to list. The East Tennessee Historical Society honored Natalie with its highest honor – naming her “East Tennessean of the Year”.  She was the first woman to be President of the Knoxville Symphony Society, and has been President of the East Tennessee Foundation and the East Tennessee Historical Society. Among her many awards and recognitions, Natalie was chosen as the UT “Volunteer of the Year” and is the recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award from the Tennessee Arts Commission. She is a former UT “Miss Tennessee” and a member of the graduating class of 1952. Husband Jim was recruited by Coach Robert Neyland and was a starter on the 1951 national championship team and captain of the 1952 team. The UT School of Music is named the Natalie L Haslam Music Center in recognition of the support she and her family have given to the school over many years.

Hallerin Hilton Hill

Hallerin Hilton Hill came to Knoxville to work at a local radio station owned by James Dick who founded the Joy of Music School. He’s been a top-rated drive-time radio talk show host for almost 30 years, voted “Best Talk Show Host” by his loyal listeners, and was recently named one of America’s top talk show hosts by Talker’s Magazine. For over a decade he produced and hosted the TV talk show Anything Is Possible on East Tennessee’s top-rated station. He has appeared in national TV commercials and served as narrator/host for several documentaries. He is a songwriter/singer/producer having worked with many renowned artists. He is the author of the best-selling self-help book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which is also the cornerstone for his wisdom coaching enterprise. He has spent the last 20 years working with some of America’s top organizations as a speaker and trainer and he speaks to thousands of people each year to help inspire, motivate, and encourage excellence. Hallerin is CEO and founder of Wisdom House, a multimedia company focused on inspiring people around the world to grow in wisdom.

Dale Keasling

Dale Keasling is former Chairman of the Board of Home Federal Bank, a full-service banking institution based in Knoxville since 1924. Over many years, Keasling has done a great deal to support a variety of important activities and non-profit organizations in our community and has provided significant support to the Joy of Music School. While retired as Chairman of the Board of Home Federal Bank, he remains as a member of that board.

Jon Lawler

Jon Lawler has been with Johnson and Gaylon for many years and also was associated with LawlerWood but is currently operating JRL Services in Knoxville. Jon has served a term as president of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors, and is a member of the 1998 class of Leadership Knoxville.

Jeffrey Pappas

Jeffrey Pappas is a Professor of Music and the Dean of the College of Music at the University of Tennessee. He holds a Masters of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Illinois and a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in Choral Conducting and Pedagogy from the University of Iowa. He has also been active in church music, having led ministries at Fifth Avenue Baptist Church (Huntington, WV), First Methodist Church (Columbus, MS), Roberts Park Methodist Church (Indianapolis, IN), and High Street Methodist Church (Muncie, IN). He has also conducted the annual Messiah performance by the Columbus (MS) Chorus and Orchestra on numerous occasions. He has also been active in the American Choral Directors Association, serving as Repertoire and Standards Chairperson for 4-Year Colleges and Universities in Iowa and Mississippi and the Membership Chair for the Central Division. As a tenor soloist, his concert and/or opera performances have included Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, Massenet’s Herodiade, Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and Stravinsky’s Les Noces.

Barbara Pelot

Barbara Pelot served two terms on Knoxville City Council from 2001 to 2008. In addition to significant activities in support of the Joy of Music School, she also serves on the boards of the Knoxville Symphony League, the Juvenile Court Foster Care Review, as well as many other non-profit organizations. Currently, she is the full-time office manager for her husband, Reuben’s dental practice, and also remains a very active member of the Concord United Methodist Church.

Sharon J. Pryse

Sharon Jones Pryse attended UT and, after graduating with a finance degree, began as a clerk in the Trust Department of Valley Fidelity Bank. While still in her twenties, she became the bank’s youngest Senior Vice President; then at age 35, founded The Trust Company which manages over $4.7 billion in assets and employs 100 people across three cities. Sharon’s long-standing community commitment includes social service, the arts, economic development, and education. She is a long-time support of the Joy of Music School and was especially instrumental when James Dick started the School in 1998. Sharon has served as Board Chair for the Knoxville Chamber, Leadership Knoxville, YMCA, United Way, and has also chaired United Way’s annual fundraising campaign. She previously held a position on the UT Board of Trustees and Board of Directors for the UT Foundation. She is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including the Emerald Youth Legacy Award, the James A. Haslam Leadership Award, the Laureate Junior Achievement Hall of Fame, and the Tribute to Women Award.

Michael Rodgers

Michael Angelo Rodgers lives in Knoxville but is originally from Williamsburg, Virginia.  He is President/CEO of Rodgers, Inc, Director of Alumni Affairs at Knoxville College, and teaches special education at Knox County Schools. He studied music at Knoxville College, receiving his BA in 1993 before continuing his musical training at UT where he received a Master’s in Music in 1996. Rodgers has performed widely in the area,  including performances with the Knoxville Opera Company, the Marble City Opera, Symphony of the Mountains, the Chattanooga Symphony, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and the United Methodist Church. He is founder of the Knoxville Opera Goes to Church, former Educational Director of the Knoxville Opera Company, and has performed as soloist with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission Choir. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2020 MLK Arts Award and the “Logan Temple-Men of Service” Award. He is State Director of Education for Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity of East Tennessee and a supporter of the mission of the Joy of Music School,  having served as an active member of the School’s Board of Directors.

Doc-Severinsen 2

Heeeeere’s Johnny!” That lead-in, followed by a big band trumpet blast from Doc Severinsen was the landmark of late night television for three decades. A Grammy award winner, Doc has made more than 30 albums – from big band to jazz-fusion to classical. Severinsen’s accomplishments began in his hometown of Arlington, Oregon, population 600 where he started studying the trumpet. He served in the Army during World War II and following his discharge, landed a spot with the Charlie Barnett Band and then toured with the Tommy Dorsey followed by the Benny Goodman bands in the late 40’s. Doc arrived in New York City in 1949 to become a staff musician for NBC and then the Music Director for The Tonight Show. Severinsen, who has settled in his home on a farm just outside of Knoxville, tours regularly with his own Big Band and continues to perform with symphony orchestras all over the country. He is both an inspiration to and supporter of the Joy of Music School.

greg tardy image 2

Gregory Tardy is a well-known jazz saxophonist and an Associate Professor of Jazz Saxophone at the University of Tennessee. He has been an active supporter of the Joy of Music School and often performs at their fundraising events. Throughout his career, he has collaborated with many prominent jazz artists, including Tom Harrell, Dave Douglas, Wynton Marsalis, Jay McShann, Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove, Steve Coleman, Betty Carter, Don Byron, Bill Frisell, Rashied Ali, Ellis Marsalis, Brian Lynch, and John Patitucci, among others. He has performed at major jazz festivals and on some of the biggest stages in jazz all over the world. Since 1992, he has recorded 15 projects under his own name, and his latest project was released in the fall of 2023 on WJ3 records.

Karen and Harvey White

Karen White, an active supporter of the School, received her BA degree in psychology and MS in speech-language pathology from the University of Tennessee. She has served as speech-language pathologist at the Medical College of Virginia and also in private practice. Since 1998, she has taught private piano lessons. In addition to her support of the Joy of Music School, Karen has served in leadership positions in the Junior League of Knoxville, Blount Mansion, Ijams Symphony in the Park (chaired), Heart Gala, National Society of Colonial Dames in America, and as an elder at Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church. Currently she serves on the Board of Advisors for UTK School of Music (having chaired the gala for several years and current serving as head of the Board), as treasurer for Friends of Opera of East Tennessee, and as leader in the Presbytery of East Tennessee.

Karen studied piano for many years including training in Bristol, TN, and the University of Georgia. She has sung in the Sequoyah Hills Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir for 30+ years and accompanied children’s choirs there. She played solo piano with KSO as the auction winner at KSL Symphony Ball and as guest conductor of the symphony four times. Karen and her husband have hosted fundraisers in their home for opera singers, for Young Pianist Series, and KSL Elegant Dining Events. In addition to her full schedule, she also substitutes as a music teacher in the Lower School at Webb School.


Subscribe to our

Subscribe to our