Music Department

Danette Banks, Piano and Keyboard

Danette Banks, Piano and Keyboard

Danette Banks: Piano

Danette Banks has experienced the love of playing and performing music for over 45 years and continues to find it both challenging and rewarding. She believes music is a journey of the senses which can open and expand the mind.  For the first 11 years of her musical journey, she spent hours alone discovering rhythms, harmonic relationships, and dynamic expression.  On making music in a group setting, Danette has said said,”What a wonderful joy was awaiting me when I discovered how much fun it was to make music as part of an ensemble, or as I like to think of it, a team…In all settings, it is exhilarating to make music with other people”.
Mrs. Banks’ teaching journey includes teaching privately, home-school choruses, pre-k through 8th grade music in private school (with her own curriculum), 8th grade science, large children’s choirs, adult church choirs, youth and adult bands, gospel choirs, reading literacy, and soldier medics in learning how to prepare for their responsibilities.  Mrs. Banks home-schooled her own children and considers herself a teacher that loves to learn and help others love learning.


Carson Branham: Guitar and Bass Guitar

Carson Branham is an alumnus of Gardner-Webb University where he studied Applied Guitar Lessons. Carson is a seasoned worship leader, and has six years of experience facilitating and leading worship bands as well as leading students and adults from ages 12 – 65. Carson is currently serving as a pastor at Lake Norman Baptist Church where he enjoys working with individual students to develop their musical skills on the guitar and bass. Music is Carson’s passion and he is so excited to share it with you! He is also passionate about good books, coffee, pizza, and his beautiful wife Madeline.

Madeline Branham: Piano and Voice

Madeline Branham is a GSOA alumna and an alumna of South Point High School, NC Governor’s School, and Gardner-Webb University. Madeline graduates with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education with a concentration in Voice in May 2021. She has experience with classical singing, opera performance, musical theatre performance, and worship leadership. Additionally, Madeline is experienced in college audition and scholarship preparation – funding her undergraduate career with institutional and regional music scholarships. Madeline studied piano at both Gaston School of the Arts and in college, and is excited to teach the most foundational instrument to others. Madeline is obtaining her K-12 teaching license for music and has experience with students ranging from kindergarten through age 50. Her main goal is to share her love of music with others, especially through voice and piano.

Eduardo M. Cedeño, Cello, String Bass, Violin, and Viola

Eduardo M. Cedeño; Cello, String Bass, Violin, and Viola

Eduardo M. Cedeño: Cello, String Bass, Violin, and Viola; Youth Orchestra

Eduardo Cedeño holds a B.A. degree in Music and M.M. degree from Butler University Jordan College of Music in Indianapolis, IN with post-graduate work at Boston University and additional studies in Europe. Cedeño has studied conducting at workshops under the direction of Maestro Ennio Nicotra in Mirano, Italy, Maestro Adrian Gnam and Maestro Robert Gutter in Atlanta, Georgia. As an undergraduate student, Cedeño studied under Jackson Wiley, Music Director Emeritus of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis, violin under Hidetaro Suzuki, former Concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. He studied voice under the direction of Helena Lazarska, Professor of Music at the University of Music, Vienna, Austria and under André Aerne, Butler University.   He won first prize in the International Choir Competition, Guido D’Arezzo, Italy as a Tenor member of the Schola Cantorum of Caracas.

Cedeño has performed as a conductor, soloist and collaborative artist in the United States, Europe, and South America. As a founding member of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, Director and Conductor of the Merida Symphony Orchestra and as a Founding Member of the Philharmonic Choral Group of Caracas, he has worked with the acclaimed José Antonio Abreu, founder of El Sistema and the Orquesta Nacional Juvenil de Venezuela .

Eduardo has collaborated with numerous performing organizations including the Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Opera, Charlotte Civic Orchestra, UNCC Opera and Carolina Voices and various other orchestras in Caracas, Venezuela. Mr. Cedeño previously served as Orchestra Director at Cannon School in Concord, NC.

Cedeño is Strings Instructor and Adjunct Faculty (Applied Violin, Music Appreciation and Fundamentals of Music) at Mitchell Community College in Statesville, North Carolina and Chorus Director at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Formerly the Conductor of the Gaston School of the Arts Youth Orchestra, he now is Strings Instructor at Gaston School of the Arts.

He is co-founder and former President and Principal Conductor of the Cornelius Youth Orchestras in Cornelius, NC and founder and Principal Conductor of the Lake Norman Youth Orchestra in Davidson, NC.

Cedeño currently serves as Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Lake Norman Orchestra in Mooresville, North Carolina, which has been recognized for its performance and collaboration in both Vienna and in Salzburg, Austria. Starting in 2015, he will also serve as Conductor for MusicalMinds Huntersville, North Carolina, a 501 (c) (3) project, founded by the Lake Norman Kiwanis Club, an El Sistema inspired project that through music, inspires social change in children and communities in the region of Lake Norman.

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Brian Cripe, Percussion

Brian Cripe: Percussion

Mr. Cripe has played the drums since 4th grade, and has also played keyboard, bass, guitar and flute. He has played on tour in Canada and Venezuela. He has performed with Buddy Rich and has played with the Frank Love Orchestra and has played with the Stardusters locally. He played with a rock band for many years while also playing percussion with theatres at Central PiedmontCommunity College, UNC-Charlotte, BelmontAbbeyCollege, and WingateCollege. In addition, he has also performed at Theatre Charlotte, Matthews Community Theatre, Ablemarle Community Theatre, Hickory Community Theatre, the Green Room, the Speedway Club, Little Theatre of Gastonia and GSOA Playhouse. He holds a dual degree in biology and high energy physics from Purdue University in Indiana and worked at Duke Power for 20 years before taking his current job with Presbyterian Hospital as a health physicist.

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Janice Deal, Piano

Janice Deal: Piano

Mrs. Janice Deal grew up in Durham, North Carolina but has called Gastonia home for over twenty-five years.   After high school, she attended Mars Hill College and UNC, Chapel Hill as music major. She later studied voice at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC while living in that area. Mrs. Deal has served churches in North Carolina and Virginia in various music positions and is currently music director/organist at Christ United Methodist Church in Gastonia. She has taught piano and organ students privately for many years and considers teaching individual students to be a special joy.

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Todd Geer, Voice and Kidz-n-Harmony

Todd Geer: Voice and Kidz-n-Harmony

A native of Charlotte, NC, Todd Geer holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Binghamton University. After his academic training he continued his studies as a resident artist with Tri-Cities Opera where he sang much of his core repertoire for the first time under the tutelage of his teachers Peyton Hibbitt and the late Carmen Savoca. Mr. Geer resides in Charlotte, NC  and serves as Resident Artist of Myers Park Baptist Church. Mr. Geer was awarded the prestigious Adler Fellowship with San Francisco Opera in 1999 where he performed as resident artist for two seasons. He made his San Francisco Opera debut as Don Gaspar in La Favorite, followed by a leading role debut as Rodolfo in La Bohème that same season. Subsequently, he has taken part in more than twenty productions with San Francisco Opera, both as a resident and guest artist.

Yulia Helm, Mozart for Kids

Yulia Helm, Mozart Kids

Yulia Helm: Accompanist

Yulia Helms has taught piano  and music theory to children and adults at Gaston School of the Arts since 2008.   She has also been an accompanist for the North Carolina  Dance Theatre in Charlotte and at  the University of North Carolina in  Charlotte.  She has also worked with the Charlotte Symphony’s Education Department on several projects. In her native Uzbekistan,  Mrs. Helm taught piano students in  grades kindergarten through high school from 1995-1998, while performing as the  primary pianist for the Orchestra Bayanisti  Ekaterinburga. She holds a 1998 degree in music with top honors from the Ural State Conservatory in Ekaterineburg, Russia. She is married and has two sons.


Matt McGee: Guitar and Ukulele

Matt McGee is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and song writer from Gaston County with over 20 years of experience. As a semi-professional musician he has played in several bands ranging in style from rock, pop, country, and modern worship as well as serving in music ministry with various churches throughout Gaston and Cleveland counties. He currently serves as worship director/leader and/or instrumentalist for Pleasant City Church, Christ Covenant Ministries, and Parkwood Baptist Church. Matt is also employed by Gaston County Schools at Bessemer City Central Elementary where he teaches a Fine Arts class for grades 3-5 and a guitar and percussion class for select 5th grade students.


Monica Morgan; french horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba

Monica Morgan; french horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba

Monica Morgan: French Horn, Trumpet, Trombone, and Tuba; Piano

Biography coming soon…

Darrell Padgett: Guitar

Darrell Padgett started playing guitar at age 12 and has been instructing for over three decades. Darrell has performed many live shows with various types of bands over the years. He makes it his goal to actively learn something new on guitar every week and adamantly believes you should never stop learning.


Shirley Queen, Piano

Shirley Queen, Piano

Shirley Queen: Piano

Mrs. Shirley Queen was born in Virginia but has lived in Gastonia for over 20 years. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK. Currently, Mrs. Queen is the pianist and music director at Springwood Church of God. She has been teaching piano for over 30 years. These lessons have been held in home and at school such as First Asembly Christian Academy and Mt. Island Charter School. Some of her students participate in the NC Federation of Music clubs, usually earning a “superior” or “excellent” rating. Her teaching philosophy is that anyone can learn to play the piano if they have that desire.


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Jan Siler, Piano and Woodwinds

Jan Siler: Piano and Woodwinds

Mrs. Jan Siler holds a Bachelor’s of Music in Music Education from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas and a Master’s of Music in Clarinet Performance from Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Md. She has taught at Gaston School of the Arts since 1983, and has more than 35 years of experience teaching piano, clarinet, flute, saxophone, oboe and bassoon. She has performed with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra and the Western Piedmont Symphony as both 1st and 2nd clarinet. Mrs. Siler’s students participate yearly in the NC Federation of Music Clubs Festival in Gastonia with the majority receiving either superior or excellent. Mrs. Siler’s teaching philosophy is that music is a language and her goal is to teach students to read that language so that they eventually understand it and can teach themselves. She believes that no one is too old to begin music lessons. She introduces her students to good classical musical literature, but will also let students pick “their” kind of music to motivate them. She teaches skills that are specific to each instrument such as touch, embouchure, breathing, and playing in tune.

Christopher Sims: Piano, Voice, and Theory/Composition

Christopher Sims is currently an adjunct professor at More Than Conquerors College and has taught in various educational institutions in both North Carolina and Florida. He is a licensed minister and has years of experience leading services and directing music in worship settings. Christopher earned his Master of Arts in Education and Higher Education degree from Ashford University in 2013 and his Bachelor of Arts in Music Theory and Composition from Florida International University in 1991. He teaches vocal technique, piano, playing by ear, music theory, and composition. He also has extensive experience in producing, choral directing, and writing/directing major musicals and other acting disciplines. Christopher has traveled to and performed in such historic cities as Verona and Rome, Italy; Frankfurt, Germany; London, England; Vienna, Austria; Boston, Massachusetts; Miami, Florida; and our very own Charlotte, NC. His hobbies include swimming and composing music.

Jocelyn Thompson, Piano

Jocelyn Thompson: Piano

Jocelyn Pharr Thompson recently retired after teaching for 38 years, 30 years as a chorus teaching in the Charlotte Public Schools and 8.5 years with Eckerd Family Youth Alternatives, Inc. Her last four years of teaching was spent at South Charlotte Middle School where she served as chorus teacher. In addition to teaching choral music, Jocelyn served as music director for the spring musical each year and taught all choral students beginning piano skills.

Jocelyn is a native of Peekskill, New York. Her family moved to Gastonia, NC where she and her twin sister, Jacqueline attended Gaston County Schools starting in the 2nd grade. Jocelyn is a 1974 honor graduate of Hunter Huss High School. Jocelyn and her twin sister were awarded Gaston Music Education Scholarships in piano, and she was also the recipient of an Alumni Scholarship from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). While at UNCG, Jocelyn studied piano with Dr. Joseph Dipiazza. During the following four years, Jocelyn served as accompanist for many voice and instrumental students (weekly rehearsals, lessons, and semester recitals). She entered graduate school on an accompanying/class piano teaching scholarship. While working towards her master’s degree, Jocelyn continued to serve as accompanist for undergraduate recitals. She was one of three graduate students responsible for teaching class piano to all other undergraduate music majors. She earned the Bachelor of Music Education degree (1978), the Master of Music Education degree (1980), and the Master of Education in Special Education (1986), all from UNCG.

In January of 1981, Jocelyn began her teaching career as a transitional education teacher at the South Central North Carolina site of the Jack and Ruth Eckerd Wilderness Educational Program (Eckerd Family Youth Alternatives, Inc.) where she taught English, math, science, social studies, and health to behaviorally handicapped boys between the ages of 8 – 16. In the fall of 1985, Jocelyn was elevated to the Educational Coordinator’s position. During those 8.5 years, Jocelyn taught voice and piano students in her home and served as the pianist, organist, and choir director at numerous churches in the area. In the fall of 1989, she decided to teach music in the public schools.

Jocelyn previously taught choral music at Providence High School, served as Performing Arts Chairperson at Garinger, Mallard Creek, and West Charlotte High Schools. Her high school students participated at the local, regional, state, and national levels. They consistently earned Excellent and Superior ratings at the NCMEA West #1 Large Choral Festival Adjudication Events, and they participated in NCMEA Honors and All-State Choirs. Her West Charlotte Choirs performed extensively up and down the east coast, including two appearances at Carnegie Hall, one at Riverside Church in New York City, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

From 1994 – 2002, Jocelyn served as principal accompanist/assistant director of the Mainstage Choir of Carolina Voices (formerly the Charlotte Choral Society). She served as class piano and music appreciation instructor at Central Piedmont Community College, and as choir director at Belmont Abby College.
In addition to her work in the public schools, Jocelyn has worked in music ministry at Memorial Presbyterian Church since the spring of 1990 where she is currently the Director of Music/Organist. Jocelyn has served as music leader for both the Men’s and Women’s Mid-Atlantic Conferences in Massanetta Springs, Virginia, hymn leader for the Presbyterian Church USA General Conference held in Charlotte, and she and her sister were music leaders for the 2003 Church Wide Gathering of Presbyterian Women held in Louisville, Kentucky in July of 2003. An active clinician in the region and states, Jocelyn has conducted and/or accompanied All-County Choirs in Wilkes, Iredell-Statesville, and Rockingham, and Gaston County.
Jocelyn is an active member of NCMEA, NAfME, NCACDA, and ACDA. She serves her community as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. and the Links, Incorporated. She is married to Elder Sherman B. Thompson and resides in Gastonia, NC with their akita, Sasha.