Susan Eernisse joined the staff of First Baptist Church as Associate Music Minister and Director of the Performing Arts Academy in January 2022. She previously served on the staff of First Baptist Church, Carrollton, GA as Director of Children’s Music and Christian Education. Susan was also Editor of The Chorister, the journal for church musicians published by Choristers Guild. Susan earned degrees from Anderson University (SC) — Associate of Fine Arts in Music — and Berry College (Rome, GA) — Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Education. She completed all three Orff levels: Shorter University – Level I; University of Kentucky – Levels II and III. She has taught public and private school music, directed children’s choirs in schools and churches, and taught college courses in music education. She is a veteran writer of children’s music curriculum published by LifeWay Music, Growing in Grace, and Hal Leonard’s Sing and Celebrate Series. Susan has also served as editor on several projects for Choristers Guild. She is a respected children’s choir clinician and has been a faculty member of children’s music camps and festivals for many years. Susan is married to Dr. Glenn Eernisse, who is also Associate Music Minister at First Baptist.
Mr. Hooper is a graduate of Young Harris College, Shorter University with a Bachelor of Music Education degree, and the University of Georgia with a Masters in Music Education. He has done doctoral studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, and the University of Georgia, Athens. He served as choral director at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Georgia where he directed the musicals Showboat and Oklahoma. Mr. Hooper has performed around the United States with a gospel music group where he sang and served as accompanist for the group. He served for 11 years at Young Harris College where he taught voice and piano as well as directed the Vocal Ensemble. Mr. Hooper served as Minister of Music for 29 years at First Baptist Church of Blairsville, Georgia where he developed the children’s choir program and an active Student Choir with performances across the USA, the Berliner Dome, Salzburg Dome, Notre
Dame Cathedral, St. Anne’s Church in Israel, as well as performances in New York City including St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He came to serve as an Adjunct Instructor of Voice at Young Harris College in 2011 and continues to teach there. Mr. Hooper presently serves as Minister of Music at Truett Memorial Baptist Church in Hayesville, North Carolina, teaches voice and piano at Rabun Gap Nacoochee School in Rabun Gap, Georgia, and serves as an Adjunct Instructor of Voice at Truett-MConnell University in Cleveland, Georgia. His students have placed at National Association of Teachers of Singing competitions and his high school students have been accepted at Roosevelt University, Chicago, Illinois, Berklee College of Music, Boston, Massachusetts, Rollins College, Orlando, Florida, University of Georgia, Athens, and many other universities across the country. Mr. Hooper is a member of The Centurymen, the Sons of Jubal,
and has performed solos in Germany, Austria, France, Israel, Czech Republic, Russia, and many other countries. He is adept at teaching voice using various styles, including classical literature, traditional sacred, gospel, pop, country, and musical theatre.
Miriam Pendrey is in her twenty-third year as a string educator. She held the position of adjunct professor of violin at Reinhardt University from 2012-2015, where she taught music performance majors, performed as a member of a faculty ensemble, and coached the university orchestra. Miriam holds a graduate degree in violin performance from Lee University, and undergraduate degrees in violin performance and music education from Reinhardt University. As a string educator, she has coached string students in the Cherokee and Hall County school systems and has served as an adjudicator for GMEA district auditions.
Mrs. Pendrey currently teaches private violin students as part of the First Baptist Performing Arts Academy, and manages the string ensemble HeartStrings, which specializes in wedding music. As a freelance violinist, she performs with regional ensembles such as the Rome and Toccoa Symphony Orchestras.
Ms. Walton serves as instructor of woodwinds and director of the Woodwind Ensemble at Piedmont College. Ms. Walton’s distinguished career as a performer and music educator includes over 30 years of teaching at the middle school, high school and college levels. She also maintains a private clarinet studio from which students have earned prestigious placement in the Georgia All-State Symphonic Band and the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. Dianasue is currently principal clarinet with the Northwinds Symphonic Band, served as principal clarinet for the Gainesville Symphony for nearly twenty years, and was lead alto sax and clarinet for the professional dance band American Patrol Orchestra. Ms. Walton holds the Master of Music Education degree from the University of Georgia and the Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Memphis (formerly Memphis State University). She is a member of the Georgia Music Educators Association, the National Association for Music Education, the Association of Concert Bands, Windjammers Unlimited, and the Georgia Retired Educators Association.
Gretchen Welch is a musician and educator who is a member of First Baptist Church in Gainesville. She plays the flute in the church orchestra as well as for the Living Christmas Tree and plays in the Sanctuary Ringers hand bell group.
Mrs. Welch graduated with degrees in elementary education and elementary music education from Western Kentucky University. She was the principal flutist for both the university’s Symphonic Band and Orchestra. After graduation, she taught at elementary and middle schools in Kentucky, South Carolina, and Georgia. Her Master’s Degree in Education is from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee where she also studied flute at the Blair School of Music. She was named school Teacher of the Year three times and was a finalist for the Richmond County Teacher of the Year and the Georgia Science Teacher of the Year. She held certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.
Most recently, Mrs. Welch has been the Music Specialist for Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy in Gainesville, Georgia. While there she lead a music curriculum that brought group piano lessons to all kindergarten and first grade students. She directed several musical theater productions and taught choral music. Developing a public-school strings program was a joyful part of teaching at Wauka. Mrs. Welch managed the Hall County Strings Workshop for several years before retiring in 2019.
Mrs. Welch now teaches piano, violin, and flute lessons. She continues her ministry with young musicians as the conductor of the Student Orchestra at the First Baptist which she began in 2007.
Gretchen and her husband have two grown children and one beautiful granddaughter. They love to travel and are always involved in projects around their home.
Linda Williams graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Music degree in Theory and Composition. She grew up laying with the orchestra at First Baptist Church Atlanta and now plays with the orchestra at First Baptist Church Gainesville. She taught middle school and high school orchestra in Gwinnett County and then owned a private music school in Lawrenceville for seven years. Mrs. Williams served as the concertmaster of the Gwinnett Symphony and has played with the Atlanta Pops, Gainesville, Rome, LaGrange, and Augusts Symphonies, the Capitol City Opera, the Atlanta Passion Play orchestra and has freelanced for the past 34 years and taught privately for over 30 years. She holds additional certifications from Musikgarten as well as the Suzuki Association of the Americas. She currently directs a violin program at McEver Arts Academy, teaches at the First Baptist Church Gainesville Performing Arts Academy, and is violinist and Associate Music Director of the Gainesville String Orchestra.