Dr. Mark McQuade
Dr. Mark McQuade serves as Director of Theatre for Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. Along with his deep-rooted passion for the art of singing he brings nearly 25 years of experience as a performer and director of opera and musical theatre. His voice students have been featured in principal and supporting roles with university, community, and professional opera and musical theater companies, and they are regular award winners, finalists, and semi-finalists at state, regional, and national voice competitions.
As a performer, McQuade has appeared in opera, musical theater, concert, and recitals
throughout the United States and Canada. His operatic performances have included singing
leading roles such as Horace Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe, Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte,
Belcore in L'elisir d'amore, Mr. Peachum in The Threepenny Opera, Bob in The Old Maid and
the Thief, the title role in Tartuffe, and Ko-Ko in The Mikado. Other professional credits include
appearances as Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale with the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival in
Fairbanks, Alaska; the roles of Marco in Gianni Schicchi and Sciarrone in Tosca, as well as the
Baker and Rapunzel’s Prince in Into the Woods Jr., all with the Natchez Festival of Music in
Natchez, Mississippi; and the roles of Marco in Gianni Schicchi and Fiorello in Il barbiere di
Siviglia as well as being a featured soloist for “Opera on the River” with the Como Opera Guild.
Recent operatic and musical theatre directing projects have included Rigoletto, Die Zauberflöte,
Susannah, Suor Angelica, Street Scene, Fortune’s Favorites, Passion in the Principal’s Office, Le
nozze di Figaro, Le Mariage aux Lanternes, The Tender Land, Hairspray, Joseph and the
Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Godspell. His production of Street Scene earned a top
honor in the 2013 National Opera Association Production Competition. McQuade also served as
the General Director of the Western Plains Opera Company from 2015-2017.
McQuade is an active researcher and published author. His article, "Second Formant Tuning in
Males Above the Secondo Passaggio" was published in the Journal of Singing, Nov/Dec 2014
and his co-authored article, “Cinderella Meets Cendrillion: Musical Theatre and Opera Living
Under the Same Roof” was published in the Journal of Singing in late 2018. His
work, "Richard Miller: A Retrospective" was presented at the 2013 International Congress of
Voice Teachers in Brisbane, Australia. In addition, McQuade has presented poster presentations
and lectures on formant tuning at the International Congress of Voice Teachers in Brisbane,
Australia (2013) and Georgia Music Educators Association (2018).
He is the former Assistant Professor of Music and Voice Area Chair at Valdosta
State University. In addition, he has served as a voice professor at both Minot State University and Oklahoma Baptist University.
McQuade received the Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from the Oberlin
Conservatory of Music where he studied voice and worked in the Otto B. Schoepfle Vocal Arts
Center with renowned vocal pedagogue Richard Miller. McQuade also earned a Master of
Music degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Oklahoma and Doctor of Arts in
Vocal Pedagogy and Performance from the University of Mississippi. McQuade is an active
member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), where he has served as the
Texoma Region Governor, the Oklahoma District Governor, North Dakota District Governor, a
National Board Member, and was the recipient of the NATS Emerging Leader Award. He is
also an active member of the National Opera Association and the College Music Society.
Guitar, Ukulele, and Trumpet Teacher
Jay Hicks has been teaching private and group guitar lessons for over 20 years. Before retiring from public education, he taught general music and band at Madison Creative Arts Academy, a K-8 public charter school in Madison, Florida. Mr. Hicks is a writer and editor of guitar publications for the FJH Music Company in Fort Lauderdale, having written the publisher’s first method for bluegrass guitar, and having served as an editor on its Young Beginners Guitar Method as well as its Everybody’s Guitar Method series. He is also a writer and developer for Method Teacher, LLC, a Tallahassee based company providing online music curriculum for virtual schools around the United States. Hicks is an adjunct guitar instructor at North Florida College in Madison, where he also serves as Musical Director for the community theatre program.
Hicks earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Computer Information Systems from Georgia State University, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Theory from Charter Oak State College, and a Master of Music degree in Music Education from the University of Florida. He did additional studies in jazz improvisation and performance on guitar at Valdosta State University.
Joy Grimsley is the current Assistant Director of Bands at Valdosta Middle School. A graduate of Berkmar High School in Lilburn, Georgia, she earned both her Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Science in Education from Troy University in 1996 and 1997, respectively. While at Troy, she participated in the Sound of the South Marching Band (SOTS), Symphony Band, Concert Band, and Jazz Band, served as President of CMENC, and was an active member of the Epsilon Xi chapter of Tau Beta Sigma. In 1994, she was the recipient of the Kathryn Siphers Memorial Scholarship given by Women Band Directors International, and in 1996 was awarded the John M. Long Academic Scholarship Award.
Mrs. Grimsley’s professional memberships include the National Association for Music Education, Georgia Music Educators Association, and the National Band Association. She is a Life Member of Tau Beta Sigma and is also a Sigma Alpha Iota Patroness.
Mrs. Grimsley performs with the Azalea Winds Community Band and is married to Jamie Grimsley. They have one son, Braddock, who is currently attending Troy University and plays tuba in the Sound of the South.
Joy Grimsley is in her eighth year as Assistant Band Director at Valdosta Middle School. She teaches sixth grade beginning band, seventh grade concert band, and seventh and eighth grade music appreciation. Primarily focusing on woodwinds, her students have consistently received superior ratings at GMEA Solo and Ensemble Festival, and many are selected for honor bands. A graduate of Troy University, she is in her 24th year of teaching. She is a member of Georgia Music Educators Association, National Band Association, Tau Beta Sigma, and Sigma Alpha Iota.
She is married to Jamie Grimsley, who plays tuba with the Azalea Winds. They have one son, Braddock who is currently attending Troy University and plays tuba in the Sound of the South.
Originally from Redmond, Oregon, Caitlin has been playing piano since she was five years old. She has been accompanying since she was eight years old.
In 2019, Caitlin graduated from Young Harris College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Piano Performance. While attending Young Harris, she was awarded the Edwin Gerchefski Scholarship in Outstanding Piano in 2017. She was the chorister and student accompanist for the Zeta Kappa chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon, an international honors music fraternity.
Caitlin recently graduated from Valdosta State University with her Masters in Music Performance in collaborative piano, and was awarded a graduate assistantship. While at VSU, she accompanied Chamber Singers, Concert Choir, Women’s Chorus, and VSU Opera. Cailtin also taught class piano and secondary piano lessons for non-music major students at VSU. She has played for many different instrumentalists and all voice types.
Caitlin is currently the organist at First Baptist Church of Valdosta, and has played at various churches throughout her life.
Alex Nguyen is the current Band Director at Lowndes Middle School in Valdosta, Georgia. He recently graduated from Auburn University with a Master’s degree in Music Education while also serving as a Graduate Teaching Assistant with the Auburn Bands. As a Graduate Teaching Assistant, Mr. Nguyen assisted with teaching the Auburn University Marching Band (AUMB), Pep Band, Symphonic Winds, Concert Band, and Campus Band. He also performed various administrative duties including maintaining and inventorying instruments for all Auburn University Bands; planning and organizing band trips, including the Final Four pep band trip to Minneapolis in 2019; and organizing the Auburn University Summer Camps and Symphonic Honor Bands. Prior to this position, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education, also from Auburn University.
While at Auburn, he performed with the Symphonic Winds, Concert Band, AUMB, Pep Band, Jazz Band, AU Singers Band, AU Community Orchestra, and the East Alabama Community Band.
Mr. Nguyen has performed with the Jazz Band at the Alabama Music Educators Association In-State Conference and as a soloist with the AU Community Orchestra for the Biannual Concerto Competition. He was also a founding member of the Alabama Voices, based in Birmingham, Alabama.
Mr. Nguyen is a graduate of South Forsyth High School in Cumming, Georgia, and was highly involved in the band program, performing with the marching band, concert bands, jazz band, and indoor percussion. He currently resides in Valdosta with his wife, Emily-Anne Nguyen and their cat, Goodwin.
Rebeca Sierra started playing piano as a hobby when she was 8 years old At age 12, she enrolled in music school with french horn as her primary instrument. She continued playing piano on her own for several years before returning to it as her focus. While at first the change proved difficult for various reasons, as time passed she found a great passion for making music with other people through playing piano and french horn with an orchestra. In addition, she accompanies her classmates at Valdosta State University where she studies as a piano performance major. This has changed her perspective and desire to study piano more deeply and to be a better accompanist.
Prior to teaching for VAPA, Rebeca taught in her mother's music studio. From working with her mother, she has learned that every student needs a different approach. Rebeca is a patient teacher and knows how to organize activities to accomplish the goal of each lesson. Rebeca is also bilingual, so her students also benefit from learning some music terminology in Spanish.
Alysia Johnson is currently a full-time student at Valdosta State University, studying to obtain a Bachelor in the Arts of Music with an education concentration. Ms. Johnson received her diploma and fine arts seal from Chamblee Charter High School, where she was a student conductor under the instruction of the school’s orchestra instructor, Mr. Phillip Barnard (2021-2022), and a member of the Dekalb Youth Symphony Orchestra (2018-2022). She was also a member of the Tri-M Music Honors Society (2020-2022). Throughout her high school career, Ms. Johnson received many awards for her musicianship, including honorary orchestra student (3x), orchestra resident (3x), and the 2022 Director’s Award. She was also a member of the Still Waters Youth Sinfo-Nia Orchestra (2014-2019), founded by her elementary school violin instructor, Mr. David E. Robinson and recently served as their concert master in 2019.
Alysia Johnson is a teacher of the South Georgia String Project (SGSP). As a teacher of SGSP, Ms. Johnson is learning the core fundamentals of what it truly is to teach young, aspiring musicians. She now gives private lessons, which are open to SGSP students and any student that wants to expand in their musicianship. Ms. Johnson is also currently a member of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra. While performing throughout each concert, she also worked with Valdosta State’s Opera for their performance of Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” in February 2023 and has performed “Solemn Vespers” in December 2022.