I grew up in the Dallas area and graduated from Richardson High School. I then went on to Receive a BA from McMurry University and a Master’s of Divinity from SMU Perkins School of Theology. I loved playing soccer and was in band and choir in high school. I also sang in choir through most of my college career, including a trip to sing in the Cathedrals and Churches in England. I like to play racquetball and love the mountains and the beach. I have been married for 30 years and have three children, ages 16, 19 & 21. I am the Senior Pastor at Austin Avenue UMC. My primary responsibilities are leadership, preaching and teaching, coordinating staff and visioning for the future.
Tom grew up in Waco and graduated from Baylor, majoring in business and philosophy. After college, during his “Thoreau stage,” he bought some land and built his own house in the woods and managed a sporting goods store. He later received the Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth and served as a pastor for ten years in Missouri and Mississippi. Tom returned to Waco in 1996 and worked in the education field with CORD. Currently, he is the Executive Director of The Arc of McLennan County, where he has worked for the past thirteen years. He is married to Cathy, and they live on sixteen acres in the China Spring area where Tom enjoys gardening, cooking, cutting firewood, and mowing on the old tractor. They have three grown children: Erin who lives in Boston, Thomas who currently resides in California, and Dee who is married and lives in Houston.
As a native Wacoan, I have been a benefactor to many of the Community Resources in our Great City. Now, as a professional I have had the opportunity to give back to our children, serving seven years as a classroom teacher for Waco ISD. Because of my tutelage, educational attainment has been one of my many goals. I am a graduate of Tarleton State University, Waco Campus, with a Master’s Degree in Education Administration, University of North Texas with a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, and McLennan Community College Teacher Certification program. I am wife to a retired Army Serviceman and a mother of three awesome children, two of which participated in the Parents Day out Program. As Director, I hope to serve the children and families with experiences that are life changing for all stakeholders. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.
Jillian Gardner — organist, accompanist, and harpsichordist — hails from Lee Center, New York. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Organ Performance with Isabelle Demers at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She began her study of the organ at age fourteen with Stephen Best of Utica, New York and completed a bachelor’s degree in Organ Performance with a minor in historical performance from the Oberlin Conservatory in May, 2015, working with both James David Christie and Marie-Louise Langlais.
Gardner has been an active recitalist across the United States. Beginning in June of 2013, she has presented an annual concert at Grace Episcopal Church (Utica, New York). She was a featured artist at the 2014 Organ Historical Society Convention Holiday (Syracuse, New York), and has also performed at St. Joseph’s Cathedral (Buffalo, New York), the Cathedral of St. Joseph (Hartford, Connecticut), the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Syracuse, New York), and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (NYC), amongst others. In July of 2016, she will travel to the United Kingdom to give a tour of recitals.
No stranger to the competition circuit, Gardner took first place in the chapter level competition of the Regional Competition for Young Organists (RCYO) in Buffalo, New York in March, 2013. The next year, she finished first at the Tuesday Musical Club Association scholarship competition in Akron, Ohio. In March 2015, Gardner won the RCYO chapter level competition again, this time in Albany, New York. During the same month, The Diapason magazine selected her as one of the “Top 20 under 30” organists in the nation. In April 2015, she was a finalist in the Arthur Poister competition in Syracuse, New York.
In addition to performing and competing, Gardner has worked as the organ scholar at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York City in January, 2015. Her duties included accompanying and directing the sanctuary choir, service playing, and improvisation. She has also been organist at St. Joseph’s Church, Lee Center, New York, Grace Lutheran Church, Oberlin, Ohio, and St. John’s Episcopal Church, Oneida, New York. She is currently Assistant Organist at Austin Avenue United Methodist Church in Waco, Texas and has twice attended the McGill Summer Organ Academy in Montréal, Canada (2013, 2015) where she studied with Olivier Latry, Hank Knox, and Hans-Ola Ericsson.
Passionate about making the organ accessible to as many people as possible, Gardner’s diverse programs and signature pink organ shoes brighten each of her colorful performances. Outside of the organ loft, Gardner is an advocate of physical fitness. She believes that a healthy mind and body contribute to the quality of her artistry. She also enjoys crafting in her spare time. Gardner always enjoys meeting new people and is enthusiastic to travel and experience different cultures in the United States and abroad as she pursues a combined career as a church organist and recitalist.
My name is Vickie Chamness, and I’m very happy to be a part of the AAUMC staff, serving as Administrative Assistant. While my husband and I are originally from Fort Worth, he (Joe), currently serves as Pastor of the First United Methodist Church in McGregor, where we live in the church Parsonage. I am very active at our church, singing with the choir, working with the children, and participating with our United Methodist Women circles. We have two grown children, and 4 grandchildren who bring such joy into our lives (I’ll be happy to tell you about them anytime!). We love to travel and our adventures have taken us to many exciting locations, both in and outside the US. I’m an avid scrapbooker and paper-crafter. I received a BS degree from the University of North Texas, and taught elementary school for several years. I’m looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible so please stop by and say, “hi”.