Orchestra Directors

Mr. Casey Buck

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Mr. Casey Buck

Casey Buck is an ardent performer and music educator. He began playing cello in the third grade, and through his experiences in the public school orchestra and youth orchestra programs, as well as the inspiration of many of his teachers, he decided to pursue music in college. Mr. Buck earned Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music in Performance degrees from Loyola University New Orleans, where he studied cello with Allen Nisbet. Since 2006, Mr. Buck’s principal performance engagement has been as a member of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra cello section. 
 
As a music educator, Mr. Buck’s commitments are broad and diverse. The greatest share of his activity is through his work with Conway Public Schools, which began in 2006. Mr. Buck is the orchestra department head, directs the Conway High School Orchestra, and teaches Advanced Placement Music Theory at Conway High. He also assists with the orchestras at all four of Conway’s middle schools and the junior high campus. This affords him the privilege of working with students from their beginner year in sixth grade all the way through graduation. His students consistently receive the highest ratings at adjudicated performance assessments. In 2013 he completed the rigorous candidacy process to attain National Board Certification in Music. Since 2016 he served as a Reader, and then Table Leader, for the College Board’s annual AP Reading, helping to score the free response questions on the AP Music Theory exam.
 
In addition to his work in Conway, Mr. Buck began directing the Preparatory Orchestra (one of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Youth Ensembles, serving first- and second-year string players across central Arkansas) in 2008. He has also directed the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Strings program (formerly the UALR Summer Strings Camp) since 2011, and has been a clinician for the UCA Summer String camp since its inception in 2009. Mr. Buck’s teaching experience also extends to the university level, where he was a Visiting Lecturer of Music at Arkansas Tech University from 2006-2012, teaching String Methods and Applied Strings. 
 
Actively involved with the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association, Mr. Buck has held board positions as State Orchestra Chair and Region Chair, and continues to serve as senior high orchestra manager and audition host for the South Region Orchestra. He has helped train current and future music educators by presenting workshops across the state on the Arkansas Fine Arts frameworks in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Education, as well as music theory pedagogy and ensemble best practices. Mr. Buck is passionate about public school music education, and honored to be a small part of the long legacy of teachers affecting the lives of students from one generation to the next. He lives in Conway with his wife, Kristina Rose Buck (a classically-trained mezzo-soprano and fellow music educator), and their two amazing daughters, Abigail Rose and Adia Shalom. 

Mr. Matthew Gardner

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Mr. Matthew Gardner

Matthew Gardner is the director of the Ruth Doyle, Carl Stuart, and Conway Junior High 8th grade Orchestras, and he assists with the Conway High School Orchestra. His education was completed here in Conway at the University of Central Arkansas, where he received his Bachelor in Music Education and Masters of Music Performance. His focus instrument is classical guitar, and he also studied cello with Dr. Stephen Feldman at UCA.

He previously worked in the Little Rock School District leading the Horace Mann Middle School Orchestra and teaching general music. After teaching there for a year, he moved into the Conway School District.

Mr. Gardner has performed with the Conway Symphony Orchestra, members of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and with the Arkansas Chamber Singers. He has also performed a solo piece for a TedTalks tour. In addition to teaching in Conway, Mr. Gardner also teaches private lessons for string instruments and piano in Little Rock.

Outside of music, Mr. Gardner enjoys cooking and keeping up to date with the latest memes. He lives in Little Rock and is married to Jennie Gardner, a speech-language pathologist for Full Potential Child Development Center. He and his wife are the caretakers of two dogs and one cat.

 

Dr. Stephen James

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Dr. Stephen James

Dr. Stephen James directs the Simon and Courtway Middle School Orchestras and assists with the Freshman and High School Orchestras. Dr. James also serves as Adjunct Instructor of Trumpet at both the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) and Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. Having previously earned Bachelor of Arts (Virginia Tech), Master of Music (Western Michigan University), and Doctor of Music (Michigan State University) degrees all in Trumpet Performance, Dr. James then completed a Bachelor of Music Education degree at UCA to increase his versatility as a teacher.

As a performer, Dr. James is active as an orchestral musician. Currently, he is a contracted trumpeter with the Jackson (TN) Symphony Orchestra and a regular substitute with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. He is also a founding member and Principal Trumpet of the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra based in Branson, Missouri. In addition to his orchestral activities, Dr. James plays cornet with the award-winning Natural State Brass Band in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a chamber musician, Dr. James performs as part of the James Duo with tubist Gretchen Renshaw James, and with the UCA faculty brass quintet, Pinnacle Brass. As a soloist, he has recently performed with the Virginia Tech Symphony Band, Natural State Brass Band and Hendrix College Wind Ensemble, competed in the North American Brass Band Association Solo Competition, and given recitals in Arkansas, Louisiana, and at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Michigan. As a teacher, Dr. James serves on the faculty of the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. In addition to his work at Blue Lake, UCA, and Hendrix College, Dr. James also serves as a freelance teacher throughout the central Arkansas region, giving master classes at area schools and teaching private lessons to both high school and collegiate students.