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February 2-4, 2023

Scarritt Bennett Center

Nashville, Tennessee


On Adaptation: A Note from Doug

This year’s Polyphony conference theme, adaptation, emerged from a conversation with some colleagues about Tod Bolsinger’s book, “Canoeing the Mountains.” This summer I heard Bolsinger speak at a conference in St. Louis. He teaches at Fuller Seminary.


Bolsinger’s book draws lessons from the Lewis and Clark expedition who were attempting to find river routes to the Pacific Ocean (the Northwest passage). However, these undaunted adventurers could not imagine they would face the Rocky Mountains and were not prepared to cross them.


Pastoral musicians trained for one set of circumstances increasingly find themselves facing situations they simply are not equipped for: declining musical literacy, scarce financial resources, cultural changes, COVID.


How do we adapt and flourish in spite of challenges that seem overwhelming? There are no easy answers. But if we are to find ways to do more than simply survive, adaptation will be necessary. 


This year’s conference will explore what it means to adapt. To figure out how to adapt in ways consistent with our gifts and calling, we need the wisdom of “similar others,” of trusted colleagues. We need one another to learn to thrive as pastoral musicians.



Thursday, February 2, 1:00 p.m. – Saturday, February 4, 11:30 a.m.

Thursday, February 2


1:00 p.m. Registration

Community Event

Group Discussion: "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" Adapting to challenging or changing circumstances


Dinner at nearby restaurants (not included)

Friday, February 3


Breakfast (included)

Morning Prayer
Reading Session I


Jefferey Ames: Adapting Choral Artistry to the Church Choir


Lunch (included)

Panel: "Saying Goodbye and Adapting to a New Position"

Jefferey Ames: Performance Practices of the Negro Spiritual—Appropriation or Appropriate?


Reading Session II


Dinner (included)

"In Concert" with Dr. Anthony Williams and Fisk Jubilee Singers

"Welcome to Nashville, Bluegrass Style" with Tim Sharp and the Chuck Nation band lead "High Lonesome Bluegrass Mass"

Saturday, February 4


Breakfast (included)

Susan Deal, Doug Haney, and Tim Sharp: The Harmony Project, What We're Learning

Worship Resources for Worship Planners

Communion Service

11:30 a.m Adjourn

Session Information


"Should I Stay or Should I Go" [with apologies to the English punk band, The Clash]

We’ve all had (or are having) times in ministry where we’re not quite sure if we have the energy to adapt and reinvest where we are, or it makes sense to relocate and start over with a renewed commitment.  We know there is no perfect place, no perfect fit.  Sometimes we can adapt and discover a second wind. But then there are times we need to dust the dirt off our sandals.  But when?  And how do we thrive in the meantime? A group of five facilitators will lead this discussion.


"Adapting Choral Artistry to the Church Choir"

We love to make music with a choir.  We love the pursuit of that magical moment, that holy harmony. But can we achieve choral artistry with a church choir? How do we adapt principles of choral artistry to our context as pastoral musicians? Jeffery Ames will outline some new tools for your choral artistry toolbox.


"Saying Goodbye and Adapting to a New Position"

We will hear from some several colleagues who have recently moved from one position to another to begin again.  How do you say good-bye well (for your sake and for the sake of the church you leave)? How do you adapt to a new situation as you build relational capital? What should you pay attention to the first 100 days?


"Performance Practices of the Negro Spiritual"

Dr. Ames will teach what stylistic nuances are integral to an authentic performance of a spiritual.  If we are to perform this music in worship we ought to give it the same respect and attention in terms of performance practice we would give to the music of Handel or Bach (Roger Holland). This session will also touch on the current debate on whether performing spirituals is “appropriate or cultural appropriation.”



"The Harmony Project—What We're Learning"

This past summer Susan and Tim interviewed 25 church musicians asking them what they need to thrive. This is phase one of The Harmony Project, a research initiative of Polyphony.  Susan, Doug and Tim will share a summary of what we’re learning and how this information will shape Polyphony going forward.


"Worship Resources for Worship Planners"

Diana Sanchez-Bushong will explore worship planning resources such as the Prepare worship planner; Discipleship Ministries website and Calvin Institute for Worship. Dr. Sanchez-Bushon is the Executive Director of Worship Ministries and Director of Music Ministries at Discipleship Ministries, an agency of the United Methodist Church. She has served in several churches and at the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship, where she worked with the Hymnal Revision Committee to develop The United Methodist Hymnal, 1989.

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Special Events


"In Concert" with Dr. Anthony Williams and Fisk Jubilee Singers


"Welcome to Nashville, Bluegrass Style" with Tim Sharp and the Chuck Nation band lead "High Lonesome Bluegrass Mass"


Includes Friday breakfast, lunch and dinner; and Saturday breakfast.

Early Registration


before January 9, 2022

Full Registration


after January 9, 2022

Retirees & Students


Students must be currently enrolled


Lodging at Scarritt Bennett


Scarritt Bennett Center is a nonprofit conference, retreat, and education center in Nashville, TN.


Their mission is to create space where individuals and groups engage each other to achieve a more just world.

Guests to the campus can stay in one of our three historic residence halls.

Lodging Information

For general information and pictures of the rooms, click here.


- $80-120/night (various room configurations) before taxes

 - Suites (two separate rooms) available with shared bathroom

- Consider sharing with colleague for best deal


Call UrbanNashville at 615.669.1293


25% deposit at time of reservation.

100% refund up to 7 days prior to arrival


From UrbanNashville's website: “We do not allow Saturday arrivals or departure.” We have, however, arranged for them to make an exception for our Polyphony members.

More Lodging Options

While we encourage all participants to stay at Scarritt Bennett, here are some additional lodging options nearby.

MINTHOUSE – MUSIC ROW [distance from Scarritt Bennett: walk across street]

1016 18th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212

Minthouse - Music Row

$167.50 [studio]/$197.50 [one bedroom apt]

HOME2SUITES – NASHVILLE VANDERBILT [distance from Scarritt Bennett: 3 minute drive]

1800 Division St, Nashville, TN 37203


Starting at $134

Valet parking daily $36

MINT HOUSE NASHVILLE – HILLSBORO VILLAGE [distance from Scarritt Bennett: 4 minute drive]

1700 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212

Minthouse - Hillsboro Village

$150 [studio]/$180 [one bedroom apt]

HAMPTON INN NASHVILLE/VANDERBILT [distance from Scarritt Bennett: 4 minute drive]

1919 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203

Hampton Inn Nashville Vanderbilt

Starting at $148


COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT NASHVILLE [distance from Scarritt Bennett: 5 minute drive]

1901 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203

Courtyard Marriott Nashville

Starting at $176

Guest Speakers

Guest Presenters

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Jefferey Ames

Dr. Jefferey Ames serves as Director of Choral Activities and Full Professor at Belmont University.  Dr. Ames has collaborated with well-known conductors such as André Thomas, Allen Crowell, Jo-Michael Scheibe, Lynne Gackle, and Anton Armstrong. Additionally, well-known celebrities include Trisha Yearwood, Laura Bell Bundy, CeCe Winans, Connie Smith, Ricky Skaggs and The Whites, Denyce Graves, Michael W. Smith, Kathy Mattea, Sheryl Crow, Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton, and Carrie Underwood, and the legendary rock band the Rolling Stones.


A published composer and writer, Dr. Ames specializes in composing works that are from the heart. His literary publications focus on choral music in the concert gospel genre, as well as choral music in the Western tradition composed by modern Black composers.

Professor Ames holds the Ph.D. in Choral Conducting/Choral Music Education and a Master of Choral Music Education degree from The Florida State University, and a Bachelor of Music degree, with a double major in Vocal Performance and Piano Accompanying, from James Madison University. He currently serves as the President-Elect for the Southern Region of ACDA.

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Susan Deal

Susan Deal is the recently retired Minister of Music from First Baptist Church, Dalton, Georgia. 

She had a 30-year career serving churches in Florida and Virginia as a church musician.

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Doug Haney

Doug Haney is Minister of Music at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas where he has served for 18 years.

He is also Executive Director of Polyphony Music Resources.

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Tim Sharp

Tim Sharp is currently the Minister of Music at Immanuel Baptist Church in Nashville.

He is the recently retired Executive Director of ACDA, and before that was Director of Choral Activities at Rhodes College and Belmont University. 

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