Faculty Profiles

Dr. Paul Plew

Chairperson, Department of Music
Professor of Choral Studies
B.S.M., Baptist Bible College of Pennsylvania
M.M., Pacific Lutheran University
Ed.D., Nova Southeastern University
Joined TMU 1979

Paul T. Plew, Ed.D., has been the chairperson of the Music Department and Director of Choral Activities at The Master's University since 1979. He was educated at Baptist Bible College of Pennsylvania; Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington; and received his Doctorate in Education with Music specialization from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is a member of the American Choral Director's Association, co founder and past president of the Santa Clarita Music Educators Association, and past president of the National Association of Church Musicians (formerly Choral Conductors Guild). Dr. Plew has adjudicated for, as well as participated in, numerous choral festivals around the nation. His emphasis in the classroom includes conducting, church music and choral-related classes, and hymnology.

Dr. Plew conducts the University Singers, a one-hundred-fifty voice campus choir and The Master's  Chorale, a sixty-five member, auditioned choir. He has led these groups on tours to England, Ireland, Russia, Canada, Italy, Israel, Germany, Spain, and virtually every state in the union. In May of 2003 he conducted The Master's Chorale in a solo concert at Carnegie Hall. In the spring of 2006, Dr. Plew was granted a sabbatical which took him to England and Ireland to study the life and hymnody of Charles Wesley. In 2007 he was invited back to Carnegie Hall to conduct the mass choir in "The Rutter Gloria" and Don McCullough's "Canite Tuba." His choirs have recorded for Word, Fred Bock Music, Lillenas Publishing, Ligoiner Ministries, and Pavanne Publishing companies as well as numerous custom albums for the college. In March, 2008, The Master's Chorale recorded, by request, an album for Ligoiner Ministries. In addition to his ministry at the college, he also serves as Music Pastor at Santa Clarita Baptist Church in Canyon Country, California. Dr. Plew led the faculty of the Music Department in the accreditation process through the National Association of Schools of Music, which was granted in November, 2007.

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Dr. Stephen Opfer

Professor of Instrumental Studies & Music Education
B.M., University of Northern Iowa
M.M., California State University, Fullerton
D.M.A., University of Southern California
Joined TMU 1992

Dr. Opfer is director of instrumental studies and is head of the music education track. His responsibilities include director of the wind ensemble and jazz band, overseeing the music computer lab, coordinating the applied instrumental instructors and chamber ensembles. Dr. Opfer completed his undergraduate degree in music education with an emphasis in trombone performance. He taught bands and orchestras in public and Christian high schools for twenty years during which he received a Masters degree in instrumental conducting. Dr. Opfer served as adjunct music instructor at Biola University while beginning work on a doctorate. While at TMU, he completed his doctorate in music education that includes specific training in conducting, computer technologies, and music history. Dr. Opfer is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda, the National Music Honor Society, Music Educators National Conference, College Music Society, and the College Band Directors National Association. He serves as guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator, and trombonist at numerous musical events including national music organizations such as Music in the Parks and Festivals of Music.

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Prof. Sarah Dixon

Director of Vocal Studies
B.M., The Master's University
M.M., California State University, Northridge
Joined TMU 2006

Professor Sarah Dixon, soprano, is Director of Vocal Studies at The Master's University.  She teaches voice related classes such as Diction, Vocal Pedagogy and Vocal Literature, individual voice instruction, oversees Performance Practicum and the recital classes.  She holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Vocal Performance and Music Education from The Master's University and a Master of Music Degree in Vocal Arts from California State University, Northridge.  Sarah has performed numerous oratorio, musical theater and operatic roles along with extensive choral repertoire.  She has sung in Israel, Spain, Italy, France, Russia, across the United States and as a soloist at Carnegie Hall.  Her favorite roles have been Marion in The Music Man, Mabel in Pirates of Penzance and Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte.  Sarah has led various voice workshops as well as been a clinician for the Invitational High School Choral Festival in Santa Clarita, the ACSI Choral Festival and the SCCEA Scholarship Auditions.  She also co-founded TMU's annual voice workshop, Songs of Summer.  Sarah is a member of NATS and NATS-LA and currently sings with the Pacific Chorale, the Old Town Carolers and enjoys singing for various studio recordings from time to time.  She and her husband, Matt and their two boys, Isaiah & Zachary, live in Valencia and are involved with the music ministry at Grace Baptist Church.

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Dr. Carolyn Simons

Professor of Musicology
B.M., M.M., Baylor University
Ph.D., The University of Iowa
Joined TMU 1999

Dr. Simons teaches Music History, Literature, World Music, and conducts the Women's Chamber Choir. After completing her master's degree, Dr. Simons took a 16-year break from academia to raise six children with her husband Jack (Chairperson, Communication Department). She returned to school at The University of Iowa in 1987 to pursue a doctorate in musicology, then spent the school year 1991-92 in Nuremberg, Germany on a Fulbright grant for dissertation studies. From 1992 to 1998 she taught courses at Cedarville College in Music, English composition, German and French, led a missionary team to Germany and started and served as advisor for the German club. Dr. Simons has been on the board of Governors for the American Musical Instrument Society and has been chairman of the archive and nominating committees. She has given numerous papers at their meetings as well as at meetings of the Midwestern Historical Keyboard Society and at a special conference celebrating the 300th anniversary of the piano's invention. In August, 2003, she gave a presentation at a joint meeting of the Galpin Society and the American Musical Instrument Society in Edinburgh. She has written entries for the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the Garland Encyclopedia of Keyboard Instruments: Vol. III, The Harpsichord and Clavichord, book reviews for The Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society, their newsletter, and several articles for Continuo magazine. Dr. Simons currently writes articles for the music department and served as coordinator for the self-study leading to accreditation with the National Association of Schools of Music.

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Dr. Ruta Bloomfield

Assistant Professor of Music
B.M., Bowling Green State University
M.M., Northwestern University
D.M.A., Claremont Graduate University
Joined TMU 1989

Dr. Bloomfield is known for her enthusiastic teaching style.  She instructs the four-semester sequence of Music Theory: Aural Skills, all sections of Essentials of Music and Art in various formats, and harpsichord lessons.  She created a humanities course called Arts in Culture: Music, Film, and Art for the Degree Completion Program, and has also taught a music education class.  She has appeared as guest artist and lecturer at numerous universities and conferences, including the International Conference on Baroque Music in Salzburg, Austria.  She has released two CDs:  Aria with Thirty Variations (Johann Sebastian Bach), and Music from Versailles (Bernard de Bury).  Her critical edition of Four Suites for Harpsichord by Bernard de Bury was published by The Edwin Mellen Press.  She earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Historical Performance Practices at Claremont Graduate University in California, and also holds degrees from Northwestern University in Illinois and Bowling Green State University in Ohio.  Along with Bach, her aim in music making is “none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”  Dr. Bloomfield is active in a local church, with a special interest in global outreach.  She is also an avid softball player and hiker.  Visit her website at

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Dr. Kenneth Mays

Adjunct Faculty, Piano
B.M., Fort Wayne Bible College
M.M., Ph.D., Indiana University
Joined TMU 1986

Dr. Ken Mays is the resident Professor of Piano at The Master's University.  He received his MM and Ph.D. from Indiana University.  Dr. Mays has played solo recitals throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, and Great Britain for more than 40 years.  He was on the staff of the Conservatory of Music at Wheaton College for 19 years before coming to TMU in 1986.  He has also presented papers at several American Musicological Society conferences. More locally, Dr. Mays is a member of the Music Teacher's Association of California and the San Fernando chapter of NACM.  He has been an adjudicator for various piano competitions and has been involved in church music ministry for most of his life.  Dr. Mays' latest recording is titled "Reflections & Praise", a series of hymn arrangements for piano.

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Prof. Claire Blackwell

Freshman Music Advisor
Adjunct Faculty, Music & Mathematics
B.A., Concordia College
Joined TMU 1982

Prof. Blackwell has been ringing handbells since 1977 with a special interest in solo ringing. She co-authored a book on solo techniques for handbells and has taught at workshops in national and regional handbell festivals. In the Fall of 1982, Prof. Blackwell came to The Master's University to teach students ringing techniques and specifics for directing handbell choirs. Prof. Blackwell taught mathematics at the junior and senior high school level before coming to TMU and enjoys tutoring in mathematics at all levels.

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Prof. Lauren Shackelford

Assistant Professor, Piano, Piano Pedagogy and Music Theory
M.M., University of Oklahoma
B.M., Cedarville University
Joined TMU 2007

Prof. Shackelford is an Assistant Professor of Piano, Piano Pedagogy, and Music Theory at The Master's University. A Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (NCTM), she currently maintains a pre-college piano studio in Valencia, California and performs as a collaborative pianist in the Santa Clarita Valley. She is an experienced piano teacher, having taught lessons from beginning through collegiate levels since 2000. Prof. Shackelford received her M.M. in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Oklahoma and her B.M. with highest honors in Keyboard Pedagogy from Cedarville University. She is also the recipient of several awards including the Music Teacher's National Association Star Award, the Gail Boyd deStwolinski Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Dorothy Detrick Kendall Memorial Piano Scholarship, and the Cedarville University Faculty Scholarship Award. Prof. Shackelford is the President of the Santa Clarita Valley/Ventura Chapter of the California Association of Professional Music Teachers, and is an active member of the Music Teachers' Association of California, the Music Teacher's National Association, and the National Federation of Music Clubs.

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Adjunct/Studio Faculty

Prof. Kellie Cunningham, Piano & Piano Pedagogy
Prof. John Martin, Audio Technology Coordinator
Prof. Tricia Hulet, Theatre Arts
Prof. Tavi Jinariu, Guitar
Prof. Ben Mason, Composition Coordinator, Theory & Organ
Prof. Michael Ferril, Violin
Prof. Robert Berg, Viola
Prof. Janet Crouch Shulman, Cello
Prof. John Hester, String Bass
Prof. Ryan Foglesong, Electric Bass, Composition & Theory
Prof. Gary Woodward, Flute

Prof. William Powell, Clarinet
Prof. Marissa Honda, Oboe
Prof. Tim Dolinar, Saxophone
Prof. Maciej Flis, Bassoon
Prof. Erick Jovel, Trumpet
Prof. Preston Shepard, French Horn
Prof. Andrew Malloy, Trombone
Prof. Beth Mitchell, Tuba
Prof. Mark Converse, Percussion
Prof. Grant Fonda, Composition & Theory
Prof. Jane Grothe-Ferruzzo, Harp
Prof. Scott Weber, Audio Technology
Prof. Keith Rogers, Audio Technology
Prof. Mauricio Gasca, Audio Technology

Prof. Eric Carampatan, Voice

Prof. Beth Emberley, Music Education

Prof. Joni Frey, Piano Foundations


Guest Faculty