Director of Bands, Music Education
Office: T-4, Goodrich Chapel
Dr. Samuel McIlhagga, is associate professor of music, and director of bands at Albion College where he directs the "British Eighth" marching band and symphonic band in addition to teaching courses in honors, popular music, music as a creative process, and instrumental music education. McIlhagga is also director of the Cereal City Concert Band, a community band based in Battle Creek. A native of Michigan, McIlhagga has taught in the public schools and also at the collegiate level since 1993. He earned his M.M. in Wind Conducting (1993) from Northwestern University studying with John P. Paynter and earned his Ph.D. in Music Education (2006) from the University of Minnesota studying conducting with Craig Kirchhoff. McIlhagga began his career as director of bands at Grand Valley State University, his alma mater, in 1993. In 1994 he served as visiting professor and director of bands at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio where his wind symphony performed at the OMEA state conference in 1995. McIlhagga and the community bands also worked closely with composer/conductors Dr. Timothy Mahr and Dr. Andrew Boysen, Jr. through the "Composer-In-Residence" Concert Series. McIlhagga went on to become band director at Sparta High School in Sparta, Michigan, a position he held for five years (1996-2001). While at Sparta, he developed a strong band program earning superior ratings for both concert and marching ensembles at the district and state level.
McIlhagga maintains and active conducting, adjudication, and clinician schedule. He has been invited to guest conduct both the Lenawee County and Jackson County Honor Bands. For over 15 years, he has adjudicated and been clinician for marching and concert bands both in Michigan and around the mid-west. His Albion College bands have performed in New York's famous Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine as well as marched in “America's Thanksgiving Day Parade” in downtown Detroit. McIlhagga is a frequent presenter at the Michigan Music Conference and he presented at the 2012 ANBOC (Australian National Band and Orchestra Conference) in Brisbane, and the CBDNA Regional Conference in Mt. Pleasant, MI. In 2010, his peers named him Albion College Faculty of the Year. McIlhagga currently serves as the State NAfME Collegiate Advisor and is also faculty advisor to both Kappa Kappa Psi and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia – Albion College chapters. His professional affiliations include the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA), College Music Society (CMS), The National Association for Music Education: MENC, Society for Music Teacher Education (SMTE), Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA), and the Michigan Music Education Association (MMEA).
Visiting Assistant Professor
Piano and Music Theory
Office: T-3, Goodrich Chapel
Dr. Lia Jensen-Abbott brings a background steeped in the humanities to her piano playing and lectures. In addition to her many performance activities, her current research interests include Beethoven, Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, and Florence Price, as well as incorporating semiotic research into piano pedagogy. Dr. Jensen-Abbott was invited to participate in the International Mendelssohn Piano Competition in Taurisano, Italy in 2009 where she reached the third round. In 2005 she taught and performed at the Con Brio Music Festival in Blonay, Switzerland. She has appeared as a clinician for The Gilmore Festival Keys Fest as well as a sought after performer and adjudicator around Michigan. She has also taught at The Gilmore Piano Camp and presented lecture recitals at Murray State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Western Michigan University, and Wayne State University. In January 2011 she performed recitals in Zurich and Paris. January 2012 began with a lecture recital at the Hawaii University International Conference on the Arts and Humanities in Honolulu, Hawaii. In February, 2012, Lia made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. Additionally, Dr. Jensen-Abbott is active in the Michigan Music Teachers’ Association, where she has served for four years as the coordinator of the state MTNA competition.
During the summer of 2012, Dr. Jensen-Abbott completed her first professional recording—Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Das Jahr. In July 2012, Lia taught theory, keyboard skills, and piano literature at the Western Michigan University Seminar. She has also been a grader for the AP Music Theory Exam, attended the Music Theory Midwest’s annual conferences, and numerous piano pedagogy conferences. Lia holds degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (BM, DMA), The Pennsylvania State University (MM piano performance and pedagogy; MA theory and history), and Indiana University (performer diploma). She has studied with Timothy Shafer, Edmund Battersby, and Jeremy Denk. Currently, she teaches at Albion College where she has been a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music since 2008. She and her husband David are co-founders of the Albion College Piano Festival and Competition, which has grown to a four-day event with over eighty national and international participants.
Director of Orchestra, Jazz, Conducting
Office: 115, Goodrich Chapel
James Ball is currently Director of Orchestral Activities, Associate Professor of Conducting, and Director of the Jazz Ensemble at Albion College. He began his duties at Albion in the fall of 1999 when he was also named Conductor of the Tecumseh (MI) Pops Orchestra. He has performed a wide variety of music with a number of professional musical organizations and institutions during his twenty-five year career. Prior to accepting his position at Albion College, Dr. Ball served for five years as Music Director and Conductor of the Danville (IL) Symphony Orchestra. In recent years he has guest conducted the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra of Zlin in the Czech Republic, Vidin State Philharmonic Orchestra in Vidin, Bulgaria and the Oaxaca Symphony Orchestra in Mexico. In 1997 he was one of 50 conductors invited worldwide to compete in the “Mario Gusella” International Conducting Competition in Pescara, Italy where he advanced to the semi-final round.
Ball is the founding Music Director of the Sandy Springs (GA) Chamber Orchestra and the founding conductor of “New Ear”, Kansas City’s widely acclaimed professional contemporary music chamber ensemble. He has also served as Music Director and Conductor of the Lawrence (KS) Symphony Orchestra and the Kansas City String Orchestra and has held conducting posts with the Missouri Symphony Society, the Kansas City Civic Orchestra, the Atlanta Chamber Orchestra, the Jackson (MI) Youth Symphony Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Costa Rica. He has also conducted the Shinsei Nihon Symphony Orchestra in Japan, the Elkhart (IN) Symphony Orchestra, the Mid-Columbia (WA) Symphony, the Macon (GA) Symphony, the Kingsport (TN) Symphony, and the Lawrence (KS) Chamber Players.
Dr. Ball has taught on the faculties of the University of Costa Rica, the University of West Florida, Pensacola Junior College and served as a staff administrator at the University of Missouri – Kansas City and the Kansas City American Arts Festival. He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and holds Master of Music degrees from Northwestern University and Georgia State University. He completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Conservatory of Music of the University of Missouri – Kansas City in 1992. Ball has studied conducting with Theo Alcantra, Uri Mayer, Frederick Ockwell, and Robert Olson and has attended workshops and master classes with such noted conductors and composers as Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Zubin Mehta, Lukas Foss, Maurice Abravanel, Gustav Meier, William Kraft and David Amram.