Charles Priest, '92
Career Director of Instrumental Studies and Assistant Professor at Bluefield College
Charles Priest, ’92, first visited Bryan when his high school music minister – Bryan grad Mark Karki – invited him to check out the campus. Charles knew Bryan was the college for him the moment he stepped foot on The Hill. Four years later, he graduated with long-lasting faculty mentorships and a BA in church music, knowing that God wanted him in music.
While at Bryan, Charles met his wife, Lenore (Pinder), ’92, and the two married the day after graduation. He considers it his “greatest accomplishment that I’m still unbelievably in love with Lenore, the girl I met at open dorm and married four years later at New Union Baptist Church right there in Dayton.”
Charles then went on to earn his master of music degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and served full-time in churches in South Carolina and Tennessee before pursuing further graduate work.
Charles’ time at Bryan continued to influence him as he chose his career path. Most influential, says Charles, was the faculty – particularly the music faculty.
“Bryan’s size gave me a place where I could interact with faculty and learn without getting lost in the shuffle,” he said. “The faith of my professors also colored my education, reminding me that Christ Above All meant obeying Christ In All.”
Charles credits Dr. Mel Wilhoit with “demonstrating my first understanding of what the word ‘scholarship’ meant.” The two have also logged many miles on hiking trails, and the first time Charles presented at a conference, “Dr. Wilhoit made a special trip to hear me.” As Charles teaches, he remembers Dr. Sigrid Luther’s patience with him years ago, and works to demonstrate a similar patience with his own students.
While each of the music faculty encouraged Charles in his studies and professional career as a musician and professor, it was Dr. David Luther who prodded Charles toward his current career as a college professor. While Charles was on staff at a church in Oneida, Tennessee, Dr. Luther invited him to guest lecture for his Church Administration class.
“He told me afterwards I was good at this and ought to consider teaching. I’d been fighting that idea for quite a while, but it was his suggestion that finally moved me to go on for my doctorate in music,” he said.
In 2008, Charles earned his doctor of musical arts from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaches at Bluefield College, where he is director of instrumental studies and assistant professor of music. He and Lenore chose Bluefield knowing they wanted to serve and live in a community much like Bryan’s.
“We knew we wanted to be in a place where we could influence and serve young couples, much as we were, as they begin their new lives,” he said. “My hope was to serve in a place as much like Bryan as possible.”
After his first on-campus interview, Charles and Lenore once again knew they were in the right place.
“We were amazed that Bluefield College was very much a mirror image of Bryan College, including the small Appalachian town of 5,000,” he said.
For students interested in pursuing a degree in music, Charles urges them to take their education seriously from the very beginning, and to recognize the value of a diverse education.
“Practice as if you are a professional, starting the moment you set foot on campus your freshman year. Play and sing for anyone who wants to have you. Pay attention in every class like it’s the most important thing you’ll ever learn,” he advises.