Best of Irmo Chapin Life 2018
Best NIche 2018

Ben Lippen School

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Fine Arts Faculty

Alison Branham

Areas of Concentration: Grades 6 - 9 Chorus

Jack Branney

Areas of Concentration: Upper School Art

Joey Caldwell

Area of Concentration: Upper School Theatre

Chris Essig

Areas of Concentration: Dean of Fine Arts, Guitar, and Worship Arts

Laura Hunt

Area of Concentration: Lower School Music


Fine Arts Faculty Bios

Alison Branham, soprano, received a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from Columbia College followed by a Master of Music degree from the University of South Carolina. She is currently working on a Doctorate of Education with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership Using Music in the Academic Classroom. Mrs. Branham has been coached locally by Dr. Lillian Quackenbush, Lanny Palmer, Dr. Donald Gray, Gene Ferguson, and Dr. Tina Stallard. Through the years, Mrs. Branham has performed several operatic roles both nationally and internationally, including Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Donna Anna in Gazzaniga’s Don Giovanni, Sister Angelica in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Despina in Mozart’s Cosí fan tutte. Currently, she is on the music faculty at Columbia International University and teaches in the pre-college at Columbia College. She has been married to her husband, Rusty, for 14 years and has two children. Mrs. Branham has worked extensively with special needs students of all ages and revels in their ability to share the glory of God with others through their musical gifts. Working with students of all ages is her passion and she hopes that her students leave her studio equipped to serve and share with the song that is in their hearts. “Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine” Beethoven

Jack Branney has taught art for 31 years and yearbook for 25 in Christian Schools (24 years at Ben Lippen). Over the years his student led yearbooks have been rated excellent to superior in ACSI competitions. He has currently been the recipient of the SCISA Master Teacher Award for 2015 and is a current member of the Seven Oaks Art League in Irmo, SC. Mr. Branney earned a BA. in Art Education from of The University of Akron (Akron, OH) and an M.A. in Bible from Columbia International University (CIU). He has lifetime professional certification through ACSI. For many years Mr. Branney has enjoyed teaching and encouraging fellow art teachers at ACSI and SCISA conferences. He continues to bring that encouragement. Former students have attended schools such as Parsons: The New School of Design in New York, The Art Institute of Boston, and Savannah School of Art & Design, as well as Clemson to study architecture, and the Governor's School for the Arts. These students have gone on to teach art, become fashion designers, studio artists, architects, and owners of their own graphic design companies. Present students are encouraged to develop quality art portfolio's, enter art contests such as the State Fair, participate in the Spring Art Display, and participate in the annual ACSI Art Festival. Mr. Branney has been married to Donna Branney for 32 years and they have two daughters Sarah and Anna, who are both graduates of Ben Lippen School and CIU. Mr. Branney considers it a privilege to work at Ben Lippen School where students have an opportunity to be equipped spiritually, academically, and socially under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Joey Caldwell, a Kansas City native, has been a part of the Ben Lippen family since January 2014 as the Upper School Theatre director and instructor. He graduated with a B.A. degree in Theatre from North Greenville University and is currently working towards his Master of Education at Columbia International University (CIU). He has been married to his beautiful wife Bethany for five years and is loving every minute of it. Mr. Caldwell believes that as a Christian theatre artist, he has been created to create (Gen.1:1, 27), and his first priority is always to bring glory to his Creator by finding joy in producing excellence, quality, and professionalism. Some of his favorite roles he’s played have been Antonio from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Jack Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol. He has also directed a number of shows here at Ben Lippen. Last season, Ben Lippen produced Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Mr. Caldwell's most favorite part of being at Ben Lippen is, without a doubt, the students. Mr. Caldwell has a passion to invest in and disciple guys and walk alongside them as they grow in grace in the Lord. Prior to working at Ben Lippen, Mr. Caldwell worked in Special Education for a combined total of eleven years, predominantly in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis with severe aggression and self-injury behaviors. His ultimate goal is to send students out knowing and loving Jesus and prepared to be salt and light in whatever adventure they wish to embark.

Chris Essig joined the Ben Lippen faculty in Fall 2011 as director of the guitar and worship arts program. Under Mr. Essig’s leadership, the guitar curriculum has expanded to four sections in just two years. Mr. Essig has been teaching guitar for over ten years and enjoys teaching and performing in the Columbia area. Mr. Essig has given recitals at the University of South Carolina, the Columbia Guitar Society, Geneva College, Columbia International University, and has given performances at various weddings and events. Mr. Essig specializes in classical guitar and contemporary worship styles. His teaching philosophy consists of helping students experience the power and creativity of God though an in-depth understanding of music. Mr. Essig emphasizes the importance of technique, music theory, interpretation, repertoire, and musicianship in order to inspire and prepare students for creativity and excellence. Mr. Essig received his M.M. in guitar performance from the University of South Carolina under the instruction of Christopher Berg and a B.A. in Guitar Performance from Geneva College. As an instructor Mr. Essig has given lessons and masterclasses at many venues in the Columbia area including the Carolina Music Academy, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, New Kirk Presbyterian Church, Columbia Crossroads Northeast, and Columbia International University. Presently Mr. Essig serves on faculty at Ben Lippen High School and Columbia International University.

Laura Hunt is from North Carolina and a graduate of Meredith College with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. She has served as the elementary music teacher at Excelsior Academy, New Heights School, and Arrows Academy. She is married to Jason and they have two children who attend Ben Lippen. Our lower school students learn music from Mrs. Hunt, but just as importantly, they have fun while they learn.