Conference Personalities

Conference Personalities

Mary McDonald

Mary is a lifelong resident of Knoxville, Tennessee. Whether engaging in passionate worship songs, fun gospel settings, uplifting, spirited originals or simply applying a fresh treatment to existing hymns, Mary’s heart for ministry is to assist others in drawing closer to the throne of grace. 


No stranger to glass ceilings, her energy and charisma served her well when she became the first ever woman President of the Southern Baptist Church Music Conference. But whether serving as accompanist for the Tennessee Men’s Chorale, her local church, or receiving prestigious composition awards for artistic merit like the John Ness Beck award, her desire remains the same, “to give God glory for the songs He has allowed me to compose. He alone, is the true Creator behind my pen.” Communicating the reality of Christ is the foundation to which all else is subservient.


In 2011, after serving as sacred music editor for The Lorenz Corporation in Dayton, Ohio for more than twenty years, Mary answered a new call. She resigned her position in order to serve the church in a different way. Now she takes her tremendous passion and love for music making directly to churches as an independent artist.


When Mary isn’t out sharing her music, she and her husband, Brian, a Knoxville architect live a quiet life. They have been married for 36 years; have two married children and four grandchildren, who they are rather passionate about. Nothing gives them greater joy than observing their every move. She says of them, “we sing, we laugh and we live life!”

Ray Jones

God called Ray Jones into Ministry in August of 1969 in Alexandria, LA. He immediately began to serve the Lord in youth singing groups, jail ministries, nursing homes, personal evangelism and a weekly local television broadcast. In 1975, Ray began to serve in the local church ministry on a full-time basis. He has served churches in Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.


In 1981, under the leadership of the Lord, Ray launched Radiance Ministries. The purpose of the ministry was to help the church get outside the walls of its buildings sharing Christ and helping people understand true worship of Christ.


Ray accepted the position of Worship Pastor at Community Bible Church (San Antonio, TX) in November of 1992. God has grown this fellowship from 230 people in worship to over 20,000 in worship. Currently the Worship ministry at CBC has over 1,200 people involved in leading worship or training the next generation of worshipers.

Ray has become a regular speaker at worship conferences all over the nation, speaking to worship leaders on a wide range of topics including choirs, multi-generational worship, leading after “50” and congregational engagement.


Ray is married to Andrea and they have 4 awesome boys; David, Jonathan, Benjamin and Christopher. Ray, Andrea, Benjamin and Christopher are published songwriters. They have many collections of songs from CBC that are published by Prism Music, Lillenas Music and LifeWay Worship. With over 60 songs published they are having an impact on the worship of churches all over the country.

Ken Gabrielse

Dr. Gabrielse earned the B.S. in Music Education/Church Music at William Jewell College. He completed the Masters and Doctoral degrees in Church Music and Conducting at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was hired to teach on the faculty of his alma mater and served twelve years as Chair of the Division of Church Music Ministries. In 2008, he was named the Worship and Music Specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (his home state). He served the Baptist churches in the state for three years before he was named Dean of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, OK. Desiring a return to full-time teaching, Dr. Gabrielse moved to Cleveland, GA, in July, 2016, to serve as Director of Choral Activities at Truett McConnell University. He now serves as Dean of the Felix Manz School of Music at TMU. Throughout his teaching and denominational service he has stayed active in church music by serving full-time, part-time, and long-term interim positions in music for churches in OK, MO, KS, LA, and GA.

Carol James

Percussionist CAROL JAMES has successfully combined her gifts and passion for percussion and children's music education for over 25 years with rewarding results. From directing choirs and percussion ensembles for preschool through middle school age children to leading workshops and camps on enhancing and incorporating percussion into worship and rehearsals, Carol is a noted children's music clinician throughout the Southeast United States. She has been the Children’s Choral Director at Central Baptist Church of Fountain City in Knoxville, Tennessee, and First Baptist Church of North Augusta, SC.  She had completed a Master of Music in percussion performance from East Carolina University, a Bachelor of Music Education from Augusta State University, and Orff level training under Konnie Saliba at Western Carolina University. Carol is a featured writer in the Growing in Grace and is a concert marimbist. 

Duane Warfield

Dr. Duane Warfield serves as Associate Professor of Music, Director of Bands in the Edith Lester Harbin Department of Music at Shorter University, where he conducts the Shorter Marching Hawks, Shorter Symphonic Winds, and the Shorter Jazz Band.  He teaches conducting, instrumental music methods, marching band pedagogy, orchestration, and brass methods for students in the music education program.


Prior to his appointment at Shorter University, Dr. Warfield taught at Starkville Academy in Starkville, MS and led the orchestra at First Baptist Church in Starkville as the Director of Instrumental Ministries.  Under his leadership, the band department at Starkville Academy and the orchestra at FBC Starkville expanded and became respected programs. Dr. Warfield has taught in Illinois, Iowa, and Mississippi.


A native of Illinois, Dr. Warfield received his Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education and his Master of Music degree in Music Education at The University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. While at The University of Iowa, He earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.


Dr. Warfield lives in Rome, Georgia with his wife, Tara, and their son, Eli.


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