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Christina Powell

Dianne Gardner Department Chair
 Mrs. Gardner has been teaching at SAA since its inception sixteen years ago. In addition to her work at the school, she also spent 35 years teaching music privately and has 39 years of experience as a pianist, organist and accompanist. At SAA, she teaches courses in beginning, intermediate and advanced music as well as music accompaniment. She holds a Bachelors degree of Music in Organ from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Carl Polk
has been Director of the Savannah Arts Academy Orchestra since 2005, and in addition teaches Music Theory/Composition and AP Music Theory.  The SAA Orchestra has earned consistent superior ratings at the GMEA Large Group Performance Evaluation since 2006 both in Atlanta and Savannah.  Mr. Polk plays Principal Trombone with both the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra.  As well he has recorded and subbed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.  Before teaching at SAA, he was Principal Trombone and Personnel Manager with the former Savannah Symphony Orchestra.  He has played professionally all over the Southeast with the orchestras of Jacksonville, Columbus, Greenville, and the Atlanta Ballet and Opera Orchestras, and has spent summers in Italy with the Spoleto Festival Orchestra.  He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Arizona State University, and a Masters of Music degree from Northwestern University.
Christine Shawl Ditrie Sanchez
is the first Savannah Arts Academy Alumni to return as a teacher. She attended Armstrong Atlantic State University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music with emphasis in music Performance and Musical Composition. While at AASU, she also was awarded the Persse Scholarship for Music Theory, the Persse Composition award and the Presser Scholarship for Outstanding Music Major. She has taught music privately for ten years and has taught at SAA for four years. Ms. Sanchez teaches courses in music theory, composition and advanced music.

Vann C. Thornton

A native of Wayne County (Jesup), Georgia, Vann Thornton graduated from  Wayne County High School in 1977, and received his Bachelor's Degree in Music Education from Troy State University in 1980.  In 1995, he received a Master's Degree in Music Education from Troy, and is currently working on a DMA from Boston University.  Vann has taught band since for 30-plus years in Bacon County, (Alma) Georgia, Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, Dougherty High School (Albany, GA), Tift County Junior High School (Tifton, GA), Tiftarea Academy (Tifton, GA), Lowndes High (Valdosta, GA), Colquitt County High (Moultrie, GA), served as Fine Arts Coordinator, and Director of Jazz Studies at Tift County, and is currently Director of Bands at Savannah Arts.  Mr. Thornton’s Jazz, Marching, & Concert Bands have consistently achieved superior ratings and have travelled to the rose Parade in Pasadena, CA, the Brock’s Holiday Parades in Houston, TX and Chicago Ill,  and the Macy’s parade in New York City.  Vann has worked as an adjudicator and as a clinician for concert, marching, and jazz band festivals and performances for many years. 

Vann has also served as a staff arranger for the U.S. Air Force’s Tops in Blue worldwide touring group, has written originals and arrangements for many different formats including church choir, orchestra, jazz band, marching band, concert band, rock, R&B, and country artists, and has written the music for a CD he and his wife, Marlene Bowen, released in 1999 entitled “This Man of Mine.” 

The Savannah Arts Bands continually strive to achieve new levels of musical expertise, performing at the GMEA Large Group Performance Evaluation on level VI literature for the first time.  The Sky Light Jazz Band has also realized a milestone with first ever an invitation to the Swing Central Jazz Competition held yearly in Savannah during the Savannah Music Festival.  He is looking forward to putting the Savannah Arts Band on a national stage with this competition as well as a trip to the nationally recognized Smoky Mountain Music Festival in April.

Vann is married to Marlene Bowen of Tifton, GA, and has five children, and five grandchildren. 

Russell  Watkins

Russell P. Watkins

Mr. Watkins is the newest addition to the music faculty at Savannah Arts Academy.  He has taught in both Georgia and Texas for many years.  For three of those years he was also teaching vocal methods and pedagogy along with private voice at Georgia College & State University.  He is a graduate of Angelo State University in Texas and earned his Master’s Degree in vocal performance from Georgia Southern University.  Prior to teaching, Mr. Watkins performed operatic roles and ensembles with numerous opera companies around the U.S. and in Austria.  Mr. Watkins is excited to be at the helm of the SAA Choral Department and in sculpting our students’ voices in preparation for their bright future.