The kudos keep coming for music alumni of Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, as five graduates of the Lee School of Music were honored with Gospel Music Association Dove Awards.
The five Lee winners are Cliff Duren, Bradley Knight, Russell Mauldin, Phil Nitz and Christopher Phillips.
"We are thrilled to see our Lee music alumni recognized in such an exciting way," said Dr. William Green, dean of Lee's School of Music. "We are so proud of the work of these fine musicians."
Lee music graduates have done well on several of the national reality talent shows in recent years. In 2015, alum Clark Beckham won runner-up on Fox's "American Idol." Phil Stacey placed sixth in season 6 of "American Idol." Chase Guyton and Jermaine Purifory advanced into Idol's Hollywood rounds. The Voices of Lee, an a cappella ensemble, finished third on NBC's "The Sing-Off" in 2009. Lee alumna Brooke Simpson won third place on "The Voice" two years after Smith's victory.
Duren, Knight and Mauldin, along with other collaborators, won Choral Collection of the Year as arrangers of "Top Anthem Collection."
Duren, Nitz and Phillips won Musical of the Year for their work on "Messiah Overcame, An Easter Musical" as arrangers and orchestrators, along with other collaborators.
Duren received a master's degree in church music from Lee in 2004. He now serves as the worship pastor at First Baptist Woodstock, in Woodstock, Georgia. In 2017 he wrote his first film score for the faith-based film "Champion" and orchestrated on the Michael English and Larnelle Harris 2017 album releases.
Knight is a 1999 Lee graduate and has been president at Minister of Funk Music LLC since 2011. He is also the staff arranger at Brooklyn Tabernacle Church and an in-demand arranger by church music publishing companies across the country. He has contributed to the sound of many artists, including Bill Gaither's "Homecoming Series," The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Lee Greenwood, LeAnn Rimes, and many more. He also wrote orchestrations for the Sherwood Pictures film, "Courageous," and penned all the arrangements for the Lee University Voices of Lee as they competed on NBC's "The Sing Off" in 2009.
Mauldin is an arranger, orchestrator, conductor, vocalist, composer and producer, and a 2018 graduate from Lee with a master's degree in religion. He is now the associate pastor at Seeds Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and a partner at Maestro Productions in Brentwood, Tennessee.
Nitz, a 2011 Lee graduate, is a freelance arranger, orchestrator and vocalist with a bachelor's degree in music business who returned to Lee to earn a master's degree in church music. He is the staff arranger and worship leader at Christ Church Nashville. Nitz, also a Voices of Lee alum, recently contributed arrangements for the Voices' Christmas record.
"My time at Lee most definitely influenced any success I've had," said Nitz.
Phillips is director of worship and arts at Christ Church Nashville. He is an artist, producer, and arranger and has won more than 10 Dove Awards. Phillips graduated from Lee in 2003 with a degree in piano performance and was also a member of Voices of Lee.
"Lee University alumni have made and continue to make a significant positive impact in the Christian music industry," said Dr. Randy Sheeks, associate professor of music at Lee. "Our alumni are leaders in the field, and we at Lee, particularly the School of Music, are very proud of them."
Since 1970, the GMA Dove Awards program has celebrated rich musical diversity and honored excellence in Christian music. Awards are presented to individuals representing genres spanning styles from modern rock to contemporary pop and southern gospel.