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Our Mission

The Academy for the Arts at First Baptist Church of Asheville seeks to empower students of all ages and backgrounds in reaching their greatest potential both as artists and as human beings. Our highly-skilled teachers create an atmosphere of nurture and expectation in which students pursue excellence in their artistic crafts, developing mature and disciplined character. Believing that artistic inspiration and talents are gifts that need to be shared in order to be fully realized; we offer regular and exciting opportunities for individual and group performance.


Our Core Values

Human Development: The arts are an essential expression of divine and human creativity; therefore, growth in artistic ability expands a person’s capacity to experience the sacred dimensions of life, to discover more of one’s own talents and skills, and to give gifts of beauty and meaning to the world. As other opportunities for learning artistic crafts diminish or disappear, we offer our community the resources and experiences which will cause both the arts and persons to thrive.


Community: The arts have a nearly-unique power to connect people across differences and diversities of every kind.  The experiences of learning, performing, and enjoying artistic crafts offer people the opportunity to know, to encourage, and to value one another on the common ground of aesthetic excellence.  We offer such common ground to our community. 


Church as “Patron” of the Arts: Historically, the church and other faith-communities have inspired, provided for, and offered material, emotional, and spiritual support for the arts and artists.  We are reclaiming the role of patron, or sponsor, of the arts as a way of serving God and our neighbors through the nurture of artists who will fashion beauty and, thereby, glorify God who is its source. 


Stories allow us to celebrate our past, consider our present, and create our future.

The Academy for the Arts opened its doors to the community on August 18, 2014. We are still as motivated by our mission and core values as we were on that first day. At AFTA, we offer the best in teaching, in facility, and in performance opportunity. We seek to empower students of all ages and backgrounds in reaching their greatest potential both as artists and as human beings. 


A wonderfully diverse community, our students achieve musical success, are actively engaged, and are open to new and exciting experiences. Our highly-skilled faculty create an atmosphere of nurture and expectation in which students pursue excellence through their music. We have wonderful families and volunteers that support in such a beautiful way.


As we look back on past years of tremendous growth and achievements with pride, we feel confident that AFTA will continue to write new chapters of excellence, innovation, and creativity. We are excited about the journey! This is our story and the story continues... 


Meet The Team

Karen Sorrells

Karen Sorrells 


Karen Sorrells received a Bachelor of Arts in Music (Piano) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Masters in Church Music from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Post-graduate studies include a Kodály Certification from the University of North Texas in Denton.


Karen served for over 20 years as Associate Minister of Music at First Baptist Church of Asheville, where she offered leadership to all ages in music ministry. ​She has taught at the collegiate level, is a frequent choral clinician and conference leader at both state and national events, and has taught piano for over 30 years. She has written children’s choir curriculum for Growing in Grace and other publications. For several years, Karen taught at the Fine Arts Summer Academy with the Annie Moses Band in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to her role as Director, Karen is a member of AFTA's piano faculty.

Nichole Sumpter

Nichole Sumpter
Assistant Director

Nichole Sumpter is excited to join the AFTA team. A native of Western North Carolina, Nichole is a graduate of Appalachian State University with a degree in public history and has extended her studies to include art history at Roehampton University in London. Appearing on stage at the age of six months, her mother jokes that she was born into the arts and has pursued those interests her entire life. After college she served as a church financial assistant as well as the  graphic designer for HART Theatre in Waynesville where she has been involved for many years, first as a volunteer and then as a full-time employee. She was also an important asset in the founding of Kids at HART, a children’s theatre component of HART. Nichole has a background in stage management, sound, and lights, and has also helped film and edit virtual concerts. She is happy that she will spend her days surrounded by music.

Our Partners

FBCA Square
Piano Emporium Square
Ashevilla Symphony Square
ASYO Square
Pan Harmonia Square
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