Arlene G. Sparks – Director of Music

Known throughout the country as an outstanding educator, conductor, and choral technician/artist, Arlene Graham Sparks is the Director of Music at First United Methodist Church, where she serves as the Director of the Chancel Choir and Traditional Music.

Originally from Iowa, Arlene received degrees from Cottey College for Women (A.A.), The Florida State University (B.Mus. in Voice Performance and B.M.E. in Choral Music Education), and The University of South Florida (M.M. in Choral Conducting). She has done additional graduate course work at Westminster Choir College and has studied with such noted choral directors as Robert Shaw, Joseph Flummerfelt, Sir David Willcocks, and Weston Noble.

Arlene recently retired from public education after a decade as Choral Director at Coral Springs High School and lastly a 26-year distinguished career as the Founding Director of the Vocal Department at the A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts. While at Dreyfoos, her choirs achieved top accolades such as invitations to perform at ten American Choral Directors’ Association Conventions – including two National Convention appearances – one in 2005 at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and most recently, in 2015 at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. Her choirs also took four international tours – competing and placing first in competitions in Verona, Italy and Llangollen, Wales. She has conducted All-State and Honor Choirs across the country, and has twice been named Music Teacher or Educator of the Year. Arlene helped all of her students learn to sing in a vibrant healthy manner and obtain skills in music literacy; many went on to pursue music in our country’s finest music schools across the nation, including her son, Andrew Christopher – a Voice Performance/German Language double-degree graduate from Lawrence University in Wisconsin.

In addition to her career as a choral educator and conductor, Arlene is a voice instructor and performer. She enjoyed several seasons as the vocal instructor/performance coach for the Von Trapp Children. Her soprano voice and choral leadership is admired throughout south Florida in the many churches she has served such as Royal Poinciana Chapel and Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach; The First Presbyterian Churches of North Palm Beach and Pompano Beach; St. Paul’s Episcopal and St. Gregory’s Episcopal; and Christ Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ in Ft. Lauderdale. Arlene also has completed the rigorous four year course work to receive the Education for Ministry (E.F.M.) certification through the University of the South.

A lover of quality music and a talent for creative programming, Arlene has a passion for the art of traditional worship and its deep rooted history. She has been propelled throughout her life by the scripture woven throughout our sacred anthems such as Psalm 104:33 “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being”, and the wisdom and theology found throughout the pages of our treasured hymnals. She believes in praising God with the best we have to offer – with thought-filled texts and uplifting and inspiring music from our great church composers. Arlene is excited about this opportunity in her life, and is looking forward to humbly sharing her God-given gifts by enriching the lives of the congregations at the 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Traditional Worship services at FUMC-Boca Raton alongside her longtime musical collaborator and extremely gifted friend, Craig Ames.

Craig Ames – Associate Director of Music, Pianist and Organist

Craig Ames has been making music in the Methodist Church since a very young age. He is the son of founding members of Bethany United Methodist Church in Northeastern Wisconsin.  In Florida, Craig has served as Director of Music at Nativity Lutheran Church, Director of Music and Drama at Trinity United Methodist Church, Music Minister at the VA Hospital, and is now entering his thirteenth year as pianist and organist here at FUMCBR.

Craig has studied piano with three fine teachers: Carol Chilton and Zhanna Dawson, University of Wisconsin, and French pianist Phillipe  Drevet. Craig is a four-time Carbonell Award winner for his work as a Musical Director, and his arrangements of the music of Rodgers and Hart are included in the Rodgers and Hammerstein Library under the title, “Beguiled, Again.”

Craig is privileged to be the recipient of the Clyde Fyfe Award for his work in arts and community cooperation, presented by the Palm Beach Cultural Council. Craig also served five years as a founding board member of the Randolph A. Frank Prize for the Performing Arts.

Also a student of American history, in 2010, Craig was privileged to be the recipient of a Gilder-Lehrman Foundation Fellowship to study pre-colonial American history at Yale University with Prof. John Demos.

These combined passions of music and history have helped to create a platform for Craig’s belief that faith, hope, and love (1st Corinthians 13) really are the cornerstones of a life filled with joy.

Mickey Vasquez – Worship Leader Contemporary Service

Mickey Vasquez is the Worship Leader for the FUMC Contemporary Service. He first joined the FUMC Team in 2011 as the Drummer for the praise team and immediately found a musical home here.

Music has always been a big part of Mickey’s life. He comes from a musical culture, and a musical family. While growing up, his mother worked for a record label in the Dominican Republic, exposing him to the rhythms, instruments, and energy of the Central Caribbean. At the same time, in this already musical home, his father was playing the classic albums of Elton John, Journey, Boston, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. It was clear from a very young age that music would be an integral part of his life. As a result, Mickey embraces all musical styles, especially contemporary Christian Worship and Praise!

Throughout middle and high school he began playing the tuba and eventually integrated drums, percussion, and singing into his musical life.  Mickey has performed with Christian youth groups, in masses, and in many different church ministries throughout his life. He has performed on many recordings, and has toured as a solo artist or with the Christian band CEFAS in Mexico, Guatemala, and Ecuador.

In this new chapter of his musical adventure, God has called Mickey to lead this worship team, alongside his wife Nicky and their daughter Amaris. Beyond any ability, skill, or experience that he possesses, what is most important is that his heart for serving God is behind it all. He truly strives to give his all to worship, and to create an environment where others can evolve in their musical calling. Mickey hopes to take his passion for music and carry it forward to the FUMC community and lead the church in praise. FUMC Boca Raton: “a chill place where everyone is loved and welcome!”

Suzanne Galer-Wert – Director of Music, West Campus

Suzanne Galer-Wert is the West Campus Director of Music for First United Methodist Church of Boca Raton.   She directs the Traditional Choir, sings solos, and plays the piano.   Suzanne has served as a college professor of voice for over thirty years works for Palm Beach State College.  She is also the Director of Bel Canto Studios of the Palm Beaches where she teaches piano and voice.

Growing up at Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Suzanne sang her first solos, studied piano with the church organist, and served in bell choir and liturgical dance. Music runs in the family, and Suzanne’s grandmother was a church organist, choir director, and piano teacher in Albany, New York.    Her grandfather left the family baking business in the Netherlands to pursue his dream of being a band director and composer.

Suzanne is a believer in embracing all musical styles and denominations and loves the blending of gospel and classical at West Campus. Serving churches  throughout the United States, Suzanne’s favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”

A bit of a “church mouse” Suzanne received a BA in Music and Theater from Hope College, a Christian college in Holland, Michigan. She worked for Robert Schuller Ministries at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California where she helped record the original sound track of the Glory of Christmas.  She taught at the Crystal Cathedral Academy and sang in internationally televised services. After receiving masters and doctoral degrees in vocal performance from The State University of New York at Stony Brook, she moved to New York City where she was Director of Christian Education for Bethany Memorial Church.  In New York City, she sang for Marble Collegiate Church, served as chapel pianist at the Inter-Church Center, and taught voice at the Dwight School.

An Associate Instructor at Indiana University at Bloomington, Suzanne worked as a soprano for the University Director of Church Music, Marilyn Keiser, at Trinity Episcopal Church. During her professorships, Suzanne held pianist positions at First Baptist of Huntsville, TX and at Quaker Friends Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.    She served as Choral Director and Bell Choir Director for First Presbyterian of Huntsville, Texas and conducted for nine years at First Presbyterian of Marion, Indiana.  Galer was organist and choir master at Stony Brook Church (NY), and at First Methodist of New Market, Alabama.  Suzanne wore a new hat as contemporary Commercial pianist and Praise Band leader at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.

An operatic soprano, Suzanne won the New York Vocal Artists Competition and represented NYVA as soloist in Carnegie Hall Recital Hall and at Columbia Artists Hall.  She was a Metropolitan Opera Regional Finalist and has performed for Indianapolis Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Opera Festival of Rome, the Hawaii International Conference, and the International College Music Society in Bangkok, Thailand. In Palm Beach, she has performed solos with Indian River Orchestra, Robert Sharon Chorale, Royal Poinciana Chapel, Lost Tree Chapel, Bethesda Chapel, Masterworks Chorale of the Palm Beaches, and The Choral Society of the Palm Beaches.

Suzanne and her husband, Brian Wert, reside in West Palm Beach with their feline family: Macavity the Mystery Cat (Mickey), and Sophie.