Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute

Associate in Fine Arts in Music

Associate in Fine Arts in Music

CCC&TI offers an Associate in Fine Arts in Music Degree (AFA) . The 60 semester-hour program prepares students to transfer to most four-year institutions. By earning an AFA Music degree from CCC&TI a student is suited to finish a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education, Music Performance, Music Industries/Business, Music Therapy, and Music Composition. The AFA in Music is also appropriate for students who want additional training in music for their present career, without the need to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

Person sitting at a keyboard writing music

History of the CCC&TI AFA Music program

The AFA Music program at CCC&TI started in 1983 to serve Caldwell County and surrounding areas. Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute’s Music Program was established in 1983 by Bill Jones and directed by Kay Crouch from 1985 to 2013. From 1984-88, CCC&TI housed and sponsored The Unifour Jazz Ensemble, 1987 Community College Jazz Ensemble National Champions. In 1990, UJE was named Community Jazz Ensemble of the 1980s by the International Association for Jazz Education and in 2013 its director Tom Smith was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Education Hall of Fame.

Admission Requirements

  1. CCC&TI application
  2. High school transcript(s) or high school equivalency
  3. College transcript(s) if applicable
  4. CCC&TI placement tests
  5. Interview with admission counselor


Costs at North Carolina community colleges are traditionally the best educational value available for college transfer, technical, and vocational students. For current tuition and fees at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, visit our Tuition & Fees webpage or contact the Student Services Office at 828.726.2200 or 828.264.7670.

Financial Aid

Financial assistance is available to qualified students through grants, scholarships, loans, and part-time employment in the college work-study program. For more information, visit our Financial Aid page.

Career Information

Career opportunities with an AFA Music degree:
  • Private Music Teacher
  • Performer/Studio Musician
  • Recording studio engineer
  • Director in a church Choral program
  • Music Ministries
  • Composer/Songwriter
  • Booking agent/Talent buyer

To learn more information about Careers in the AFA Music field, visit CCC&TI's Career Coach site for the following program:

Career Coach logo AFA: Music

Careers available to musicians holding bachelor's or master's degrees are varied and rewarding. Some specific career opportunities include:

  • Composition
    • Composition of Art/Classical music
    • Songwriter
  • Music Business
    • Architectural acoustic consultant
    • Arts Administrator/Arts Management
    • Concert Promoter and Talent Buyer
    • Music Marketing and Merchandise
    • Music Reporting (music reviews for newspapers, magazines, and blogs)
    • Recording studio engineer
  • Music Education
    • College and University Music Professor
    • Music Librarian
    • Musicologist
    • Teaching (elementary, secondary, post-secondary and studio)
  • Music Performance
    • Accompanist
    • College and University Music Professor
    • Member of Symphony or Orchestra
    • Touring/Performing Musician
  • Music Therapy
    • Music Therapist (helping individuals with disabilities to improve their physical and mental health through the study and practice of music)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 5% increase in the number of music jobs in the U.S. through 2020 and states the average hourly wages at $23.50 for musicians.

There are several new careers in the Music Industry that did not exist years ago. “One of those is video game audio, which is among the fastest-growing areas of employment for musicians. Though salaries start low - $18,000 for an assistant engineer who creates rough mixes in the studio - they can rise quickly. Audio directors often earn up to $140,000 per year for overseeing video game projects, while audio tool developers can pull in as much as $150,000 for writing code.” (

Meet the Instructors

Justin Butler

Justin Butler is an award winning multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator. Justin is the Director of Music Programs at Caldwell Community College and an Artist in Residence at Appalachian State University. He also served on the music faculty at Milligan College for ten years where he taught guitar lessons and guitar pedagogy. Justin has performed at major venues across the USA, Canada and Japan as well as live on WNCW-FM and CBS affiliate WJHL-TV. Justin began his music studies at the age of ten, starting with guitar and saxophone, and later the piano. He began professional performing at sixteen, playing solo guitar recitals, small ensemble performances and with jazz combos.

Butler received performance and academic scholarships to study music at The Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University, where he studied guitar with Doug James and received an Undergraduate and Masters Degree in Music Performance. Justin also studied Suzuki method at the Hartt School and University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Photo of Justin Butler

Luke Benton

Luke Benton is a composer, educator, and violinist who has called Western North Carolina his home for 20 years. Before graduating from Hickory High School in 1997, he shared dual roles as the concertmaster of the Western Piedmont Youth Symphony and as a fully contracted member of the professional orchestra. Mr. Benton holds multiple degrees in music composition, studying with Drs. Michael Schelle and Frank Felice at Butler University (Indianapolis, IN); Dr. Nigel Osbourne at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK); Drs. Robert Carl and Larry Alan Smith at the Hartt School (University of Hartford, CT); and Ingram Marshall at Yale University (New Haven, CT). Mr. Benton’s music has been commissioned and performed by the Western Piedmont Symphony, the Lenoir-Rhyne University Wind Ensemble and Concert Band, the Hickory High School Orchestra, the Charlotte (NC) Children’s Choir and Youth Chorale, the New Mexico State University Percussion Ensemble, the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra, the Vienna Saxophone Quartet, and Alarm Will Sound, to name a few. His music has been praised as "strong-minded and lovely" by the Indianapolis Star, "wonderfully elegiac and elegant" by the Hartford Courant, and "artfully envisioned" by the Edinburgh Evening News. His most recent work, a commission for the Western Piedmont Symphony entitled TERMINAL STAR, was featured on the January 18, 2015 broadcast of Carolina Live for WDAV 89.9 classical public radio. Additionally, Mr. Benton’s music can be found in the catalogue of Colla Voce Music, Inc.

After nearly a decade’s absence, Mr. Benton returned to Hickory in late 2005, where he rejoined the Western Piedmont Symphony as a section second violinist. He also began his professional teaching career at Lenoir-Rhyne University where he continues to instruct music theory, composition, First Year Experience, and film music/aesthetics courses. In 2009, Mr. Benton met his wife, Laura, at Randolph’s Billiards in Hickory. They were married in October 2010, bought a home in June 2012, and welcomed their first child, Owen, in December of that same year. He began teaching courses at Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute in the fall of 2013, and he continues to instruct courses in American Music, Introduction to Jazz, Music Appreciation, and the History of Rock.

Photo of Luke Benton

Charles Smith

Charles Smith has taught music appreciation since the spring of 2004. In addition to classroom and online instruction, he also delivers applied percussion lessons. He is a 1992 graduate of CCC&TI with an AA in Pre Liberal Arts. He is a 1994 graduate of Appalachian State University with a BS in Music Industry Studies (focusing in merchandising) that includes a minor in business. He also holds BM (1996) and MM (2003) degrees in music performance, also from Appalachian State University. He has completed additional graduate coursework in field of digital communications at East Carolina University (2007).

He is a member of the music honor society Pi Kappa Lambda, as well as the academic honor societies Pi Kappa Lambda, Alpha Chi, Phi Kappa Phi, Gamma Beta Phi.

Charles has been a member of the Western Piedmont Symphony since 2000, serving as both principal timpanist, as well as a featured soloist for Laura Kaminsky’s avant garde work for percussion and orchestra, ‘Terra Terribilis’ (2009). He also performs with the Hickory Choral Society, Symphony of the Mountains, Asheville Choral Society, and Asheville Symphony Orchestra. He has worked alongside Bela Fleck, Charlie Daniels, Chris Brubeck, and Edgar Meyer. Various performances with these ensembles have been aired nationally on American Public Media, as well as statewide on UNC-TV and WDAV.

Outside of the orchestral realm, he is a founding member of the Just Friends Jazz Trio. He also enjoys performing on steel pan, both in solo and group settings. Outside of the musical arena, he works in Corporate Education & Development for BB&T Insurance Services.

Photo of Charles Smith

Robert Steadman

Robert Mitchell Steadman Jr. began guitar studies at the age of 14 under the guidance of his father.

In the summer of 1999 he auditioned for and was accepted to the music program at Brevard College, Brevard, NC, where he studied with Roger Allen Cope. Upon completing his B.A. in Guitar Performance (2003), Robert continued his studies with Dr. Douglas James at Appalachian State University, Boone, NC. Upon completion of his M.M. in Guitar Performance (2006), Mr. Steadman has continued furthering his musical knowledge with Suzuki Guitar and Music Together Training, and has performed in Master Classes for Andrew York, Scott Tennant, Martha Masters, Stephen Robinson and Brad Richter.

Mr. Steadman maintains an active teaching schedule and performs in the mid-Atlantic region.

His first CD, a self-titled collection of classical guitar performances, was released in 2011.

Photo of Robert Steadman

David Smith

David Gabriel Smith is an alumni of both UNC Charlotte and Appalachian State University schools of music. Mr. Smith’s Masters degree is in classical guitar performance. David is the instructor of music classes at CCC&TI on the Watauga campus in North Carolina and adjunct faculty at Emory & Henry College in Virginia. Mr. Smith has performed in various venues around the Charlotte metropolitan area, Boone, NC, Emory, VA and competed in several regional guitar competitions, including the Guitar Foundation of America. He has arranged, recorded, composed songs and instrumental works for nearly 10 years. Currently, David is working on a duo album of minimalist guitar music with Billy Chi, an alumni of Boston Conservatory in guitar performance.

Photo of David Smith

Vincent Crist

Vincent Crist, a native of Asheville, holds the degrees of Bachelor of Environmental Design in Architecture (with honors) from North Carolina State University, the Bachelor of Arts in Music (and recipient of the Mary Emma Gage Prize in Music) from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, and the Master of Music in Church Music (with distinction and as recipient of the Renneckar Scholarship in Church Music) from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ. In 1993, he was conferred the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance Studies (Organ and Choral Conducting) from the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati, where his dissertation was “Acoustics in the Worship Space: Goals and Strategies.” Dr. Crist has also studied at the University of Kentucky and at the Conservatory of Music in Vienna, Austria.

Dr. Crist is the Director of Music and Organist at St. James Episcopal Church in Lenoir, NC, and serves as Interim University Organist at Lenoir-Rhyne University. He has served churches in North Carolina, New Jersey, Kentucky, and Ohio, and has taught on the faculties of Montreat College, the University of Kentucky, the University of Cincinnati, and Lenoir-Rhyne University.

In addition to church duties and teaching, Dr. Crist is active as a lecturer and consultant in organ design and the acoustics of worship spaces.

Photo of Vincent Crist

Kim Gant

Kim holds a BM in Voice performance/Pedagogy, and an MA in Music Education from Appalachian State University.

She was awarded academic and talent scholarships as an undergraduate, and a graduate assistantship as a graduate student in music. She has been a music instructor at the secondary and post-secondary school levels as well as an active church musician in both choral and handbell directing. She was a prior member of the handbell group "Hickory Rings" during it's inception in 2012. She has maintained a private studio in Hickory, NC as a voice and piano instructor for the last 25 years, and is also a faculty member in voice/piano for The Harper School in Lenoir, NC.

Kim is a current member of the Hickory Music Club, and was a prior member of the Hickory Choral Society for 15 years as a singer, and also served on the HCS board for two years.

Photo of Kim Gant


Program Information

photo of Justin Butler
Justin Butler
Director / Instructor

Music Program
Humanities & Social Sciences
Caldwell - H - 142
Credentials for Justin Butler