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‘A kind soul’: Remembering Jeff Lisenby

The Belmont community lost a pillar with the passing of music school faculty member Jeff Lisenby.

Lisenby, 65, died at home in Nashville of COVID-19 complications on Jan. 6. His established career as a talented musician grew increasingly diverse over the past 35 years, wherein Lisenby practiced composition, arranging, performing, studio recordings, college teaching and directing musical shows on Broadway and on cruise lines.

“In addition to being an extraordinary musician — literally one of the top accordion players in the country — Jeff was a really wonderful man and a kind soul,” said Dr. Mark Volker, a music professor and colleague of Lisbeny.

“He made everyone around him feel welcome and comfortable, both personally and professionally. Always prepared, always friendly; he had a sincere smile for everyone he encountered.”

Lisenby began his work at Belmont in 1993 as an instructor of music. He made personal connections with students teaching a variety of courses.

Dr. Bruce Dudley, associate professor of music, said Lisenby’s generosity was difficult to match.

“Jeff was one of the kindest individuals I’ve ever met. He was gentle, intelligent, thoughtful, and always saw the positive side of any situation,” Dudley said. “Back when I first moved to Nashville in the mid-1990s … Jeff was incredibly generous in passing along work to me … and introduced me to a number of musical and community contacts that help me get established in Nashville.”

“His caring voice and warm smile will be missed by all who knew Jeff.”

Outside of Belmont, Lisenby was well-known in the Nashville community as a respected member of the music industry for over 35 years.

Lisenby was music director, arranger and played keyboards in Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash on Broadway and on the cast album. He also performed with touring shows of Wicked and Jersey Boys and accompanied a variety of artists including Pavarotti, Blake Shelton, Dolly Parton, Mel Tormé, Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Drifters, The Coasters, and Donna Summer.

Lisenby is also a renowned accordionist, winning bronze and silver medals for the U.S. in two international classical accordion championships.

Abby Foley, a former high school student of Lisenby at Father Ryan High School, expanded on the mark her “school accompanist, role model, and life coach” made on her.

“He was a quiet and humble man; in high school we called him Uncle Lis,” Foley said. “He was the most honest teacher I’ve ever known … he taught me what it means to balance being humble and talented.”

Lisenby’s life, legacy, and impact are obvious to those who knew him. Lisenby is survived by his wife, Pam, who is also currently battling serious illness; by his daughter, Jaclyn Lisenby Brown; son-in-law, Daniel Brown; son Jonathan Lisenby; and several grandchildren. Arrangements are incomplete at this time. A GoFundMe account has been established to assist the Lisenby family.

Students can donate to the Lisenby family’s GoFundMe here.

This article written by Ansley Harmon.

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