New Trevecca administrator looks toward the future of worship education

When Dr. Vernon Whaley sits down at his desk in Trevecca’s Jackson Center for Music and Worship Arts, he’s mentally ticking through a to-do list, but not the kind you’d expect. 

Rather than checking off the tasks for the day, Whaley is always focused on the future of education. 

Whaley, who recently served as the dean of Liberty University’s School of Music, is the new associate vice president for program development in Trevecca’s School of Music and Worship Arts. He spent nearly 15 years at Liberty, during which enrollment in music and worship programs more than tripled.

Success isn’t what drives Whaley, though. He’s fueled by a passion to shape graduates who use their talents and technical skills to make a difference in their communities. 

“We want to establish Trevecca as the place for training worship leaders, for training practical musicians to meet the needs of an unreached community, and for equipping music educators to reach out into their community with marketplace evangelism,” Whaley said. “With everything we offer, we want to be good stewards of the talents God has loaned to us.” 

That understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ and to help students steward the talents God has given them fuels Whaley’s passion for his work.

“The music we give is an overflow of our worship to the Lord,” Whaley said. “If you see it that way, then when you give a concert or a presentation of some sort, it has a whole different focus.” 

For Whaley, that truth is always held in tandem with a focus on technical excellence and high professional standards. Innovation and forward-thinking have also been a vital part of the administrator’s 35-year career, first as a worship pastor and then as an educator. 

And his plan for developing students into top-notch musicians—professionals and worship leaders who reach their communities for Christ—certainly isn’t traditional. 

“The first thing on the agenda is to develop very practical market-driven degrees that can serve the church, the music industry, the education community and create student engagement,” Whaley said. “The idea is to equip students so well that the market begins asking for our students. That’s not the traditional approach in education, but that’s what we’re doing.” 

Whaley is working on plans that would create what he calls “collaborative degrees” in worship studies, equipping students in worship and another area, such as leadership, theology, business, public administration, and more. The first cohort of the master’s in worship and leadership is set to begin in early March.  Whaley sees the possibility for these types of online degree programs that prepare students to better connect with the communities they serve. 

“[This approach] would allow us to train a worship pastor in more than one area or train a worship pastor to serve in a secular community while also serving the church,” Whaley said. 

Whaley and his wife, Beth, are the parents of two grown children and have six grandchildren. The son of missionaries, Whaley spent the better part of his “growing-up years” in Alaska. He holds a master’s degree in music education and composition as well as doctorates in music education with a focus in theory and composition and worship studies. 

Learn more about Trevecca’s master’s program in worship and leadership.

About Trevecca Nazarene University

Trevecca Nazarene University is a Christian university in the heart of Nashville focused on preparing students for lives of leadership and service. Founded in 1901, Trevecca is committed to holistic education, encouraging students to grow intellectually, socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

This commitment extends from Trevecca’s historic main campus just one mile from thriving downtown Nashville to two other locations across Tennessee, and online classes offered worldwide. With students from 47 states and 25 countries, Trevecca offers 20 associate degrees, 73 bachelor’s degrees, 16 master’s programs and three doctoral programs as well as specialist and certificate programs.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Trevecca as a national university in the annual “2020 Best Colleges,” making the university the only Nazarene institution to receive the national ranking. The Carnegie Foundation has classified Trevecca as a doctoral university, ranking it among the top seven percent of schools nationwide.

The campus is certified as both an arboretum and the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus USA, one of just nine universities and colleges in the state to receive the recognition. A member of NCAA Division II, Trevecca boasts 15 men’s and women’s teams who compete in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference as well as 12 intramural teams. 

Media contact: Mandy Crow,, 615-248-1695