Dr. Ronnie Oliver Jr. is the new minister of music at Central Baptist Church in downtown Newnan.
Oliver has served at churches throughout Texas, Kentucky and New York. He has also taught at universities in North Carolina, Kentucky and Michigan. For the last 20 years, Ronnie and his wife, Ann, have lived in New York City where he continued his career as a professor.
Oliver’s last professor position was being part of the conducting faculty at the Manhattan School of Music. He also serves as the artistic director and conductor of Ensemble NYC, a professional choral ensemble whose mission is to be a catalyst for hope in New York City.
He served as the executive director of Manhattan Concert Productions. In that role he was responsible for the overall administration and management of festival concerts at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Orchestra Hall in Chicago and the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, where he collaborated with nationally known guest conductors. He has also appeared at Carnegie Hall, most recently conducting Fauré’s Requiem with the Masterworks Festival Chorus and New York City Chamber Orchestra.
Oliver's wife, Ann, is a professional actor on Broadway whose most recent credits include “The Music Man,” “Frozen,” “Dear Evan Hansen” and the current revival of “Camelot.” She is also the first Asian American performer to play Anna Leonowens in “The King and I” and Belle in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
A love for music
Oliver said he has been a musician since fifth grade when he joined a band. He started singing when he was 15
“Being a part of these ensembles gave me a sense of belonging, discipline, confidence, and fun,” Oliver said. “The friendships and opportunities I experienced were life changing for me. I wanted to continue these experiences and share them with others.”
Oliver said his favorite thing about being a musician is the relationships he builds with other musicians he works with.
“This is what life is about – building relationships with different types of people working toward a unified goal,” he said. “Regardless of our race, gender, political leanings, education, socio-economic status, we can join together and concentrate on working together in bringing hope and joy to others.”
Oliver said it’s hard for him to pick his favorite memory as a musician because he’s been “fortunate to have several wonderful experiences.”
“One that stands out is when I conducted Brahms Requiem with my professional ensemble in NYC,” he said. “Brahms wrote it to comfort those who have lost loved ones; the music and words are composed in such a way that brings hope in a deep and meaningful way. The spectrum of emotions I experienced was quite overwhelming at times.”
A new journey at Central Baptist
Oliver said he is looking forward to adding to the music ministry at Central Baptist.
“I hope to build on the long legacy of great music in our worship services and in our musical offerings to the community,” he said. “Central Baptist’s gracious, generous and helpful people encourage me to continue sharing those qualities with everyone in Coweta County through our music.”
The Rev. Matt Sapp, pastor of Central Baptist, said Oliver has many great qualities.
“Dr. Oliver brings great musical ability to his work, but what really sets him apart is his heart for God and his giftedness for ministry,” Sapp said. “His creativity, imagination and commitment to excellence make him a great fit for our staff, for our congregation and for our community. He and Ann will be great assets to Newnan and to Central Baptist Church.”
Oliver said he is enjoying his time in Coweta.
“I’m having a great time exploring the area and meeting with wonderful people,” Oliver said.
The Rev. Anne Cronic, Central’s former minister of music, retired last year after serving as the associate pastor of music and worship at Central Baptist Church in downtown Newnan for 37 years.