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Teacher of the Week

On a daily basis, I am blown away by the work of educators the world over. Not only am I lucky enough to have crossed paths with inspirational teachers throughout my life but many of you share your stories of incredible people you’ve had the joy of encountering – people who are changing the world one student at a time. Every Thursday, I will share a new “Teacher of the Week” and invite you to submit your nominations.

This Week's Teacher is Mr. Brent Whitaker (U.S.A.)

Mr. Brent Whitaker (U.S.A.)

“Mr. Whitaker is one of those people that believes that teaching a subject is not just teaching the subject. He would teach us music, but foremost, he taught us about life and how music enforces the lessons we learn in life. Things like discipline, focus, hard work, dedication, active listening, and many more things shaped our choir to become one of the best in the state! I believe that if it weren’t for what Mr. Whitaker taught us, I might have become someone with a lacking in core values as a person. I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I do because I followed his example! He is truly one of a kind!”

Thank you, Mr. Whitaker, for changing the world one student at a time.

Thank you Kaitlyn for the nomination.

Nominate a Teacher

There are thousands of incredible educators out and there and I invite you to submit your nominations. Who you nominate is your choice – it could be anyone from your kindergarten teacher to your college professors.

Please fill out the form below in full.

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Your Nominations

Mandy Mikita Scott

Mandy is an encouraging, kind person through and through. She supports her students after graduation in all their endeavours throughout all of the districts she has instructed. When she was tough with me, it was because I needed someone to hold me accountable and it made me buckle down and focus. When I graduated, she told me to never stop singing, and I’m sure if I hadn’t been encouraged I wouldn’t have. I now am a singer, songwriter, and recording artist and through her vocal training I know how to harness my talents, and through her example, I have patience and love for my fellow family in life.

Valerie Adelung

Mrs. Adelung makes a really personal connection with her students and you feel a special bond with her. She’s no ordinary teacher, she’s like your school mom. She’s a person that cares about a students way past their education but how they are as a person. She’s instilled a seed of confidence in me that I thought I lost during my years in high school and she really works hard at what she does and deserves a little more recognition than she receives. She’s a wonderful teacher but an even better ‘Mentor’ and she’s truly loved by all that are blessed to have her as a teacher.

Annette Hovey

Mrs. Hovey has touched many people’s hearts by bringing them closer to music not only by teaching them but by guiding them to the deeper meaning of what the music is saying. Mrs. Hovey has a music program in a high school of less than 200 people yet she has quieted as many as 10 students in the last 3 years to become music teachers as well. She is the greatest influence I know and to many she is the hardest working most passionate human about music in the area.

Lynne Gackle

Dr. Gackle is a literal angel— I mean it. When we sit in her office and chat I know for a fact that she is heaven sent. She is an incredible choral musician. She programs music in a way that tugs deeply at your heartstrings. She gives music a story that everyone can relate to, or relates it to an anecdotal time in her life. She doesn’t choose music that is emotionless. Every week, I look forward to our Tuesday/Thursday rehearsals so I can continue to fall more in love with choral music and center myself in what the songs make me feel. She is an incredible educator and I am so lucky and grateful to know her.

Brendan Hoffman

A beautiful human being, you can never catch him in a down moment, he takes time to make sure all his students are able to make a connection with him that he is not only an educator but when you leave his class and walk across the stage that you can call him your friend. He is so involved and is an amazing teacher he can transform something that was just a hobby into something that could lead to a career, he lights a fire in all of his students eyes to strive to their musical potential, he is just a wonderful person who can light a room up with an awfully corny joke or an embarrassing story about his kids, he works so hard for our school with Nyssma, and each individual solo and over 50 performances he conducts a year between all his choirs and amazing college level theory teacher and endlessly more working with tri-M and theater, giving up countless lunches and after school time to help each of his students, the world wouldn’t be so sweet if he didn’t make us sight read like he does!!

Brendan goes above and beyond to make every single student know that their voice deserves to be heard. He does so much hard work in our community, and travels out of state for events. He presents our school with so many opportunities to spread joy through music, like trips to music festivals and NYSSMA. He knows how to let every student shine and doesn’t let students give up on their abilities he knows they have.

Hoffman is the most inspirational person I know. He teaches with an overwhelming passion and love for music that carries over into all of his students. He is my mentor and inspires me everyday not only to be a better musician but a better person as well. He’s the reason why I am currently studying to become a music educator.

This man’s made my whole 4 years of high school great! Everytime I stepped into his class, I was always excited to work on our music and that was before I was brought into the Chamber Choir. He is a devoted teacher and can make any singer a better singer. His passion and devotion to teaching students music is always present when he was conducting at our concerts.

He is one of the kindest most helpful teachers I have ever met. I have learned so much from him and come out of my shell. He has made me feel like I have a home and a place in the music community. He is one of the best directors I have ever met and is so humble.

Mr. Hoffman has been the most dedicated teacher of my daughters high school career. He has been a constant reminder of what an educator should be. His classes bring joy to my daughter and bring out the importance for a love of learning, having her coming home excited to apply everything he has taught her has been a remarkable thing to see. He always strives to see that all his students are taking something away from his class whether it should be learning to compose and dictate music or how to pass on an act of kindness, I am thankful that my daughter has teacher that cares a great deal about the motivations and happiness of all of his students so much so I feel the need to write in appreciation to hopefully have him nominated because he more than well deserves to be recognised.

He has helped kids through so much not only in their exploration through music but also in their journey through life.

Every morning I have a reason, a path to which I am working towards because of this man I have been able to realize not only do I want a future in music but the role model and the standard kindness Everyone needs and deserves everyday, he dedicates his life to his job and his students, and i recently got to take part in an annual reciting of a beautiful song called earth song, this was its 10th year, Mr Hoffman invites his former students to part take every year, this being the 10th year was very special and the turnout of previous students spoke the amount of gratitude towards this amazing man having had the risers and isles packed with such students was breath taking, Eric Whitacre is Mr Hoffman’s biggest role model singing many of his pieces a year, giving him this, I would hope would show a little of how much he really does for his students, that his countless hours after school hours and free time working to make each students opportunities more in reach doesn’t go unnoticed.

Mr. Hoffman is a SUPERB teacher who has created a flourishing music department in a school that does not have the resources to financially support an expensive program. The Albany High music department it is a choral family based on love for their teacher, a love for singing, and a love for making an impact on the lives of other people through music. Mr. Hoffman has been given rotten lemons by the powers that be, and has made state of the art lemonade. No other teacher is more deserving of this award. Mr. Hoffman is kind, patient, understanding, generous, and enthusiastic. His room is home for students who need a safe haven; he doesn’t give up on anyone.

Mr Hoffman has made me feel welcome and comforted for the past soon to be four (and last) years. He has never failed to pick me up on a day where life is getting me down and has taught me how to pull myself into everything I’m passionate in. He is overall an amazing teacher.

Mr. Hoffman was my choir teacher in high school and one of the most compassionate and engaged educators I’ve ever met. He truly cares about his students, and instills in them a passion for music and the arts, and the connection that that brings. I’m so thankful for his impact on his students lives.

Mr. Hoffman was my choir teacher for three years, and not only is he hardworking and completely dedicated to his craft, but he gives confidence to those who are shy at first and encourages all of his students to be the best that they can be.

He has inspires and continues to inspire all of his students. His passion for music is clear and present in everything he does he never ceases to enlighten new generations of students to the beauty of music.

He was my high school choir teacher. Up until my junior year I was so nervous to perform in front of people. He helped me find my voice, my confidence, and my path to finding my true self. He always believed in me and showed me what I can really do with my voice and he helped me see all the potential I had in me. Thanks to him I now perform regularly, solo and with a soul/funk band. (now 4 years since graduating high school)

Mr. Hoffman is not only an amazing music choir teacher and conductor, but has such a kind soul. Hoffman takes the time to make sure we know the material, but let’s us add our own flair. He is so unique in terms of his personality. He jokes around with his students, and encourages us to take risks with our voice and the music written for us. He arranges pieces in days, even with his right schedule. Brendan Hoffman is such an amazing person and teacher, I don’t think I’ll ever find a teacher as encouraging and passionate as him.

He’s an incredible teacher who deserves to be Eric Whitacre’s teacher of the week!

Mr. Hoffman is an inspiring music teacher at Albany High School in Albany. New York. He leads an amazing choral program and has left a legacy on all of his students. He has taught them about music and how to create and appreciate it, and the music we have made has touched us deeply. He goes out of his way to support his students and he has formed close relationships with us. He has changed our lives with the music we have made with him, he has shown us the impact music has on our lives and the rest of the world. He is a major inspiration to me and a big reason I am pursuing music education in college currently. He is extremely dedicated to his job and students and goes above and beyond for them. He deserves this award for the impact he has had on the lives of all of his students.

He has changed my life. He creates such an accepting environment and made me want to go to school. I love singing and am thinking about majoring in it.

He taught me so much in just one year. And he helped me get ready for my college auditions for music school.

I had the pleasure of working with Hoff throughout my four years of high school, at Albany High, starting in vocal class and moving up into the acapella group the Albanettes, where i sang for such people as the New York State Governor, the New York State Senate, and many others. Throughout my time as his student, Hoff showed me compassion, mentorship, and love. He was even there for me during a difficult period of my senior year. He is overall a wonderful teacher who takes pride in making his students the best that they can be on stage and off. He is an absolutely wonderful person who leaves a lasting impression on all of his students. He was my favorite teacher of my entire schooling and will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life.

Mr. Hoffman is one of those special teachers kids are lucky enough to get a chance to work with. Making music with him is truly creating a multifaceted piece of art day in and out. He takes high school choir to a level many strive to achieve but never quite can. He teaches students not only how to make music together but to love and cherish it. For me, he took a girl who could sing and made her a performer with a passion for singing she didn’t know she could possess. He’s done that for so many students and I know he’ll continue to make magic and change lives for as long as he teaches. I nominate Mr. Hoffman because any teacher can teach a student how to play an instrument or how to sing, but only a special few can teach them to love it. He’s one of those special few.

All four years of my high school career I’ve had Mr. Hoffman as a teacher. He is amazingly talented, an excellent teacher and also has the biggest, kindest heart in the world. Mr. Hoffman takes his time to get to know each and every one of his students personally and I think that’s my favorite part about him. Not only is he a teacher but he’s a friend, someone to confide in whenever you need it. Aside from Mr. Hoffman’s great character he truly is all about the music. Whether we sound good or not so good on a song he’s always optimistic and really takes his time to help us learn it. He is so passionate about our choirs at school and during every concert you can tell just how much of everything he has he puts into his work; the concerts for him usually end in sweat stained shirts, a red face and happy tears. It’s also worth to mention that Eric Whitacre is his favorite composer of all time.

He’s given me and all my classmates more confidence in music and an escape from the stress of high school. He’s incredibly dedicated to his work and the joy he feels when teaching his students is apparent every class. Somehow he makes even secondary dominants seem interesting, and he gets really excited over even the driest parts of music theory. If anyone deserves to get this award, it’s Hoff.

He is incredibly invested in making his students successful, both in chorus and in general. He is honestly one of the most patient people I have ever met, and always focused on the positive. He loves what he does, and this passion inspires his students to take pride in what they do as well.

It was a privilege learning and performing with Hoffman throughout all four years of my high school choir experience. An educator with a true talent and passion for music. Not only does he care about each one of his students, but always makes sure they are in the best possible condition to make music; whether it be going over voice parts or being a friend on a bad day. I never doubted my importance in the ensemble. Hoffman encouraged us to find our voices because they matter. He gave everyone a chance to do a solo, offered smaller group meetings to go over specifics about material, and consistently shared lunch hours or stayed longer after school. His students were able to appreciate the real value of music, which not everyone in today’s school system prioritize at all. Through planning and attending concerts and events, I have seen the joy that his choirs fill the room with. He establishes a sense of community within his classes that spread everywhere they go. He loves Eric Whitacre.

Mr.Hoffman is the best teacher anyone could ask for. He is a kind, helpful and generous person not only in school but also for the community. Having the chance to work with him is one of the greatest things I’ve ever had in my life because he supports you and helps you accomplish your goals. He is a big inspiration to me and makes me want to be better singer and student throughout the school and community.He is very talented and is dedicated to help his students see there talent, gives us confidence and helps us build on our abilities to make our voices shine. Just by being in his class you feel safe and at home and I’m always glad to be their and want to stay their. Everyday I learn something new with him as he goes above and beyond and helped us be who we are now. Overall he is an incredible teacher who has helped me so much in my life, and who I love working with. I believe he really deserves to be nominated as teacher of the week as he has had a huge impact on all of us.

Great teacher, as well as an inspiration.

Mr. Hoffman is the best teacher at Albany high. He always welcomes everyone with open arms and he is the most caring and kind teacher at this school.

Mr. Hoffman is an example of an amazing teacher and even better human being. He lovingly manages to always put his students first- and it shows. He always has food for us, he asks us how we’re doing before class, and more. He genuinely cares about us and loves his students so much. And along with how caring he is, his teaching abilities are unmatched. He creates an engaging, beneficial class for us that we enjoy as well as learn. He makes sure we are always number one priority in every aspect, and in return we all love him so much.

Hoff always puts his students first and has amazing patience. His vocal range is also great and he does everything he can for his students.

Mr. Hoffman creates a safe and welcoming environment for all. He comforts students during difficult times without hesitation. In a large school where it is easy to be invisible, he has an impressive ability to make each student feel valued. It is as evident now as it was a decade ago. With limited resources, and even more limited time, he consistently presents high-level performances. He sacrifices late nights to make arrangements for gigs on painfully short notice and gives up lunch/prep time to help students. He consistently achieves glowing marks at NYSSMA majors & NYSSMA Solo Evaluation Festivals. CSDA is so fortunate to have him.

A beautiful human being, you can never catch him in a down moment, he takes time to make sure all his students are able to make a connection with him that he is not only an educator but when you leave his class and walk across the stage that you can call him your friend. He is so involved and is an amazing teacher he can transform something that was just a hobby into something that could lead to a career, he lights a fire in all of his students eyes to strive to their musical potential, he is just a wonderful person who can light a room up with an awfully corny joke or an embarrassing story about his kids, he works so hard for our school with Nyssma, and each individual solo and over 50 performances he conducts a year between all his choirs and amazing college level theory teacher and endlessly more working with tri-M and theater, giving up countless lunches and after school time to help each of his students, the world wouldn’t be so sweet if he didn’t make us sight read like he does!!

If you speak to anyone who has ever known Hoff, they will tell you he is the most passionate human being they’ve met. In high school, I started singing my junior year after being so nervous to even sing in a choir setting, let alone solo. Because of Hoff, I became so much more confident, not just in my voice, but as a human being. He taught me to break out of my shell and to take chances because you never know what will happen. Because of Hoff, I had someone to lean on when my mental illnesses were affecting me. He doesn’t just care about you becoming a better vocalist; he cares about sending you off into the world a better person than you were when you walked into his classroom. Without him, I wouldn’t have made it through high school, and wouldn’t have chosen a path in music education at the College of Saint Rose. He is the best person I’ve ever known and could never thank him enough for all he did for me. He deserves this honor.

Going to Hoff’s class was the one thing I looked forward to during all 4 years of high school. He created an environment where everyone was accepted no matter who they were & at any level of musical knowledge. I know he sees true potential in any student he comes across as he has one of the biggest hearts I’ve come by in a teacher. He’s very genuine & that hasn’t changed one bit. He still gets excited when he sees students that have past graduated & that just warms my heart. The school has changed since I left a few years ago but the choir room always (& still) felt like home.

Mr Hoffman is one of the most caring people I know. Not only did he inspire me in the classroom, but outside as well. He genuinely cares for all of his students, and you can tell how much he loves them and his work. I had the most fun with him in select choir, where we learned a whole array of music. He’s never given up on me or any one of his students and I’m so grateful I had him as my choir teacher in high school.

Going to Hoff’s class was the one thing I looked forward to during all 4 years of high school. He created an environment where everyone was accepted no matter who they were & at any level of musical knowledge. I know he sees true potential in any student he comes across as he has one of the biggest hearts I’ve come by in a teacher. He’s very genuine & that hasn’t he changed one bit. He still gets excited when he sees students that have past graduated & that just warms my heart. The school has changed since I left a few years ago but the choir room always (& still) felt like home.

Britlin Lee Furst

Britlin is by far the most wonderful and kind vocal coach a person could ask for. She is talented, considerate, and most importantly really knowledgeable on the subject she teaches. She’s just amazing.

Britlin makes every lesson fun. She is always prepared and goes above and beyond when figuring out how to have her students get the best results.

Mr. Brian Stevenson

Mr. Stevenson is the choral director at Plainfield High School, CT. Day after day his students learn not only how to be better musicians, but better people. I can happily say that thanks to Mr. Stevenson I want to work in a school just like him. I am going to be a senior in the fall, and I can assure you that these past few years with Mr. Stevenson have shaped me into the person I am today. He is extremely selfless and humble, a teacher for all of the right reasons! When I entered high school I had absolutely no confidence in myself, but because of him I am able to tackle more challenges than I ever thought I would be able to. Mr. Stevenson genuinely cares about every single student, so he will always be my teacher of the week, every single week.

He has been changing kids lives with music since he first started at Plainfield High School. He touches the hearts of every kid he teaches. He is an amazing choir director and is loved by many.

Stevenson is great not only because he’s a great teacher but because he unconditionally cares about his students. He cares and loves us all deeply as much as we love him. He’s an amazing role model and father figure. He knows when to get us into better moods with his incredible humor, he’s always there for us and we all know it. Every one loves being around him and being in his class.

Sean Hurley

Sean Hurley is a middle school choral director. Sean has posted us (8th grade choir) singing Eric Whitacre’s The Seal Lullaby on YouTube. Eric responded with: thank you for bringing this piece to life. Sean goes out of his way to make his choirs sound great. Sean also cares deeply about every individual student. He teaches out life lessons. Sean teachers for that choir, he teaches us how to be a human.

Angie Phillips

I’m a rising sophomore at Cedar Ridge High School, NC. In middle school, we didn’t have the best choir program. When I got to high school, I auditioned for choir and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Ms. Phillips has made me fall in love with choir. She loves what she does and she puts so much effort into our choir program, despite the county only giving the choir program $350 per year. Ms. P changes the lives of every student in her program, and I honestly can’t say enough about her. She doesn’t get enough recognition for how amazing she is. Ms. Phillips is hard-working, and also acts as her students’ stand-up comedian and therapist. Again, I honestly can’t say enough about Ms. Phillips. She has pretty much changed my life, and I’m sure all of her other students would say the same. She manages to teach us not only about music, but about every other part of life. I would not be the person I am now without Ms. Phillips.

Mr. Brent Whitaker

Mr. Whitaker is one of those people that believes that teaching a subject is not just teaching the subject. He would teach us music, but foremost, he taught us about life and how music enforces the lessons we learn in life. Things like discipline, focus, hard work, dedication, active listening, and many more things shaped our choir to become one of the best in the state! I believe that if it weren’t for what Mr. Whitaker taught us, I might have become someone with a lacking in core values as a person. I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I do because I followed his example! He is truly one of a kind!

Ernest Brusubardis

Mr. Brusubardis somehow manages to teach his students about every aspect of life through choir. He is compassionate, understanding, wise beyond measure, and always saying things which inspire, instruct, and stick with you long after graduation. Many a student (including me) will recall being told by Mr. B before a concert that “you can’t make beautiful music until you have a beautiful heart.” We awaited the moment as we sang when he would give us a look as if to say ‘yes, yes there it is. That is beauty.’ Mr. B is a treasure among teachers, and anyone who has had the privilege of working with him is beyond blessed. He is a role model for those who need one, a class act in his customary blazer, and a trove of endless life advise. His love for his students is visible to all who may walk into his classroom. Many people wouldn’t be who they are today without him, and I truly doubt he could ever receive enough recognition to amount to what he has done for all of us.

Brittany Smith

This teacher has given everything to her students. She singlehandedly creates an environment where student love and support each other rather than compete against each other, a task nearly impossible in such a naturally competitive setting as music; not only does she keep this environment thriving but she somehow also keeps an incredibly mature quality of sound. To create talented singer and people under the mindset that they do not have to beat anyone else is truly a task I have not seen in other directors. She constantly encourages students to make mistakes in order to learn. She is kind and giving to every student that crosses her path even when not given the same respect. She makes it a priority to her to understand her students and give us music that we can make life long connections with. She gives every student equal opportunity and care to succeed and grow, even if the student is unwilling. She will follow students to the end and even after graduation and inspires them still.

Brian Von Glahn

VG has made such an impact on not only my choir life, but my artistic pursuits. He was my choir director for four years pushing me to go above and beyond, always believing in me. I was able to have a creative outlet anytime I was in his room. If I was having a rough day, he would make me smile and laugh until I was on the ground giggling. He never lost hope in what I was planning in doing in my future and still allows me to help out majorly with the choral program even after graduation. One of the most memorable quotes that I will forever remember K.I.S.S. I am thankful for everything I learned from him and his dedication towards the schools choral and music programs.

Beth St. John and Christy Shinn

Mrs. St. John and Mrs. Shinn, or Saint and Shinn as we students so lovingly refer to them, are sisters and choral directors at Jackson High School in Jackson, MO. They were my choral directors and the sole contributors to my love for choral music. They pour their hearts and souls into teaching their students not only how to sing and perform, but how to love, live, and give it all you have. They spend countless hours practicing, preparing, writing, and teaching in order to put on productions and performances that give their students a sense of pride. They go above and beyond to form a personal bond with each one of their students, supporting them unconditionally in times of sorrow and great joy. They never forget a face and make a room full of 80+ students feel like family. I cannot think of two people more deserving than they are!

Wayne Lackman

Wayne Lackman, beloved director of Gig Harbor High School’s choirs for 30 years, is retiring this year. Of course, he is an exceptional conductor, and has built a highly respected high school choir. More importantly, his infectious enthusiasm, sense of humor, and genuine compassion for each student, set the tone for the wonderful community that is our choir department. He will be sorely missed.

He is a fantastic director who has changed the lives of many students he had taught. He is retiring this year after 30 years of directing and he really deserves and award like this for his service to the musical arts.

Mr. Lackman is the most passionate and caring teacher I have ever had the privilege of being in class with. He is the reason many students attend school on a daily basis because his class brightens everyone’s day. After 30 years of teaching at one high school plus many more at other schools, Mr. Lackman told us he was retiring. After the initial sadness, we were able to secretly rehearse two songs for him at his very last choir concert, where he was able to direct every student he’d ever taught for the very last time. Lackman has changed so many people’s lives, and continues to support and encourage us every day. I am so thankful to have been apart of Mr. Lackman’s choir department, he has greatly impacted the way I see the world for the better.

Mr. John Popke

John Popke has spent only 5 years so far at his current position of director of choirs at Kimberly High School, and yet in those years he has dedicated his life to strengthening the choral programs of Kimberly Area School District by integrating all levels of choir, Elementary to High School, into collaborative concerts at least once a year. Giving young singers the opportunity to interact with more developed students that they look up to. I cannot think of a man more deserving considering he was such a fan that he helped us go to New York and perform with Mr. Whitacre in Carnegie hall, performing many pieces and having the experience of a lifetime.

Mr. Matthew Wanner

I will never be able to forget Mr. Wanner. When I first I met him, I knew he was something special. There is no teacher more passionate about choir, connecting with people, and creating beautiful emotions with music than Mr. Wanner. He believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. In our choir, he believes in all of us, and he cares about all of our individual lives. He teaches us not only how to make music, but how to love. How to grow, how to forgive, how to experience, how to live. He gives us not only a creative outlet, but a true home within the walls of our high school. He is passionate, driven, and dedicated; more importantly, he is kind, loving, caring, encouraging, and humble. He is the type of musician I want to be; the type of person I want to be. He is a role model, and yet he also is extremely approachable and relatable. He created something wonderful at my high school, and I will forever look up to him, both as a music educator and as a person.

He is the most thoughtful and wonderful teacher there is. He cares so much about music but cares so much more for his students. No one can ever top how amazing of a choral director he is because of how inspiring he is to all of us.

Mr. Wanner puts his heart and soul into our music program. I’ve never met anyone more dedicated and passionate about their job. He spreads his enjoyment of music on to everyone; his love for music is contagious.

Mr. Wanner is not only an amazing choir teacher, but he is also an outstanding role model to his students. He teaches them important life lessons and never fails to live up to them himself. He has taught me personally what the meaning of choir is. He touches the hearts and souls of his students with his kind and encouraging words every single day. He works hard to make us the amazing choir that we are and he works hard every day. He does not look at choir direct as a job; he sees at as a passion. Mr. Wanner is the most passionate man I have ever met and he has made me a better person and a better singer because of how passionate he is about music. He has created a safe-place for all of his students and we all know that if we ever need help with something we can count on Mr. Wanner to be there for us. He is a passionate conductor and an even more amazing role model.

I nominate Matthew Wanner because he is such an inspiration to all of his students. In choir, he always pushes us to do our best, and he never settles for good. It needs to be great. He not only teaches us how to sing and perform better, but he teaches us how to be better humans. We learn how to feel emotions and what to do with them. He makes everyone he meets a better person.

He has many wcda performances and had his chorale group perform there this year (I am a member)

Mr. Wanner puts his all into every single class. From simple dynamics to making everyone feel the music, he never fails to make every song worth it. Mr. Wanner deserves this award for his constant integrity and passion. I have never met a man who has been more admired for his work.

I’ve only known him for a short time now, but I can tell these next few years are going to be exciting. I’ve already learned such about myself and music in this one short year that it’s crazy. It really seems impossible, and I couldn’t have done it without him. As a teacher, he is helping me reach my full potential, and as a friend, he’s showing me how much more there is to life. P.S. Mr. Whitacre, if you see this, I really love your song Cloudburst.

Mr. Wanner has been more than just a choir director to me. He has been a safe place, a guardian, and a trusted adult role model who I will strive to be like forever. His class is more than just a choir class, and he makes each and every day special by making beautiful music together and by giving us important life lessons along the way. He personally makes each and every one of the members in choir feel as if they are welcome, and they belong in choir. Something that makes Mr. Wanner special is that instead of being the “teacher” and we are the “students”, we are family and we are all making art together as a unit. He picks repertoire that he knows will push us and challenge us, and it has made me grow in my maturity and work ethic as a student, and also in my heart and mind. Mr. Wanner is a teacher like no other. To say that I am forever grateful for what he has done for all of us does not even begin to cover how much I appreciate him.

Mr. Wanner is a very hardworking teacher who challenges his students to go above and beyond to give their all into everything they do. He is an incredibly inspiring director who wants the best for each and every one of his students.

He is an incredibly passionate and talented teacher who helps so many students every day to achieve their dreams of being better singers and musicians. Personally, his kind words have helped me get through some rougher times this year, and I can’t thank him enough.

Mr. Wanner, where to begin. He is the motivation for so many people including myself to attend school and our choir department. He is the bright face we are dying to see everyday when we come to choir class. He shares some sort of motivational tidbit with us everyday. Whether its a reference to a previous choir, or his experiences with college choir or a voltron reference, or his highs/lows with his kids, he has a way to touch everyone around him in a personal way and shapes them into the best person they can be. As many people struggle with, often our choir has trouble staying on our circuit of productivity, he always finds a way to loop us back in and helps us work better than we ever knew we could. I personally never had a strong tie to music in middle school (it was just an easy A) but as I began my high school career, I realized what choir really meant to me and this was great due in part to Mr Wanner. Had he never been our choir teacher, many men and woman over his 20 year career.

This teacher is a uniting force within our choir, music department, school, and community. His constant yearning for success pushes us to succeed as well. Our choir, due to the work that Mr. Wanner has so painstakingly performed, earned the MHS Chorale a spot at the WCDA (Wisconsin Chorale Director’s Association), which at one point he was the president of. His constant personability and respect and investment in each individual musician and artist create something you can not experience anywhere else but the choir room of Muskego High School during 6th hour. He deserves praise and recognition for the immense amount of dedication to his craft that he possesses. I urge you to nominate Mr. Wanner as your Teacher of the Week, even though we do not think of him as a teacher. He is to us closer to a mentor, a guide on the path of life, a force of wisdom, a humble yet talented musician who has profoundly changed the lives of hundreds of musicians.

Where to begin—Mr. Wanner’s influence extends beyond the classroom. Besides being an outstanding choral director and musical director, he is an excellent human. His passion for music greatly impacts those around him, and the top choir refers to him as a father figure who they love. He is a safe person for anyone to go to about anything, whether it be musical or personal. He is an excellent candidate for Teacher of the Week.

When thinking about someone who has made an extremely positive impact on my life in multiple ways, Mr. Wanner immediately comes to mind. I can’t think of someone with more devotion, passion, and dedication to influencing the lives of children through his love for music. Mr. Wanner cares immensely for every single one of his students and will work hard to make sure each child is successful. He clearly loves the work he does and it shows through in every aspect of his teaching and directing. The Family he has created in the MHS music department is one that I will never forget. He creates a safe space for all students to use and create in as well as a space where they feel like they are accepted and loved. He pushes each and everyone one of us to do our best and encourages us to always push through challenges we are presented with. Mr. Wanner has made a tremendous impact on my life and others at my school. I can’t think of someone more deserving or qualified for Teacher of the Week.

I am nominating my choir teacher Mr. Wanner for his outstanding chorale direction and overall passion for his students and the music. Mr. Wanner has been my choir teacher for the past four years. He has inspired me as well as many others with his ability to make us connect and embody each piece of music we perform. His adeptness and attentiveness to music history and relativity to current events allows me to grow as a human and choir student at the same time. He has enriched me with knowledge on how to make the world a better place through performing and singing. Throughout the past four years, choir has been my favorite class because of his dedication to our choir. He has given our choir multiple opportunities like getting to perform in New York city, performing at WCDA (Wisconsin Choral Directors Association), performing at college showcases, and even getting to meet with you at Milwaukee’s Basilica. After everything he has done, I believe he is a well deserving candidate.

Mr. Wanner is one of the best teachers I have ever worked with. He is an exceptional choral and musical director. Mr. Wanner truly puts every single one of his students first, and he is one of the most dedicated teacher in the school. As a teacher, he not only teaches us the notes on the page or the words to sing. He dives into the music and makes connections with every single student. He teaches us the true meaning of music, and how to express it with real emotions. Not only does he teach us music, but he teaches us valuable life skills. He cares so much about every single kid who walks through his door, and he makes a home for all of us. He has turned that simple little choir room into a safe haven for every single choir student in our school, and I am forever grateful for that. I have only worked with Mr. Wanner for a short period of time, but I already know just how much I will grow as a person and as a musician with him as my teacher.

I’m nominating Mr. Wanner because he’s one of the most amazing people I know. He’s not just a choir director, he’s a mentor, a father figure, an idol. He doesn’t just have us sing, he has us understand the music. He doesn’t just tell us what the words mean, he asks us what WE think they mean. In choir, we envision what the music is saying so that we not only sing it, but we feel it also. Not only is he a great choir director, but a great person in general. Our choir year has been filled with words of wisdom from him, and he constantly strives to make us better people in life. If anyone deserves this award, I believe it’s him. He’s a bright light in every one of his student’s life.

From the moment you first meet Mr. Wanner, you know there’s something different about him. The care and passion he has for self-expression is evident every day, and it rubs off on every single one of his students. Mr. Wanner does much more than teach music, he teaches his students how to feel and express emotion, how to lift others up, how to be an agent for change in the world. For me and so many other students, current and former, Mr. Wanner is a bright and welcoming light in an otherwise dark and hostile world.

From the moment you first meet Mr. Wanner, you know there’s something different about him. The care and passion he has for self-expression is evident every day, and it rubs off on every single one of his students. Mr. Wanner does much more than teach music, he teaches his students how to feel and express emotion, how to lift others up, how to be an agent for change in the world. For me and so many other students, current and former, Mr. Wanner is a bright and welcoming light in an otherwise dark and hostile world.

Mr. Wanner teaches so much more than music. He teaches his students to be thoughtful, considerate, and passionate. He makes an effort to connect with each student on an impactful level. He has been a director for many years, leading many groups to perform at WCDA, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and countless other places. As one of his students, I can say that Mr. Wanner is the most influential man in my life and I would not be where I am today without him. He inspires me with his talent, leadership, and strength every day. It is very clear that music has impacted his life in the best way possible and he gives students the opportunity to connect with the music the same way he does. The music program at Muskego High School has and will continue to succeed due to Mr. Wanner. I cannot emphasize my admiration, respect, and appreciation for him enough.

He has made a huge impact on my music career so far and is just a great mentor. He really cares about his students as if they were his own children and he is always there for anyone.

Cynthia Douglass

She showed me that there is a good side to life. I was a Hurricane Harvey victim and she turned me into a survivor. Through music, she helped me cope with all of the stresses and challenges that storm brought. She didn’t just teach music. She saved a life. I will never forget her reasoning behind choosing “Glow”. “People need a happy reason to cry sometimes”. If you don’t accept her I understand just know that there are people that probably wouldn’t be alive today if she didn’t care as much as she has.

Frank Wells

Frank is retiring after 34 years at Cambridge-Isanti High School (and a few more before that in North Dakota). Frank touched thousands of lives. Sure, his choirs were often phenomenal…being chosen to sing at MMEA on more than one occasion…but I’m nominating Frank because of the quiet impact he had on students on the daily. Frank taught music, but he taught children first. His medium was music. Whenever a national disaster occurred and kids would ask, “What are we going to do,” Frank would reply, “Just sing.” Not because they were a choir and that’s what choirs do, but because singing is healing. There are so many directors who are consistently in the limelight, deservedly so, receiving recognition for great achievements with their programs. Frank preferred a quieter approach, using the language of music to help young humans along their journey. He represents all the outstanding directors whose names you’ll never hear who teach the world through the universal language of music.

Sean Hurley

Mr. Hurley is not only an amazing choir teacher, but is also an outstanding role model to his students. He teaches them important life lessons to live by and also the deeper meaning of a piece of music. The amount of effort Mr. Hurley puts into his teaching for all of his choirs is inspiring. He is a trustworthy teacher that any student can go to for any problem whether it be at school or at home, Mr. Hurley will find the time to find you help. Mr. Hurley has given each of his students at least some amount of confidence in their singing and in themselves. He has also provided a safe-space no other classroom could achieve. Mr. Hurley has also given a majority of his students a passion in their lives. He has high expectations for all of his middle school choirs, but it all works out in the end because our overall choral sound gives the audience goosebumps. Overall, Mr. Hurley deserves to be teach of the week because of how dedicated he is towards his job and his students.

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All Honorees

MaryAnn Brilleslyper (U.S.A.)

MaryAnn Brilleslyper (U.S.A.)

“Dr.B is one of the strongest people I know. After being diagnosed with cancer, she still made her students her priority. Less than a week after having chemo therapy, she ranked all superior in competition. She is amazingly talented and one of the best directors I have ever worked with. She shaped me into the musician I am today but did it with love and support.”

Thank you, Dr. B, for changing the world one student at a time.

Thank you Brittany for the nomination.

Robert Rice (U.K.)

Robert Rice (U.K.)

Very few people — in fact possibly only two — can say that they have taught singing to every member of The King’s Singers at a given time. One of those two was Geoffrey Mitchell, a mover-and-shaker in the London singing scene in the 1960s and ‘70s. Mitchell formed his own choir, which pulled together some of the best singers in London. But he also helped the original members of The King’s Singers to develop their distinctive sound (which had its origins in the sound of King’s College Choir) through coaching and advice, once they were out of Cambridge and making it on the world stage.

The other of these two people is Robert Rice, the UK-based baritone and singing teacher, who teaches many singers from lots of the great British choral institutions and beyond. It is easy to imagine that, for a singer, once a certain level of attainment and recognition has been achieved, the role of a teacher diminishes. Yet even many of the very greatest opera singers in the world regularly receive advice and coaching from teachers, and it is these teachers who keep the singers at the top of their game without letting their work stagnate. When someone’s singing (or anything, for that matter) is of a particularly high standard, the role of the teacher becomes almost more important. It takes a particularly skilled teacher, such as Berty in our case, to have the ability, experience and knowledge to identify and help with any issues the one might be having, and to hear the ways in which the craft can still be honed.

Singing, in particular, is an emotionally charged activity. The intimate connection of a person’s voice to who they are makes teaching singing often a delicate process. As well as being extremely knowledgable, Berty is hugely sensitive and is able to encourage progress in people’s singing without ever making them feel flawed, as it is so easy to do. He is particularly good at combining psychological metaphors and images (which create ‘sub-conscious’ vocal results) with detailed physiological and technical information which helps the singer’s understanding of how their voice works. It is for this expertise that many recent King’s Singers have been drawn to Berty Rice; for those of us with a demanding touring schedule, and a high volume of concerts, keeping one’s voice in good working order and never becoming complacent in one’s work is crucial. One element of Berty’s teaching makes him particularly attractive to members of The King’s Singers; he is able to be flexible in what he teaches and how. The art of blending one’s voice to fit into a recognisable group sound (whilst also retaining its solo character) is a very specific one, and not the typical work of a singing teacher, who may prefer to teach in more soloistic or operatic styles. But finding the common ground between different vocal approaches, and happily adapting to the needs of the pupil is one of Berty’s great strengths.

Not content just to be an excellent teacher, Berty is also an adept arranger of music for voices, and has arranged many songs for The King’s Singers, including some of the group’s most popular numbers. Berty is an inspiring character not just for his skills as a teacher, but as an all-round musician who deals in every ‘section’ of the magical process of music-making: composing, teaching, and performing itself. 

Nominated by Pat Dunachie, Countertenor – The King’s Singers

John Byun (U.S.A.)

John Byun (U.S.A.)

John is one of the best, most dedicated educators I know.

Thank you, John, for changing the world one student at a time.


Dr. Karen Gardias (U.S.A.)

Dr. Karen Gardias (U.S.A.)

I am nominating Dr. Karen Gardias because she opened my eyes to the beauty of Renaissance music. She is the choral director for three of the choirs at Davis Senior High School as well as the AP music theory class teacher. Dr. Gardias is highly educated not only choral music, but also in music theory. She is so dedicated to making sure her students have a firm music foundation in order to continue to study music or just have a greater appreciation for the art. I have absolutely loved being under her in the Madrigal choir she directs. She is patient, kind, and at the same time, holds high standards for her students which makes all of us strive to do the best we can. She pours out her life for her students and is always available to talk and help us with anything, musical or not.

Sarah Gallop (U.K.)

Sarah Gallop (U.K.)

“Sarah Gallop is one of the most inspirational musicians I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She has a gazillion other jobs but finds time and space every Thursday to lead our small, but perfectly formed community choir in Hadleigh, Suffolk UK. Sarah is a music teacher by day, teaches singing in the evenings and STILL finds energy to lead us all to higher grounds when it comes to singing. She is cheeky, chirpy and full of infectious enthusiasm. Under her direction, the choir has gone from strength to strength, gaining confidence in our ability to bring joy to others through music. It is Sarah’s passion that drives us on to challenge ourselves in performances. We have covered everything from Eric Whitacre’s Seal Lullaby to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, from Orff’s O Fortuna to ELO’s Mr Blue Sky. Onwards and upwards, Sarah G. With heartfelt thanks on behalf of Hadleigh Community Choir.”

Thank you, Sarah, for changing the world one student at a time.

Mr. Adam Paltrowitz (U.S.A.)

Mr. Adam Paltrowitz (U.S.A.)

“Mr. Paltrowitz, or Pal as the POBJFKHS music department refers to him as, knows what he is doing. For nineteen years he has been developing a very strong and intelligent choral program within the school based on tradition, leadership, and dedication. I have never seen anything else like it in any other program. In addition to the teacher run choir program, he advises 8 student run A Cappella groups, where all the music is arranged, taught, and performed in two concerts all by students. As the leader of one of these mentioned groups, I credit all my skills in arranging, music making and performing to him. Mr. Paltrowitz even creates articles about his specific systems which can be found on Choral clarity, along with original compositions. He is truly a pioneer in the choral education world and no other teacher can compare to Adam Paltrowitz.”

Thank you, Adam, for changing the world one student at a time.

Dr. Matthew Erpelding (U.S.A.)

Dr. Matthew Erpelding (U.S.A.)

“Dr. Erpelding’s teaching and leadership brought an inclusiveness and camaraderie to the choral program that was missing. He created an environment where no one is afraid to audition. He always inspires with energy and enthusiasm. Dr. Erpelding teaches every choir he works with to express the emotion of the music and that connecting with the music, the audience, and, most importantly, each other is the key to understanding and performing music.”

Thank you, Matthew, for changing the world one student at a time.

Professor Angela Tipps (U.S.A.)

Professor Angela Tipps (U.S.A.)

“Professor Tipps is the director of the Middle Tennessee State University Women’s Chorale, and not only has she grown the ensemble from 20 women to over 70 in a few years, she has also taken us to perform at TMEA, ACDA, and at high school’s all around middle Tennessee. She has changed all of our lives for the better and without her my college experience would have been a very different one. She taught me how to love singing again, how to be so in sync with the people around me that it feels effortless. Professor Tipps is one of the crowning jewels at MTSU and she deserves as much recognition as possible for the tireless hours and endless love she pours into her students.”

Thank you, Angela, for changing the world one student at a time.

Stephen Bolster (U.S.A.)

Stephen Bolster (U.S.A.)

“With his retirement imminent, I am reminded of what an amazing and beautiful person and teacher Dr. Bolster is. Like many college professors, he is well versed and in his craft and profession, both as a choral director and voice teacher, particularly in his knowledge of repertoire and talent for programming, but what makes him outstanding in my mind is the depth and breadth of his sheer passion for choral music and singing.”

“He is a compassionate, passionate person in everyday life and it comes through in the music he makes. He is like family to me and always made me feel like I mattered.”

Thank you, Mr. B, for changing the world one student at a time.

Jennah Delp-Somers (U.S.A.)

Jennah Delp-Somers (U.S.A.)

Jennah Delp-Somers – thank you for changing the world one student at a time.

“Teaching is not a pursuit to be taken lightly. The knowledge you impart and the manner in which you impart it can alter the way a student regards the world and their place in it–irrevocably. Teaching demands a degree of self-assuredness earned through the mastery of one’s craft, and, in equal measure, a degree of willingness to abandon pretence and revel in shared learning. Jennah Delp-Somers embodies these principles, and as a result, coaxes excellence from her students. This is my seventh and final year as her student at iSing Girlchoir. Under her tutelage, I have grown from girl to a young adult, and have come to recognize the power in vulnerability. Jennah is a force of nature, and all who know her are better for it.” Nominated by Lauren

Dr. Lee Willingham (Canada)

Dr. Lee Willingham (Canada)

After having changed the lives of so many high school students through his incredible choral and band programs, Dr. Willingham continues his musical inspirations at the university level and helps to bring aspiring young singers and conductors and educators to their own high levels of potential. Dr. Willingham was my high school music teacher who brought out the best in me in so many musical facets and encouraged any and all of my musical endeavours. I had the privilege of then continuing to sing with him at a community level where he brought together all levels of singers to sing, travel, record and enjoy the beauty and comradery of choral singing. Thank you, Lee, for everything you have given to all of the singers, students, conductors and educators whose lives you have touched.

Thank you Lee, for changing the world one student at a time.

Martha Miller (U.A.E.)

Martha Miller (U.A.E.)

“I have been a choir student for Mrs. Miller since the sixth grade; I am currently a senior. If this doesn’t show how amazing she is, then I would like to put out there that because of her, I pushed myself as a musician to be selected in ACS’s audition-only choir: Chamber Choir. Mrs. Miller is truly one of the most warm-hearted, passionate and positive people I have met in my entire life. She has pushed me to be a better musician and has helped me truly appreciate the richness in music. Mrs. Miller’s connection to music is something undeniable and refreshing, she inspires me to be my best self. In college, Mrs. Miller was apart of the top choral program. Her choir traveled all over the United States to participate in choral festivals. One very memorable experience was in Los Angeles; Mr. Whitacre watched her choir perform Lux Aurumque. I think that Mrs. Miller has truly highlighted the beauty music has, and the stories that can be told all within one to two chords.”

Thank you Martha, for changing the world one student at a time.

Dr. Bret Amundson (U.S.A.)

Dr. Bret Amundson (U.S.A.)

Dr. Amundson received many nominations for Teacher of the Week. Here are a few of our favorites. You can read all the nominations further down this page. Thank you Bret for changing the world one student at a time. 

I am nominating Dr. Bret Amundson because of the incredible impact he has made on my life and countless other people. Not only are his music and teaching abilities outstanding, but he also continuously shows every singer how invested he is in the entire process. In addition to developing our musicianship, Dr. Amundson pushes us to think about how we can take lessons from rehearsal and apply them to everyday life. During every rehearsal he highlights the importance of hard work, dedication, mindfulness, and connecting to the story you are trying to tell. He encourages us to set high goals for ourselves and gives us the tools to reach them individually and as a choir. I am incredibly thankful for what he has done for me as a friend, mentor, director, and fellow music lover. Each day he is making a difference in the lives of many and inspires others to do the same. Nominated by: Madilyn.

I am nominating Dr. Bret Amundson because he has changed the meaning of choir. In rehearsals, he emphasises the symbols and messages found within songs in a way that is truly transforming. These messages accentuate the emotions brought out in our performances, giving each song a unique and personalized experience. Dr. Amundson has incredible faith in his choirs, for he pushes us to do our best in hopes of teaching important messages to our audiences, and in hopes that we will use them to transform our own individual lives. Dr. Amundson has shown that choir isn’t only about vocal technique, it’s about changing the world. Nominated by: Elise.

Dr. Amundson inspires me. Whether to be a better singer or a more authentic version of myself, Bret shows me how to go all in and expect greatness from myself and those around me. He teaches our choir to be intentional with our music, and that we have the potential to spread personally meaningful messages and beliefs through song. Bret has a way of using music to inspire and improve the lives of those around him, myself included. Thank you, Bret, for helping me grow. Nominated by: Liana.

Dr. Egidijus Kaveckas (Lithuania)

Dr. Egidijus Kaveckas (Lithuania)

Egidijus Kaveckas is one of the most dedicated musicians we have ever met. Always fully committed to music, he has taught us, that once everyone is sincerely in it, choral singing becomes magic. Since last year when Egidijus started working with us, we have been motivated by his strong sense of responsibility and great work ethics. A natural perfectionist who believes that true beauty can be achieved, he persuades all singers to get the best out of them. Sometimes, when we receive his emails written in the early AM hours, we wonder if he has stayed awake long into the night, or has woken up very early to work on planning our repertoire and other matters. Despite his almost obsessive work habits and orientation to details, Egidijus is emphatic and friendly, his politeness and “no drama” approach keeps rehearsals cozy and goal oriented. We would like to thank him for being a great musician, teacher, and a wonderful person.

Thanks to Dovile & Evaldas for the nomination

Kathleen Allan (Canada)

Kathleen Allan (Canada)

Thank you, Kathleen, for your dedication to teaching and for changing the world one student at a time.

Heidi Forslund (U.S.A.)

Heidi Forslund (U.S.A.)

Heidi Forslund is a force to be reckoned with. For 7 years, she commuted between two schools, Cavelero Mid High and Lake Stevens High School, so that we could have a strong program in our district. When Heidi arrived at Lake Stevens School District, she had very small numbers at both schools (a mere 25 at the high school) and choir was not a name in our community. For the next 7 years, she worked hard to build structure and family within the district’s choir program. She upped the program’s overall participation to around 190 students with 2 classes at Cavelero, 2 at the High school, and one smaller jazz choir in the morning. Over the years, we have gone on to win many awards and many 1+ scores at both schools. Choir became a known force in the community, one that even band couldn’t overshadow. Heidi is someone else. She taught us values that no other music teacher had taugh me and gives everything she has to make sure choir is a thing everyone wants to be a part of and feels welcome.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Heidi.

Thanks to Gaby for the nomination.

Mrs. Wong Lai Foon (Singapore)

Mrs. Wong Lai Foon (Singapore)

The success of the Singapore Symphony Children’s Choir is testament to choral director Mrs. Wong Lai Foon, who has since 2007 built an empire of youth choirs under the SSO banner, inspiring a new generation of choral singers to strive for musical and artistic excellence. The Children’s Choir performs regularly with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and has collaborated with other world-class artists for sell-out performances. Wong is naturally in huge demand within her community for her conducting skills, and she is a joy to work with.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Wong.

Thank you Emily for the nomination.

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold (Germany)

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold (Germany)

This man is a force of nature. Based in Hannover, he has been involved in music at almost every level in Germany, in the classroom, on the stage, on committees, educating and creating new ensembles, taking them far and wide sharing culture and passion for music. His effusive charm sits alongside a determination to see each individual fulfil their dreams and potential.

Klaus-Jürgen, I thank you

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

Adam Orban or “Master Orbiwan” as we called him (if you’re a Star Wars fan you’ll get it,) was my high school choir teacher and has been one of the most influential people in my life and countless others. He taught me in chorus and music theory from 7th Grade through high school. I owe him an incredible gratitude for being one of the people to understand me for who I was and who broke my shell wide open and forced me to do things out of my comfort zone. He saw an awkward, shy 7th grader who wouldn’t speak up in class even if called on, and saw potential in him. His passion for choral music was also contagious. In his time in Sheldon, IA, he took our small choral program to unimaginable heights. At the height of the program, the jazz and show choirs got consistent 1st places and the concert choir was getting straight perfect scores at state contest. I am proud to say I am now a choral director myself and get to call him a colleague and a friend. He truly changed my life.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Adam.

Thank you Jacob for the nomination.

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

This man gave me a most precious gift. He helped me to rebuild my confidence and positivity which means more than I can say. He helped to change the colour and horizon of my world, both for my life and career. He let me know I am stronger than I can imagine. He generously shared his wisdoms and talents with great sense of humour and genuinely engaged the world through his golden voice and his golden heart. He inspired many people to become ‘a better version of themselves’. I will try to pass things I learned from him on to my students as well. Heartfelt thanks to Paul Phoenix – former King’s Singer and now Purple Vocals. You are an incredible man.

With thanks to Mingxia Xiao in Tianjin for the nomination.

Thank you, Paul, for changing the world one student at a time.

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

“Everyone is able to sing, there aren’t out of tune people”. – Claudio Silvestri

It’s been a privilege to read the stories of all those who contributed to nominated Maestro Silvestri.

Thank you, Claudio, for changing the world one student at a time.

Russ Otte (U.S.A.)

Thank you to Peter Hollens for nominating his high school choir teacher, Russ Otte.

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

With an incredible 9 nominations received this week, Amanda Hanzlik – you are our Teacher of the Week.

Thank you for changing the world, one student at a time.

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

For more than 40 years Gary Langford has dedicated his life to music and music education. He was my trumpet and jazz professor when I was a freshman at the University of Florida and through the years he has given so much to so many, in music and just by being a wonderful mentor and human. It was Gary’s honesty that convinced me to change my major from trumpet performance to journalism, and he always was straightforward and kind in his feedback and advice. I went on to have a successful 30-year career as a journalist but never stopped playing or loving the trumpet, jazz and music because of Gary’s undying enthusiasm and spirit. Ask anyone who has met him and they will say the same. Gary is an inspiration to all.

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

Steve Durtschi is one of the hardest working teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. His dedication to his students and the art of Choral conducting is unparalleled. During my time working with Steve Durtschi I learned so much about musicality and appreciation for the benefit of hard work. Steve Durtschi has been teaching all Choral and AP Music Theory classes at Timpanogos High School since 2010. During his time there his choirs have achieved the highest ranks possible at festivals they’ve participated in.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Steve.

Thank you Kris for the nomination.

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

While Michelle is clearly an outstanding professional, mentor, musician and teacher, I believe she should be viewed foremost as an outstanding leader. After years of setting the standard as a “young” teacher, Michelle has now transitioned to a “seasoned veteran” who leads by example on a daily basis for not only her students but co-workers as well. Michelle’s unwavering approach to her daily tasks as an educator is a beacon of professionalism for all to see. She truly displays the philosophy that she is teaching young adults how to be better human beings through singing, as opposed to simply becoming a good musician. She runs three choirs, as well as numerous smaller chamber groups with over 200 students enrolled. It does not matter what level of performer you are, if you are willing to put the work in, she is willing to give her time to teach you. Truly inspirational!

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Michelle.

Thank you Chad for the nomination.

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

Emmanuella Mazile teaches choir at Lowell Scott Middle School. She’s only in her second year of teaching and has already made such a difference in their music program and in the lives of her students. Her kids come to class excited to learn because she engages them with respect, humor, and love. They’re not just learning songs in Miss Mazile’s class; they’re learning how to be musicians. Parents, teachers, and students alike recognize how beautifully–and quickly–she’s transformed an “easy A” choir class into a high-quality music education. Emmanuella is an incredible, natural teacher and advocate for kids who are often navigating a tumultuous period of their lives. I met Emmanuella in college while we were both studying music. I’m so immensely proud of her and thankful to call her my best friend; she’s a daily source of inspiration for me and I’m absolutely thrilled for all of the students in the years to come who will get to learn music from Miss Mazile.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Emmanuella.

Thank you Aubrey for the nomination.

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

With his open heart and musicality, Rich has given back to the community. He conducts with the City of Angels Community Choirs in Granada Hills, CA. This community choir includes the Master Chorale, as well as Children’s Choir. His empathy and open arms invite you to join not only a group of singers, but a family – a humble family that creates wonderful music for the community. Rich has given the choir the opportunity to go Christmas caroling at a local hospital each year in December. He has also dedicated a concert for the children and has raised money for children’s scholarships. Rich has dedicated engraved hand bells of those who lost their lives in Sandy Hook.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Richard.

Thank you April for the nomination.

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

Sheena is an outstanding choral educator, who’s breathed new life and meaning to students in Bridgeport CT’s inner city high school. After years of budget cuts, music is back: “On Friday mornings, students are serenaded by musical performances as they cue up to go through metal detectors. As people are coming in, security guards are bopping to the music as they check bags.” Sheena has just been awarded Connecticut Teacher of the Year for 2019.

Thank you, Sheena, for changing the world one student at a time.

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox (U.S.A.)

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox (U.S.A.)

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox, Music Director at Oak Knoll School, has been a part of the music world from her childhood, later studying at Baylor U, and teaching for 40+ years. She fosters a special choral community of singers from grades 7-12, a drama troop, full musical, masses, and two chamber choirs. Service is also one of the biggest aspects of OKS and Ms. Knox’s philosophy. Ms. Knox teaches us to be grateful for our school, one another, and music. She is passionate for the arts and knows the powers of choral music to heal and make community. Music brings her happiness and joy, thus bringing it to students. She aims to better us and implores students, who she calls her children, to be passionate about their dreams. Ms. Knox’s talents are countless: a stunning singer, pianist, and conductor who conducts from the piano bench, never missing a cue while playing beautifully. She is there for all of us. Her light is felt by all. “Ruby” is truly a valuable gem and shining star.

Thank you Ruby, for changing the world one student at a time.

Janwin Overstreet-Goode (U.S.A.)

Janwin Overstreet-Goode (U.S.A.)

I met Janwin at TMEA earlier this year and was blown away by the connection that she had with so many former-students across the time we spent together. It’s not a surprise that she’s been honored with the FISD “Making a Difference” Award and the Outstanding Music Educator Award from the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

Janwin – thank you for changing the world, one student at a time.

Dr. Robert Spence (U.S.A.)

Dr. Robert Spence (U.S.A.)

Dr. Spence is an associate professor of music at Elizabethtown College, as well as the director of instrumental studies. He conducts the Symphonic Band and the College-Community Orchestra. In 2017, he was awarded the Kreider Teaching Prize, which is given annually to an outstanding educator at the college. I had Dr. Spence in class during every semester of my college career. He is the prime example of a deeply caring and passionate educator. During his classes, his manner of speaking creates the feeling that he is speaking to each student individually, rather than addressing the group as a whole. He can often be found in his office, essentially giving private lessons to students from his instrumental methods classes. And to top it off, his dry humor is unmatched. Perhaps my favorite memory is his recent comment on my Facebook post, informing friends and family that I accepted a full-time teaching job: “Thank you for your contributions to my future Social Security checks…”

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Robert.

Thank you Abby for the nomination.

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

I would love to recommend Ms. Sandra Chandler, choral teacher and director at Alexander High School, Douglasville, Georgia for this honor. She is a splendid teacher, award winning in her district, and greatly loved by her students. She is a prime example of what ACDA stands for.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Sandra.

Thank you Tim Sharp, Executive Director of ACDA, for the nomination.

Dr. Charissa Chiaravalloti (U.S.A.)

Dr. Charissa Chiaravalloti (U.S.A.)

Dr. Chiaravalloti is the Director of Choral Activities at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. Dr. C, as we call her, is one of those teachers that changes your life. She’s the standard by which you hold all other teachers, even though you know you’re never going to have a director quite like her again. She loves and cherishes music, but she loves and values her students even more. Dr. C supports each and every one of her students, and helps us to grow not only as musicians, but as confident, competent human beings. No teacher has ever changed my life quite the way Dr. C has.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Charissa.

Thank you Allie for the nomination.

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

It was my honor to meet and work with Gregg Breinberg “Mr. B” and the incredible choir, PS22, (from Public School 22, Graniteville, Staten Island, New York) in 2000. Their continued success must surely come from Gregg’s vision, integrity, passion and dedication to young people and music. Each year he auditions children from 10 years old to join PS22 from the school’s wide cross-section of ethnic groups and socio-economic levels, encouraging them to sing as one and express themselves through music. The emotion is palpable, both listening to them and watching them. Mr. B and PS22 have had truly massive success on YouTube, appeared at the Oscars, the White House, on the Oprah Winfrey Show and with Katy Perry and more. Crucially, this team of engaging super-talented young people rehearse twice a week in term-time and sing at school and local events. Mr. B, you are an incredible force for good in an area that continues to face huge challenges.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Gregg.

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

George Hattingh Jr has been a big part in making the dreams of thousands of aspiring sound engineers, including myself, come to life. He is a lecturer and a director at the Academy of Sound Engineering in Auckland Park, South Africa. He is a mentor to me and one of my biggest role models.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you George.

Thank you Ethan for the nomination.

Mr. Chris Wing (U.S.A.)

Mr. Chris Wing (U.S.A.)

As the band director and head of the music department at Greenfield-Central High School, Mr. Wing built a phenomenal marching band and a spectacular concert band program from the ground up. Starting with a horn line that totaled fewer members than the current woodwind section, he pushed through adversity, giving every member the knowledge they needed to thrive, and continues to strive, not for trophies or medals, but for improvement and exceptional performance individually and as a group. He will be the first to admit that if there are points available, he wants them all. However, his desire for the Greenfield-Central Cougar Pride Marching Band to be the best it possibly can overrides his competitive nature, and he implores us to focus on how we improved over how we placed.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Chris.

Thank you Elysabeth for the nomination.

Dr. Angela Broeker (U.S.A.)

Dr. Angela Broeker (U.S.A.)

Dr. Broeker is the most loving and generous human being and an incredible Choral music educator. She teaches with such kindness, empathy and grace and is an inspiration to all of the students she comes into contact with. After two weeks of graduate conducting this summer, she gently reminded our class “You are enough. As you already are, you are enough.” Her belief in each of her students is so encouraging…and she is a brilliant musician to boot!

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Angela.

Thank you Coleen for the nomination.

Dr. Cara Tasher (U.S.A.)

Dr. Cara Tasher (U.S.A.)

Dr. Cara Tasher, the brilliant Director of Choral Studies at the University of North Florida, has a tradition with her choir called “hot seat.” (That’s Dr. Tasher in the photo, second from left). She and her singers sit in a large circle surrounding a single empty chair. One by one a student comes to the center of the circle, sits down, and closes their eyes. As soon as they sit the people surrounding them gently bombard them with positive adjectives about their character. “Funny.” “Gracious.” “Generous.” “Confident.” “Beautiful.”

The person in the center can’t go anywhere – they must sit and listen to their friends and colleagues sending wave after wave of positive, specific reinforcement describing who they are and what they mean to the tribe. The overall effect was gorgeous, uplifting and deeply human, and as I tearfully told them afterwards in the middle of a big group hug, “This is the most choir thing EVER.”

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Cara.