It is with great honor that I write to you in support of Michelle Shmuel as an EW “Teacher Of The Week”. 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!
Mr. Andrew Robinson
Our school has never seen a more dedicated, passionate teacher than Mr. Robinson. Everyday he motivates his students not only to learn great music but to be amazing people. Through the short time he has been at Munster High School, he has brought so much love to our choirs and has allowed us to have such amazing experiences including singing at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Mr. Whitacre himself. He never gives up on us even when we seem hopeless. He is incredibly humble and he’s always there for his students. He has touched our hearts and changed our lives for the better. All of us are so incredibly lucky to have him, and I know we will never have a director as amazing as Mr. Robinson ever again. He is truly one of a kind.
Martha Helen Schmidt
Ms. Schmidt has taught me and so many other students what it is to love music. She has spent her whole life writing and teaching, and I am so blessed to have been taught by someone with an enormous amount of talent in just one finger tip.
Dr. Rene Clausen
I nominate Dr. Rene Clausen at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. For over 20 years, he has taken his students on a personal journey; learning about music, learning about themselves. He is lighthearted and funny, serious and intense. His search for excellence in each and every sound is infectious. A simple 8-part E-chord was enough to cleanse my soul from whatever I carried on my shoulders. I came to choir to sing and left with a family. I will always remember the wink and smile after the final cutoff, “Happy Birthday” on the piano, and his stunning ability to pull a limerick out of thin air. Experiencing choral music the way I did with him, in his choir, is something I will never have again, and will cherish forever.
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.
Chris Koehn treats every child he encounters at the Coweta band room as his own. There have been so many nights where he has slept at the band room because we have gotten back so late from an event and he still has stuff to do. During marching season, he and his wife (one of our other directors) put in some of their own money to make our show as great as possible. Mr. Koehn is one of the most compassionate and loving people that I have ever met and it is impossible to describe how great he is. He knows when we’re havibg an off day and does everything in his power to change that. He pushes all of us to do our best everyday yet never yells at us when he knows we could have done better. Mr. Koehn is one of the greatest men I have ever met and I wish every person had the chance to sit and learn under him or just be able to talk to him.
Ms. Chandler is an outstanding teacher that motivates her students with her great creative talents.
Dr. Paul Torkelson
Dr. Paul Torkelson is the director of choral studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. He directs the Symphonic Choir, the Nevada Chamber Singers and teaches choral conducting. He has conducted many All-State choirs and is frequently a guest clinician at state ACDA conventions. Many students call him Dr. T. Dr. T is an amazing inspiration to me as well as many students that sing for him. He challenges us to think critically when it comes to singing with technique and text stress. He encourages his singers to sing with passion and think about what the music means to them. Dr. T has invited his singers to sing in Carnegie Hall and Europe through the MidAmerica Productions. Dr. T, your kindness, compassion and dedication has greatly impacted many singers. Thank you, Dr. T!
Mrs. Ubrig is the current High School Choir Director at Mesquite High School, but when I was with her she was the Choir Director at Alhambra High School in Phoenix, AZ. Mrs. Ubrig made choir a place that everyone could call home, regardless of what our actual home life was like. She inspired so many of us to be passionate about music. Within the 2004-2006 graduating class, 3 of us went on to become Choir Directors. Even now, as I am directing my own choir, I think of her often and how much she meant to me. She changed my life forever and I know is still doing the same for many others.
There are no words great enough to describe Mr. Watts. He has helped me through a really tough spot in my life and is the kind of teacher who you can go to for advice, whether it be a musical decision or a personal life decision. More than anything, though, he has helped me learn that it’s ok to be my crazy weird random self and that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. I don’t know of anyone as nerdy about leadership/social psychology as he is and I cannot wait to be a band director to give others what band has given to me.
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.
Dr. Michael G. Martin
“If you need me up there to perform, then I didn’t do my job.” Dr Martin told this to the Hilliard Darby Symphonic Choir in 2007 as we were struggling with a piece and about to rehearse it without him in the room. Dr. Martin has no idea of the impact this statement made not only in my life as a musician, but in my career as I learn to grow and mentor others in a corporate setting. I know I never would have sang at Carnegie Hall without his musical influence in my life. He cares about the growth of his students, letting them take the reigns as musicians to find their voice. Oh blessed am I that I may sing. Thank you, Dr. Martin!
Mrs. Yvonne O’Dea
Mrs. Yvonne O’Dea is tremendously talented and loves sharing it with her students by inspiring them on a daily basis to be the best musicians they can be. Music has always been her passion from an early age where she went on to study it at Ithaca. She has been a High School Choral Director for many years and loves her job with all her heart. The unique bond she creates with each and every student is incredible. Mrs. O’Dea has the biggest heart and works hard by directing various choral ensembles. With all of her hard-work and talents, her students will be traveling to perform at Carnegie Hall this year. It’ll be the experience of a lifetime all thanks to this amazing lady. We appreciate everything you do. Thank you Mrs. O’Dea for always making the choir room a forever home and our happy place.
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.
Mr. Benjamin Lupo
Not only is Mr. Lupo very kind and caring to his students, even going out of the to help us with subjects that didn’t relate to music, but he also made a major change in my life. Thanks to him, I fell in love with choir that helped make me the decision to major in voice performance at the Ohio State University. He helped me audition for numerous honors choirs such as one going to Carnegie Hall and one that toured Europe. I will never be able to thank him enough for the change he’s made in my life. Mr. Lupo is such a blessing!
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.
Mr. Robinson is the highlight of everyone’s day every day. He is the kindest director I have ever had. For many of us he is more than a teacher or director, he is a good friend. Mr. Robinson is always pushing us to do our best, but in a fun and kind way. He challenges us and makes us want to be as great as we can be. He also very humble. If we don’t do well at competition he puts it all on himself and tells us he is sorry he didn’t do something different, which personally I think takes some guts even if he isn’t right about it being his fault. Mr. Robinson really knows a lot about music and he always wants to teach us a new thing to make us better.
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 emapthy 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.
Mr. Robinson came into Munster High School my freshman year, and completely changed my outlook on music, and I know he has with so many other people. Everyday he sacrifices so much for our choirs, and always wants the best for every single student. He has a personal connection with every kid, and finds the best opportunities for us, one including us going to Carnegie Hall to be conducted by Mr. Whitacre himself. He has taught so many of us about compassion, and how music can be a way of expressing ourselves. He is the most honest man you will ever meet, and can teach you what it means to be in a choir.
Mrs. Kristen Johnson
Mrs. Johnson isn’t just an incredible music teacher, but also an incredible person. Mrs. J takes the time to get to know every single one of her choir students, even if it’s just talking to them after class. Mrs. J cares so much about every single one of her students, and she lets them know that. My freshman year of high school, we were both new kids, you could say. She was a new teacher in a school, and I a new student. The previous teacher had left her mark, and constantly Mrs. J would hear “That’s not how we did it before,” and would constantly be reminded that she was new. But she learned, she became a better teacher and person, and now she’s making her mark. I cannot thank Mrs. J enough for everything she’s ever done for me. She gave me a place to call home when my house wasn’t safe. She gave me a place to laugh, cry, and feel emotions I thought weren’t possible in my life anymore. Thank you Mrs. Johnson, you saved my life.