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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 Dr. Matthew Erpelding

Dr. Matthew Erpelding

“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.

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

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.

Joe Murphy

Mr. Joseph Murphy should be nominated for teacher of the week. He is a great teacher and just this week he helped with 4 concerts and a school play, in which he played the prominent role of the janitor. He always has his students’ back and is always helpful and fun. He had made music a part of hundreds of children’s lives. Every single one of his students would say that he deserves this award more than anyone else.

Dayne Newberry

Dayne is a wonderful, kind, and selfless person that would do anything for anyone, especially his students. He is a member of multiple professional choirs, and is a director of four high school choirs. The first day he walked into his new job at his current high school, he brought a new meaning to choir, music, and performing. He has given us several new opportunities as singers, and as his students, we look up to him. He is such an inspiration to everybody he meets, and is always finding a way to brighten someone’s day. He encourages us to find a personal connection or meaning to the music we are performing to make it captivating for the audience, and ourselves. He supports everyone, and is always willing to help anybody. He always goes above and beyond his duties as a director and helps his students in other school subjects and even life. He is so greatly appreciated by every one of his students, coworkers, and everyone he meets and a simple “thank you” will never be enough.


Mr. Newberry is one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever met. He has taught choir with such an unparalleled energy. He encourages his students to do their best everyday, maintains a good relationship with other staff and teachers, and introduces his pupils to new opportunities. This year, he applied to perform at IMEC, a performance at All-State ILMEA in front of professional faculty from all over the state. We performed a mass with the orchestra at the school. We have been given the most fantastic opportunities and he has taken us through it all with energy and grace.

MaryAnn Brilleslyper

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.

Mr. Adam Wright

Mr. Adam Wright is the director for 2 middle schools and the high school that they combine into to. He drives everyday to three schools. The school system has very limited funding and low support, but Wright does everything he can to show his students that they can become more than what is around them. He works tirelessly to motivate his students to not only become better mucisians but better human beings. Since he’s come to the Campbell County region he’s grown the bands numbers from 52 to nearly 80 in just 5 years. He’s a remarkable teacher and deserves so much recognition for all that he does!

Erik Reinhart

Mr. Reinhart exhibits all of the best qualities one would hope to find in a choral director, musician, and student advocate through his work at Churchville-Chili High School. He is endlessly working to build opportunities for his students to be actively involved in performing their music, directing three curricular ensembles and three extracurricular ensembles after-school. The Churchville-Chili Concert Choir has consistently received Gold and Gold with Distinction honors at NYSSMA majors. Most valuable to Mr. Reinhart’s teaching however are the anecdotes that connect the music and life in a very relevant way. Through both verbal connections and extremely expressive conducting, Mr. Reinhart is able to communicate the human basis of emotion which gives music a meaningful foundation. As a current vocal music eduction major at SUNY Fredonia, Mr. Reinhart played no small role in encouraging me to make and teach music as a lifelong endeavor.

Stephanie Williamson

Mrs. Williamson is one of the smartest, most driven, inspirational, and also kindest teachers I have ever had the pleasure of learning from. She quickly changed my high school band into an environment where students respected and trusted the teacher, all the while fiercely advocating for the program to both administration and our community. Her main focus has always been her students, which is one of the marks of a great teacher, and more often than not her door is open and her office is welcoming. As a female student, it was so remarkable to see such a talented, driven woman making a difference in a program and to have a role model that I can look up to and one day aspire to be. She is the teacher that reinforced my passion for music education and continuously encourages me. It is a privilege to have graduated from her program, to be able to be colleagues with her, and to continue to work with her on a professional basis as she gives me opportunities to improve my skills.

Kristen Morrison

She takes phenomenal care of students with special needs. Tirelessly works to give them every opportunity possible, works very hard to teach, and to create a loving environment. She plans exciting events, field trips, outings in the community and runs her class as though no child is lacking ability. She is the mama bear for our kids when we aren’t there. There are no lengths she won’t go to to ensure that the kids are protected and supported. My child has been in school for thirteen years, and we’ve never had a teacher who we loved so much. We couldn’t be without her! Thank you for everything you do.

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All Honorees

Professor Angela Tipps

Professor Angela Tipps

“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.