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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.

Your Nominations

Sheri Holt

Mrs. Holt is a constant inspiration for our music department. She is full of life and makes music so much fun. She made me confident in myself when it came to singing in concert and being confident in my abilities. She pushes me to keep trying and going. Even though scheduling conflicts meant I couldn’t have class with her this year she still remains one of my all time favorite teachers.

Geoffrey Boers

He is a very talented vocal educator at the University of Washington. His method is incredibly musical and inspirational for all he teaches, he has a knack for getting high schoolers who say they can’t sing to sing. Also he’s my dad.

Eric Graham

He has helped me (and all his students from Marina High School and Arrowbear Music Camp) to gain the confidence needed to sing in a choir. I entered Arrowbear Music Camp going into 9th grade, and was terrified. Eric and the other directors help make it a very welcoming place for musicians of all skill levels. His dedication to helping students is one that can’t be surpassed by just anyone.

Mr. Joshua Shafer

This individual is nothing short of a miracle. Mr. Shafer has introduced an outstanding choir program at Liberty High School in Peoria, Arizona, which for many years had no choir program whatsoever. From 10 students to over 100 in the first year, he constantly reminds us of humble beginnings and powerful futures. He is truly an inspiration and will stop at nothing for his students or his passion. Music. We build families. We build cathedrals.

Angela Hampton

Angela Hampton is the choir director at Floyd Central High School. She had devoted an enormous amount of her time while teaching to make sure each one of her students is the best they can possibly be. She genuinely cares about the wellbeing of her many students, and sacrifices countless hours a day to help give them the opportunity to succeed.

Rita M. Stevens

Rita is a retired choral director in the Redlands Unified School District who built an award-winning choral program and has worked with Eric Whitacre professionally. She is currently a home hospital teacher with the district and provides teaching services to those students who are too ill to attend school in the regular classroom. In addition to her prior choral success with students, she is now assisting students who are quite ill at home or in the hospital with their studies so they do not fall behind. She is a remarkable, inspiring educator in our local community of Redlands, California.

Michael Kirk Cundari

Mr. Cundari has been the director at Palm Desert High for 3 years, and has had extensive experience prior to this school. He is a phenomenal choir teacher and guide who always brings an abundance of enthusiasm and eagerness to class every day. My love for music has grown exponentially since I’ve been a student of his, and he has helped me realize that music is more than a concept – it is a universal language that has the ability to change a person’s life through its sheer brilliance and ethereal sound. There is no greater joy than being taught by this man, and I cherish every moment I spend under his guidance because he has made me a better musician and has given me a newfound appreciation for the unmatchable experience that is the world of music.

Dr. Joey Martin

Dr. Joey Martin’s dedication to our program at Texas State is unrelenting, and he not only pushes us to strive toward our best musical selves, but provides us with plenty of loving space to grow as human beings.

Leia Browning

As not only a single mom with two children but a full time teacher as well, she brings joy and energy into the class room even if all of us are feeling down. she encourages us to do our best then takes that and pushes us harder than any choir teacher I’ve ever had. Yet even as she pushes our singing she always makes sure that our health and comes first. We are a family and we treat each other like it.

Brandon Moore

He has helped grow so many high school choir students into beautiful music makers, bringing together generations of singers with one song that brings us all together as a family.

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.

Maryann Brilleslyper

Dr.Brilleslyper started the choir department at our now 12 year old high school. In her time there, she has formed 8 choirs, taken choirs to Carnegie Hall, gotten many kids into honor choirs across the nation, ranked superiors at every choir competition she competes at, will be representing the U.S. at the 75th D-Day Choral Celebration in France, and most importantly, is the best role model for all of her students. She not only teaches but forms bonds with her students that will last a life time. She brings passion to every class and never fails to make her students excited about sing. She is a true inspiration and I am proud to call her my mom away from home.

Dr. Jamie Bartlett

Dr. Bartlett was not only my college chamber choir director and academic adviser, but also my mother away from home, my musical mentor, and the most encouraging director I’ve ever had throughout my singing career. She has a way of being your biggest cheerleader, while also expecting and pushing you to achieve nothing less than the best and most you can give. She made my 18 member chamber choir the highlight of my college experience, not just because she pushed us to produce music that brought me to tears as I sang each concert, but because she has a truly inspiring love and passion for what she does and for every single one of her students.

Parker Haley

Mr. Haley works so hard to let his kids know that they are loved and are important to him. There is never a day when he doesn’t great his class with a smile or an encouraging word. He has been a great mentor to me as a fellow teacher and checks in to make sure that I’m doing okay. And when I’m not, he will take as much time as he has to encourage and support me. This attitude is something that he brings into his classroom, making sure no students fall through the cracks, no matter how many of their other teachers may have given up on them.

Geoffery Miller

Mr. Miller was the person responsible for my love of music. He pushed me to become a better musician, and because of that, I am now a second year music education major in college at NKU. He is the reason I started loving playing trumpet. He gave us the best music to play, and he gave me opportunities that led me to becoming the best musician I can be. I am where I am today because of him, no doubt.

Dr. Jim Henry

Dr. Henry, is one of the most inspiring people in the world, He is an amazing conductor, voice coach, and lecturer. As the Director of The University of Missouri Saint Louis Choruses, and the 4 time Barbershop Harmony Society International Champion Chorus “Ambassadors of Harmony” Everybody learns something new, whenever they meet with this amazing teacher. He is also the Bass of two Champion Quartets ( The Gas House Gang and Crossroads) He is an inspiration to all, and will never let you leave without a smile on your face.

Holly Lewallen

Holly was my high school choir teacher for 4 years. She made me feel at home and she helped me become a much better vocalist. She practically kills herself every year to make her choir sound the best they can be. She works so hard and is the best teacher I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.

Dr. Joey Martin

Dr. Martin is an excellent example of generosity of sprit, sweetness and grace, but most importantly a musical mind that is inspiring. He is tenacious and always seeks a way to be better personally and professionally. His drive is infectious. I have learned from his innate artistry as a director and accompanist. The doors he opens and opportunities he gives his students are signs that he is passionate about us AKA his “kiddles” or “kit Kats”. I will always know that at Texas State University I am loved and I matter to Dr. Martin.

Gabriel Chodos

Passionate Pianist and Educator. Was Chairman of the Piano department at New England Conservatory of Music for 25 years, AND regular summer faculty at Aspen.

Jacquie Olivieri

Jacquie goes above and beyond teaching elementary school children not only music, but also reading. She also gives back to the community by playing principal flute with the Blazing River Freedom band, Cleveland’s LGBT ensemble. While not gay herself, she bravely supports equality proudly through performance.

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Nominate a Teacher

All Honorees

Joseph Galeczka (U.S.A.)

Joseph Galeczka (U.S.A.)

Mr. G is by far the best director I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and learning from. During my four years with him at Blake, He not only grew my knowledge of music but also made time to develop a personal relationship with each student. Mr G would be the first to make sure each student was having a good day and if they weren’t, he was always available to talk. Mr. G’s quirky personality made choir with him so enjoyable and lightened our often so focused, serious moods. He puts so much time into making sure that each student knows their value and puts so much time into extra activities that benefit his students always. Joseph Galeczka is the type of director students wish they could have because he is simply that amazing.”

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

Thank you Britney for the nomination.

Erin Collins (Canada)

Erin Collins (Canada)

“Erin Collins is the most extraordinary teacher in the world. Ms. Collins attends every after school rehersal regardless of her own personal schedule and dedicates her own time to plan and attend our every performance. Not only does Erin conduct and teach our choir and her other classes, but genuinely cares about each and everyone of her students and also acts as a part of all of our support systems. Anytime you have good news, bad news, a problem, or just want to talk, she is there. I do not know any teacher as dedicated to her students as Ms. Collins is. Personally, I believe my whole high school experience was 100% better than it would have been because of Ms. Collins. Furthermore, her love for music inspires others and definitely inspired me. Because of her support and the inspirational energy she has, Erin Collins is the absolute best teacher!”

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

Thank you Recia for the nomination.

Dr. Dominic Gregorio (Canada)

Dr. Dominic Gregorio (Canada)

Today we honor the work and memory of an inspirational teacher who sadly and unexpectedly passed away in March 2019. Dr. Gregorio was involved in music making on so many levels from completing the first Doctoral dissertation on the choral music of Tarik O’Regan, to his interest in new choral music, vocal ensemble music and interdisciplinary performance. As Director of Choral Activities at The University of Regina and director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, Dr. Gregorio truly gave his all to music.

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

Matthew Wanner (U.S.A.)

Matthew Wanner (U.S.A.)

“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.”

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

Thank you Lawrence for the nomination.

Valerie Adelung (U.S.A.)

Valerie Adelung (U.S.A.)

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.”

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

Thank you Kaci for the nomination.

Spencer Wright (U.S.A.)

Spencer Wright (U.S.A.)

“Mr. Wright is a kindhearted and caring man who loves each of his students with such a heart that it amazes me. He is someone who never gives up on his students and personally impacts me as more than just a teacher. He does his job not because he has to but because he loves to. He deserves this more than anyone I know.”

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

Thank you Kenna for the nomination.

Dr. Paul Torkelson (U.S.A.)

Dr. Paul Torkelson (U.S.A.)

“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!”

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

Thank you Ashley for the nomination.

Ernest Brusubardis (U.S.A.)

Ernest Brusubardis (U.S.A.)

“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 advice. 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.”

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

Thank you Josie for the nomination.

Melynda Lamb (U.S.A.)

Melynda Lamb (U.S.A.)

What makes someone a good teacher? To a student like me, it’s someone who puts the time into the job, cares about their students, pushes themselves to bring out the best in a kid, and is always there when someone needs help. All of those things describe Mrs. Lamb. Whenever we get a new piece of music, Mrs. Lamb sits the class down and takes the time to really describe to us what the piece is about and it’s deeper meanings. Not to mention before every concert or contest she tells us,” It does not matter to me what score we get out there. What matters is that we have the ability to make good music and change somebody’s day for the better. We never know what other people have been through, but we can sing not only to their ears, but to their soul.” It’s words like that that really show to students that there is more to singing then making noise. Mrs. Lamb not only teaches us to be better singers, but more importantly teaches us to be better people.”

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

Thank you Christopher for the nomination.

Wayne Lackman (U.S.A.)

Wayne Lackman (U.S.A.)

“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.”

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

Thank you Maddy for the nomination.

Dr. Lynne Gackle (U.S.A.)

Dr. Lynne Gackle (U.S.A.)

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.

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

Thank you Madison for the nomination.

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.

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.

EW

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.