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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.

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.

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Your Nominations

Stacey Franzke

She’s the only teacher I’ve seen that has been able to instil a passion for music in people that are on the verge of quitting. Over and over again I’ve seen her enhance the whole department’s love for music, including my own. She has not only taught me how to be a better musician, but also a better, more loving, and more accepting person. She truly has a huge impact on every single student, and every one of us leaves the school being better than the person we came as. Nominated by: Catherine.


Mrs. Franzke is an excellent teacher who puts her students above everything else. She knows how to connect with students on a personal level and loves to devote her time to them. Her dedication to her ensembles and her Music Theory classes is excellent, and you can clearly see her passion for music in the way she conducts her ensembles and her discussions about music theory concepts. Nominated by: Jack.


Mrs. Franzke is by far the best music teacher, the way she connects with her students is unlike any other teacher. She is always 100% honest but is also encouraging. Nominated by: Jamie.


Mrs. Franzke pours endless amounts of passion and love into teaching music. Her honesty and enthusiasm is so motivating to all her students, and she makes all really look forward to coming to class everyday. She makes me so excited to become a music teacher, and is 10000000% deserving of this award. Nominated by: Katie.


Franzke has taught me so much over my years with her and I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher. Not only does she teach her students about music, she teaches them about the real world. Nominated by: Luke.


Mrs. Franzke has changed my life. Getting the opportunity to be in her IB Music class every day has taught me more about myself as a musician and about the changing world of music around us. She is always there for every one of her students and goes out of her way to make sure to find a teaching style that addresses everyone’s needs in the classroom. Nominated by: Danny


Mrs. Franzke is an inspiring band director who has impacted the lives of so many students at Commack High School in Commack, NY. As my band director and mentor, Mrs. Franzke was the first teacher who ever made me feel that my emotions, struggles and vulnerabilities belonged in the classroom. Her rehearsals were rigorous, and her high expectations of student musicians in her ensembles lifted everyone higher. Throughout my four years of high school, I was motivated to work hard and grew tremendously because I knew that Mrs. Franzke truly believed in me. The emotional, powerful and rewarding performances I was a part of under Mrs. Franzke’s baton are ones I know I will always remember, because they led me to a beautiful career in Music Education. Mrs. Franzke’s impact on me as a young musician is one I will carry with me and hope to pass on to other young musicians. Nominated by: Carmen.


Stacey is the most genuine instructor I’ve ever been under, with such a strong passion for influence and music that could inspire even the most disconnected of students. Nominated by: Matthew.


A truly amazing human being that goes beyond the music in the band room and tries to connect with everyone in the ensemble on a deep emotional level in order to bring out the best in each person. Although there are always members of the band who are not fully invested in the music we play she always puts forth her best effort in order to change people’s perspectives on music and try to allow people to gain more from being in band than just playing an instrument. Her ability to allow me and many others grow not only as musicians but as people made a true impact on my life. Nominated by: Austin.


She is a wonderful teacher who I have had the pleasure of working with. Nominated by: Jackie.


Franzke is the bet teacher I’ve ever had. I learn something new and profound every day not only about music but about my life. I wouldn’t be the musician or person I am today without her continuous love support and passion! Nominated by: Emily.


Mrs. Franzke is the most gracious person I know. Her amoration for music gets trickled down to every member in her bands. I am awed by her ability to pass on her love for music to musicians of all levels of dedication. She is trusting. She is genuine. She is empowering! She makes me want to be the best version of myself and always put forward the best level of musicianship I can. Her dedication to her students not only musically, but personally, has helped so many students find their paths, even if their path is not music. Mrs. Franzke creates a therapeutic environment in her band room that accepts and challenges all. She is a gift to our school!!! Nominated by: Cristina.


Not only does Mrs. Franzke excel in music education, she is also unparalleled in her sense of empathy. Even within her busy job she will find the time to notice minute details in her students that often go amiss. When she detects something wrong, she will not hesitate to ask that student if everything is alright or give him/her a hug. With daily mindfulness and a class that never goes without eye-tearing/stomach-hurting laughter, Mrs. Franzke teaches us to be better musicians and people. Nominated by: Kristen.


Mrs. Franzke is easily one of the best music teachers you could ever have. She has cracked the code for teaching music theory and she has found a way for each student to comprehend the material while simultaneously having the most fun you could ever have in class! She is also an amazing band director who pushes students to always strive for their best. Mrs. Franzke is an incredibly funny, kind, and intelligent person that everyone looks up to. Nominated by: Hannah.


I speak for everyone of her students when I say that Mrs. Franzke has had such a profound impact on all of us. She is not only an incredible educator and musician but a true friend to each and everyone of her students, which is just one reason why we all learn so much from her and are able to make such great music with her. Nominated by: Matthew.


Ms Franzke is not only the best teacher but she is a great person. She teaches with her own personality, making it fun however extremely understandable because the students can relate to what she says. She offers help to students to make sure they fully understand the material and forms bonds and friendships with the students so they understand her as well. I believe that is the best form of teaching. Nominated by: Kaitlyn.


Her personality has made the music department such a better place to be in. I’m very grateful that I have had the pleasure to know such a great person in my life. Nominated by: Ryan.


Mrs. Franzke is an inspiration to me and she encourages me to become a better musician every single day. I have looked up to her for so long because I would come to watch her bands perform. It’s so unreal to me that I finally got the chance to be her student this year. Her rehearsals are intense but she makes sure that every little part of the piece is perfect. Sometimes during rehearsal she tells us a funny story, but then shes like “Okay back to measure 110!” We rehearse each piece thoroughly until is is ready to be performed. Additionally, she genuinely cares about her students. Mrs. Franzke loves all of us and she has a special connection with everyone. I think all of us, as her students, can agree that she changed our lives for the better. I have never seen anyone so passionate about their job and love for music. Mrs. Franzke runs the 10th grade band, 11/12 grade band, the wind ensemble, and the pit orchestra for the musical this year. During the day she also teaches AP music theory, and IB theory 1 and 2. She does a lot for the Commack music community. I can’t wait for the years to come because she is my teacher. Mrs. Franzke definitely makes Commack High School an amazing place for music education. I am so thankful to her and I am so lucky to be her student. Nominated by: Defne.


Ms. Franzke is able to create an environment for her band class that is stress-free and fun, which is a great contrast to the rest of a normal day. She is both funny and also very serious about music and her passion for it shines through in her teaching style. I enjoy all the time I spend in her band class and her other ensembles because she finds a way to challenge me, yet also support me at the same time. I am very grateful to have her as a teacher. Nominated by: Ethan.


I have always said and will continue to say that the music department in our school is insanely lucky and spoiled to have Mrs. Franzke. Anyone who spends any time in her class will leave a better person. She is so approachable, and she offers the kind of hospitality and understanding that so many teachers lack. She is one of the only people I know who can tell what you’re thinking about, what kind of day you had, and what you ate for breakfast just by looking at you. Simply put, I’m a more understanding and knowledgeable person having known her, and I can’t thank her enough for that. Nominated by: Dylan.


Mrs Franzke is one of the most intelligent, wise, and noble people I have ever met, and music is the perfect outlet for such qualities, which is why she excels both as a musician and an educator. She has a way of making music appeal to everyone, and has a habit of often telling us the background of each piece so we can be emotionally available and sound in the various aspects of music we must perform; she brings out the best of her students. Nominated by: Nicholas.


Mrs. Franzke is the first music teacher who I have ever truly related to and felt extremely comfortable near. She’s hilarious and makes learning difficult things very fun and interactive and she makes me feel safe in her classroom. Even on my worst days she makes me smile and cheers me up. Though I’ve only had her for half a year, I can’t wait for the next two and a half years with her. Nominated by: Anna.


She inspires me to be the best person I am and she encourages me to keep pushing myself to be a better musician. I have learned so much from Franzke. Nominated by: Nick.


I had the pleasure of working with Mrs. Stacey Franzke in which she guided me in my knowledge of music. She led the way for students to discover the wonders of music. As I continue to study music as my career, I have Mrs. Franzke to thank. Nominated by: Andrew.


She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had. She helped me find the music inside of me and always makes me feel like I can do anything. Everyday she makes us laugh and feel special about who we are as musicians and people. The most amazing teacher in the universe! 🎶🎵 Nominated by: Nicholas.


Stacey Franzke is a band director at Commack High School, she has influenced countless of students and have changed all of their lives for the better. Franzke is the person I aspire to be in the future, because of her I am continuing my music career with the hopes of becoming a band director in the future. She will drop anything and everything to help her students through tough times. Despite anything that she has going on in her personal life, her students always come first. I have never seen someone so selfless and caring and loving towards others. Stacey Franzke makes everyone feel valued and special. I feel like I speak for everyone when I say that Stacey Franzke is the most amazing person in our lives. Nominated by: Alyssa.

Adam Paltrowitz

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.


Mr. Paltrowitz “Pal” has helped shaped my school choir for 20 years. While his wife was performing in Kinky Boots on Broadway, he still commuted every morning to Long Island for the work that he loves. He directs our Mixed and Treble Choirs and is the academic advisor of our 9 acapella groups. He works with every student for NYSSMA and makes personal connections that last a lifetime. He has helped shape me not just as a singer but as a human being and I am forever grateful for him. Thank you Pal!

Dr. John Hugo

Dr. Hugo, of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, introduced me to choral music and music history in a way that I had never experienced before. His love for the choral art and his willingness to share life advice both inside and outside the classroom is unmatched. He genuinely cares about his students and does everything to ensure we are well prepared for performances. His sarcasm and his quick wit made his music history courses one of my favourites during my undergrad. He made sure his learning environment was welcoming, while also pushing his students to produce the best they could – even when we felt we had nothing greater to give. It is for all these reasons that I believe Dr. Hugo should be honoured in this way.

Elizabeth Bennett

Mrs. Bennett is one of the most amazing teachers I have ever met. As an orchestra director, she is always promoting a deep love and appreciation for music. She is dedicated to spreading messages of kindness and compassion, and she incorporates various service projects into our musical lives to emphasize the fact that music can change the world. She truly cares about every one of her students and is always ready to encourage and support her students with life outside of the orchestra. Mrs. Bennett is an incredible teacher and all-around great human being.

Amanda Hanzlik

Amanda Hanzlik has conducted many honorable choirs besides the one at home (EO Smith High School), including the Rhode Island All-State choir and the children’s choirs at the Aspen Music Festival. Her commitment to the choir and her personal attention to every single member stands out among other teachers of her caliber. She doesn’t just improve her students as musicians, but makes them better people. She has taught many the importance of trusting your gut, as well as really letting go of yourself, and trusting every singer in the group for the sake of the song. If only there were a teacher of the year award, she would instantly snatch such a title. Nominated by: Sarah.


Mrs. Hanzlik is an amazing teacher and an extremely hardworking and caring person. She does everything she can in order to ensure that her students have the best musical experience possible during their high school career. She encourages everyone to sing, and truly cares about what she does. Nominated by: Jaclyn.


Most capable, flexible, helpful, and sweet choir directors of all time. She is who brought us into recognition from America’s Got Talent. She is who also got actual composers of songs to come rehearse with us (especially Jacob Narverud). All in all, E O Smith wouldn’t exist without her! Nominated by: Oswald.


Amanda Hanzlik is a fantastic choir director for many reasons. She challenges her students with music that is advanced and usually feel good pieces. The students learn so much about music from this in the technical sense and they learn the joy from singing with a group. Rehearsals may be intense however she truly preps students that wish to pursue music in college and beyond. The connections made with the students and Ms. Hanzlik manifest for a happy environment that students look forward and love to be in. She truly gives her all when finding ways to give her students experiences that will enrich their music education and make the choir even more connected, turning into one big singing family. Nominated by: Annie.


She is my choir director and if there was anyone who is supposed to be a choir teacher it would be her. Without Mrs. Hanzlik I wouldn’t have grown so much in my singing abilities in just these past few years. Her love and passion for her work and students is amazing and I am so beyond grateful to have her as my teacher. She’s so good at what she does and really grows beautiful and well-rounded singers. Nominated by: Maddie.


Mrs Hanzlik is such an amazing teacher in so many ways. She genuinely cares about her students and has done everything to prepare us for performances, and the numerous auditions I have had. She is so kind and has taught me more than I ever thought I could know about music. She is also the reason I am planning on going into a music major. She works so so so hard to give us the best education and offers us as many opportunities as we can get. She deserves this more than anyone!!!! Nominated by: Madison.


Mrs. Hanzlik has not only been a constant source of comfort and support throughout my senior year. She has been raw, honest, and in tune with students’ struggles and needs in her class. She goes above and beyond to make class safe and exciting and is able to connect students to their work. She teaches in a way in which students can truly connect with their music and the results are extraordinary. In teaching and personal connection, she surpasses all expectations I have ever had for a teacher and goes well beyond what her job requires of her. Her work in class not only shows a deep knowledge of music, but a personal connection to the arts that goes deeper than the surface, she is an inspiration to all in her class. Nominated by: Emma.


I am nominating Mrs. Hanzlik because she always pours her heart and soul into every rehearsal and class period. Mrs. Hanzlik has gone to great lengths to provide an extraordinary choral experience for our choir. Nominated by: Lukus.


Amanda Hanzlik is not only a wonderful teacher with massive amounts of knowledge, but she inspires each and every one of her students. She holds together the group and it is clear to us that she truly cares about not only the quality of our choir, but the experience of each singer in the group. She is a wonderful, caring individual with such an enormous love for choral music. I cannot think of a better candidate to receive this title. Nominated by: Caroline.

Daniel Stowe

Dan Stowe is in his 26th year as the director of the University of Notre Dame Glee Club. He also serves as the conductor of Notre Dame’s Orchestra and Collegium Musicum. You cannot be in the same room with Dan without learning something, whether how to finesse the attack on a note, or how to achieve success and remain a man of humility. Dan stretches his students’ worldview; he consistently emphasizes the need to experience life outside of the rehearsal room, outside of the present day, outside of the country. He is principally concerned with the formation of conscientious citizens of the world, and his students’ true loyalty and respect is earned. He has a far-reaching knowledge that is the product of intense curiosity and commitment to doing the work. His passion for learning is a natural partner of the dichotomy that is music: an analytical exercise to be carefully approached and studied, and an act of creation justified and beautiful for its own sake. From your students–thank you.

Angie Doctor

Angie Doctor is a phenomenal jazz voice teacher. She has built a jazz vocal program at Ruth Asawa school of the arts from nothing. She works tremendously hard to accommodate all of her students needs and has changed many students lives through jazz music. Ms. Doctor doesn’t give up on her students and often stays till 7 or 8pm each night to make sure every student has the repertoire and information they need to thrive.

Brad Comeaux

Mr. Comeaux is the most dedicated band director I know. From the way he talks to his students, to pushing us to be our best selfs (musically and emotionally), to how every little detail for our week is posted and thoroughly reminded to us every day, to the way he conducts the beautiful timbre of our music. He goes far beyond what’s expected of him and strives to leave his students with life lessons that they can take with them far into life.

Bill Boardman

Mr. Boardman was an incredibly astounding and captivating choral director from the first time I met him. He only teaches at the high school level, but he strives for excellence from all his students during each and every performance. His passion for educating and dedication to his craft can be not only heard, but felt whenever listening to his choirs perform. Mr. Boardman makes a point of always teaching his students how to work dynamically when learning difficult pieces, while also teaching them to work cohesively as one unit to produce the best sound possible. I am truly honored to say that Mr. Boardman was my choral director through high school, and I will carry the passion for music that he gave me for the rest of my life.

Yair Corral Villegas

He is a children choir teacher in Sonora, México. He is helping them to learn and joy the blessing of music through choral music in boys and girls from 6 -21 years old. He has no profit and they have an invitation to sing in Chengdù, China in July 2019. Find him on facebook yair corral coro infantil de hermosillo.

Jason Allgair

Mr. Allgair is a phenomenal band director who cares about each of his students and takes the time to get to know each one individually. He comes in everyday with a smile and tells corny jokes to make his students laugh or roll their eyes. He takes the time to make sure each of his students are doing well academically, and offers to help them find help when they are struggling. He radiates joy and shares his love of music with each of his students and is an all around great person, in and out of the classroom.

Michelle Shmuel

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

Mr. Andrew Robinson

Our school has never seen a more dedicated, passionate teacher than Mr. Robinson. Everyday he motivates his students not only to learn great music but to be amazing people. Through the short time he has been at Munster High School, he has brought so much love to our choirs and has allowed us to have such amazing experiences including singing at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Mr. Whitacre himself. He never gives up on us even when we seem hopeless. He is incredibly humble and he’s always there for his students. He has touched our hearts and changed our lives for the better. All of us are so incredibly lucky to have him, and I know we will never have a director as amazing as Mr. Robinson ever again. He is truly one of a kind.

Martha Helen Schmidt

Ms. Schmidt has taught me and so many other students what it is to love music. She has spent her whole life writing and teaching, and I am so blessed to have been taught by someone with an enormous amount of talent in just one finger tip.

Dr. René Clausen

I nominate Dr. Rene Clausen at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. For over 20 years, he has taken his students on a personal journey; learning about music, learning about themselves. He is lighthearted and funny, serious and intense. His search for excellence in each and every sound is infectious. A simple 8-part E-chord was enough to cleanse my soul from whatever I carried on my shoulders. I came to choir to sing and left with a family. I will always remember the wink and smile after the final cutoff, “Happy Birthday” on the piano, and his stunning ability to pull a limerick out of thin air. Experiencing choral music the way I did with him, in his choir, is something I will never have again, and will cherish forever.

Emmanuella Mazile

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

Chris Koehn

Chris Koehn treats every child he encounters at the Coweta band room as his own. There have been so many nights where he has slept at the band room because we have gotten back so late from an event and he still has stuff to do. During marching season, he and his wife (one of our other directors) put in some of their own money to make our show as great as possible. Mr. Koehn is one of the most compassionate and loving people that I have ever met and it is impossible to describe how great he is. He knows when we’re havibg an off day and does everything in his power to change that. He pushes all of us to do our best everyday yet never yells at us when he knows we could have done better. Mr. Koehn is one of the greatest men I have ever met and I wish every person had the chance to sit and learn under him or just be able to talk to him.

Sandra Chandler

Ms. Chandler is an outstanding teacher that motivates her students with her great creative talents.

Dr. Paul Torkelson

Dr. Paul Torkelson is the director of choral studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. He directs the Symphonic Choir, the Nevada Chamber Singers and teaches choral conducting. He has conducted many All-State choirs and is frequently a guest clinician at state ACDA conventions. Many students call him Dr. T. Dr. T is an amazing inspiration to me as well as many students that sing for him. He challenges us to think critically when it comes to singing with technique and text stress. He encourages his singers to sing with passion and think about what the music means to them. Dr. T has invited his singers to sing in Carnegie Hall and Europe through the MidAmerica Productions. Dr. T, your kindness, compassion and dedication has greatly impacted many singers. Thank you, Dr. T!

Tricia Ubrig

Mrs. Ubrig is the current High School Choir Director at Mesquite High School, but when I was with her she was the Choir Director at Alhambra High School in Phoenix, AZ. Mrs. Ubrig made choir a place that everyone could call home, regardless of what our actual home life was like. She inspired so many of us to be passionate about music. Within the 2004-2006 graduating class, 3 of us went on to become Choir Directors. Even now, as I am directing my own choir, I think of her often and how much she meant to me. She changed my life forever and I know is still doing the same for many others.

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Nominate a Teacher

All Honorees

Stephen Ziegler

Stephen Ziegler

“Mr. Ziegler is a talented, kind, and loving teacher from Norman North High School in Norman, Oklahoma. He cares very deeply for every one of his students and never hesitates to help a student in need. Mr. Ziegler deserves teacher of the week because during these trying times he has risen above and has done everything in his ability to continue teaching me and the rest of my peers music.”

Thank you, Stephen, for keeping the flame alive.

Erin Gabriel (U.S.A.)

Erin Gabriel (U.S.A.)

“Erin Gabriel is the heart and soul of the arts department at The Overlake School. Erin has created an environment in her classroom and the theatre that is safe, inclusive, and welcoming to all. She tells every student; “You are enough.” I can’t express how much those words mean to a high school student. Thank you Erin, for filling the world with music and love every single day!”

Thank you, Erin, for keeping the flame alive.

Thanks to Alyssa for the nomination.

Irene Idicheria (U.S.A.)

Irene Idicheria (U.S.A.)

Irene Idicheria is a selfless, compassionate leader in the Boston Children’s Chorus community. Through a time of significant organizational change in BCC’s leadership, through the call to action with Black Lives Matter, and shifting our programming and operations during a global pandemic (each of these things colliding in March 2020), Irene has led our team with empathy, fearlessness, and complete humility. Irene stepped up for our community at a time of great division and heartbreak. She worked tirelessly making phone calls to every student and family–making sure every voice was heard and expertly bringing those voices together in unity. She has stood up with and for her staff through all these trials and always puts others above herself. Through all of these outside trials, Irene has continued to be a beacon of hope and light to her students in the classroom. She makes sure that each child is valued and welcomed.

Thank you, Irene, for keeping the flame alive.

Thanks to Alexis for the nomination.

Dr. Gayle Walker (U.S.A.)

Dr. Gayle Walker (U.S.A.)

“I nominate Dr. Gayle Walker because she has been an amazing professor before and during the pandemic. She always makes sure he students have somewhere to go to when they need to talk, she is understanding about all situations, and she is beyond passionate for what she teaches. Dr. Walker is an outstanding musician and teacher.”

Thank you, Dr. Walker, for keeping the flame alive.

Thanks to Sofia for the nomination.

Caleb Shabestari (U.S.A.)

Caleb Shabestari (U.S.A.)

“Mr. Shabestari has been an absolute rock through the coronavirus pandemic. He has never failed to give everything to his students, and where other teachers would have failed or given up, Mr. Shabestari has prevailed and thrived as a teacher. Mr. Shabestari’s classes have truly been one of the only safe places for his students this year. Amid a global pandemic, racial injustice, political frustration, and so many other challenges; Mr. Shabestari never wavered in giving his students a safe music making environment. He has been an inspiration to all of us, and we are forever in his debt for his dedication and kindness.” Nominated by Kade


“Mr. Shabestari, or Shabs, or Shabby, or some other name I can’t think of right now is an incredible director at Alta High School, not only because he’s fun and energetic, but because he genuinely cares and understands his students, heck even some students who go to other schools, but come together for the family that is Alta Marching Band. Shabs makes sure that his Marching Band is one of belonging, everyone cares so deeply for each other and we all strive to lift each other up. Shabs encouraged me to try marching a baritone, and honestly I was a little bit scared, I had only played trombone my entire musical career, so I was nervous that I wouldn’t be any good at it, and that i’d mess up, but he told me that mistakes are everywhere, sure, but learning from your mistakes, that’s the key. Honestly, my life simply wouldn’t be where it is right now without Shabs, and his excellent teaching.” Nominated by John


Thank you, Caleb, for keeping the flame alive.

Sarah Iadarola (U.S.A)

Sarah Iadarola (U.S.A)

“Sarah is the choir instructor at North Haven High School in CT. She has changed my life by introducing me to choir music and sharing her passion for it with me. She would stay after hours to help me with difficult sections, introduce me to new pieces to listen to in my free time, and anything else she could do to help me improve as a musician. Above all else, she just wanted us students to appreciate the music we were creating and enjoy doing it. Her passion and enthusiasm for music is contagious and her pride in her students knows no limit. She made her classroom feel like home, like a place where everyone was accepted and music brought us all together as a family. I am truly blessed to have had her as a teacher for 4 years and would not be the person I am today without her.”

Thank you Sarah for keeping the flame alive.

Thanks to Marla for the nomination.

Dr. Mark Taylor (U.S.A)

Dr. Mark Taylor (U.S.A)

“Mark is a high school orchestra teacher at Centreville High School, Centreville, VA. One of the first inspiring projects in his totally virtual teaching this year was called the Gratitude Project. His orchestra students had to think about people they were especially grateful for during this pandemic. Then they individually thanked teachers, custodians, first responders, nurses, grocery workers, etc. online, and, in virtual ensembles, played special music just for them, to show their appreciation.”

Thank you, Dr. Taylor, for keeping the flame alive.

Thanks to Ginny for the nomination.

Alta Dantzler (U.S.A)

Alta Dantzler (U.S.A)

A few weeks ago Alta invited me to speak at Oakland University’s “Inspire the Choir” virtual conference, and from the moment I logged on the energy in the Zoom room was electric and infectious. She is doing such great work, inspiring her students and colleagues with her boundless passion for our shared choral art. THANK YOU, Alta, for keeping the flame alive. – Eric

Dr Misha Shtangrud (U.S.A)

Dr Misha Shtangrud (U.S.A)

“Dr Misha Shtangrud is the Artistic Director of MUSYCA Children’s Choir and Director of Vocal Ensembles at the Colburn School of Performing Arts, but I am nominating him because of my experience with him in his role as Artistic Director of the Burbank Chorale. Misha is an enthusiast, warm, kind, energetic and inspiring teacher. At the Burbank Chorale, he has a wide range of talent levels to work with, and he is appreciative and encouraging to all. Recently, Misha conducts virtual choir rehearsals through Zoom. He is a one man show! He sings all of the parts, is colorful and dramatic and engaging as he teaches the parts and the pronunciation of different languages. He encourages the singers as if he can actually hear them. He personally transforms our sometimes not so elegant submissions into virtual choir presentations that we our proud to share with friends and family. I am so grateful for the work he and others are doing to keep the Burbank Chorale alive.”

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

Nominated by Suzanne.

Dana Alexander (U.S.A)

Dana Alexander (U.S.A)

I recently had the chance to give a masterclass led by Maestra Dana Alexander, and what she is doing as a teacher in these difficult times just knocked me out. Every day she is adapting and improvising to find new ways to engage and excite her students and to keep the flame alive. BRAVA, Dana, and thank you for changing the world one student at a time.

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.

Deidre Douglas (U.S.A.)

Deidre Douglas (U.S.A.)

“Mrs. Douglas has a profound effect on my life. I will never forget the moment when I fell short of a goal of mine and she simply just held me in my disappointment and told me she was proud of me. She has wisdom, kindness, and such a beautiful soul, and she uses all these things to be a powerful role model for all her students and to love them unconditionally. She not only motivates her students to be better musicians, but she pushes them to be better people. She reminds us to use manners, show respect, and build community. Most of all, she gives us a glimpse of what love and beauty look and feel like through the pieces she chooses for us. I will forever be grateful for Mrs. Douglas’s impact on my life and I know so many others feel the same.”

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

Thank you Denise for the nomination.

Brooke Pierson (U.S.A.)

Brooke Pierson (U.S.A.)

Mr. Pierson has been a huge influence on my musical experience throughout high school. He’s taught me a lot about the processes in composing a musical piece but also about the importance of never giving up. There were many times where I felt like I had hit a wall in my composing skills but whenever I did Mr. Pierson would always give me some sort of advice to encourage me. Usually, the way I write music is I make the main melody and make other sections with varying themes of it. One time I made something that sounded completely different than what I was going for and instead of telling me to delete it, Mr. Pierson said that I should keep it for another song that I might want to compose. After hearing this advice I went on to write tons of musical pieces based on my scraps from others. Without Mr. Pierson, I wouldn’t be the confident composer I am today.”

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

Thank you Yousef for the nomination.

Dr. Jamie Hillman (U.S.A.)

Dr. Jamie Hillman (U.S.A.)

“Dr Hillman inspires all musicians to do their absolute best in everything they do: in music and in life. He is an incredible educator that connects with each of his students. Many of his students can refer to Dr Hillman as a close friend. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award. His dedication to his craft is unparalleled, and he impacts the lives of everyone around him.”

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

Thank you Aaron for the nomination.

Mrs. Susan Zemlin (U.S.A)

Mrs. Susan Zemlin (U.S.A)

Mrs. Zemlin is the most amazing teacher I have ever had. During my 4 years in her choir program she made me feel welcomed and like I was a part of something bigger than just a group of people who make music. She is committed to the music and making something amazing together but more importantly she is committed to her students and their well beings. She is an advocate for crushing the mental health stigma in high schoolers and has been a great resource for me and others, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have made it through high school without her. I’m a freshman in college now and she checks up on me from time to time, I look forward to those text messages and emails more than almost anything else. She also taught me what it means to be a leader and the part of a group. I was an officer for our concert choir and as honored as I was she gave me so much responsibility, she made sure I knew it wasn’t about me, it was about the choir as a whole. She’s absolutely deserving of this.”

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

Thank you Alli for the nomination.

Stefan Kartman (U.S.A.)

Stefan Kartman (U.S.A.)

“Professor Kartman is the Cello Professor at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and is one of the finest in his field. He does whatever it takes in order for his students to grow and achieve what it is they desire. He puts in countless hours and dedicates so much of his spare time to his students and gives them everything he can. He teaches us valuable life skills and life lessons while teaching us artistry and musicianship. He is a selfless teacher and is able to teach students to perfect their craft as well as mold them into true artists. He evokes joy and nothing but a positive atmosphere for his studio.”

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

Thank you Ian for the nomination.

Mr. Levi Duncan (U.S.A.)

Mr. Levi Duncan (U.S.A.)

“A good teacher catalyzes learning, but a great teacher inspires passion. Levi stays after school with students every day, pushing them beyond the limits they’ve created for themselves. Levi also started a community choir, the Southeast Texas Vocal Artists to provide a safe place for musicians from all walks of life to come together and perform. Levi’s passion for his students goes far beyond the classroom, and far beyond the music realm. When hurricane Harvey devastated southeast Texas, I was a freshman in college with no way to return home due to the freeways being shut down. My mother sent me pictures of the volunteers demolishing our home, all ravaged by five feet of water. Amongst those volunteers was Levi Duncan. I was no longer his student, but he was in my home- dust mask and dirty clothes- helping us rebuild. 1000 characters is not enough to go into all he has done for same, but I know I speak for the entire community when I say Levi has made a tremendous impact on us all.”

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

Thank you Zoey for the nomination.

Mrs. Mandy Scott (U.S.A)

Mrs. Mandy Scott (U.S.A)

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

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

Thank you Abigail for the nomination.

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.