Victoria Anne Graves
Victoria’s senior year as a Vocal/ Instrumental Music major at Texas A&M University Kingsville, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer one day, and was wheeled in for surgery the following morning. She was told not to expect to speak the same, much less sing in the coloratura Soprano voice she had developed. She fought her way back. It’s been beautiful watching her determination to make her life what she designed it to be.. a Music Teacher. She works with children and then adults who want to merge their voices together. She gives each day her best effort and finds joy in the hard work. She fought her way back to her voice as well. Those who know, marvel at the persistence and resilience of her spirit and love for the craft each time we hear her voice dance in the higher range. At school performances, her students each exhibit the discipline she instills, right along with a heart-touching love of their own musical performances.
Mr. Kirtley is a remarkable and inspirational teacher. Through his insightful score prep and endless hours of one-on-one voice sessions, he tunes himself into the unique voices of each of his students. His engaging repertoire has brought our choir department recognition from many (most recently with Chamber performing at ACDA), but it is his passion and investment in us students that we are the most blessed to receive. His non-stop drive to create beautiful sounds has made us respect the art of music so much more. Along with challenging repertoire selections which keep us intellectually invested in vocal growth, his ease in lightening the atmosphere with a light-hearted joke certainly keeps us invested in music. Mr. Kirtley is an amazing and dedicated teacher who has inspired many in our program to follow in his footsteps in pursuing a job where we can express this passion!
Thank you for being a kind and hard-working role model and teacher.
I am nominating my son’s orchestra instructor. Mark is the director of Orchestrating Diversity, a program that provides FREE music education for children K-12. He runs the program from his grandfather’s old pharmacy and has been serving kids there for 14 years. We could have NEVER afforded the the extensive education in music theory, history, and the private strings lessons if not for this program. In addition, he taught my gifted, perfectionist child that it is OK to fail and that failure isn’t something to fear or even avoid. Instead, the goal is to fail up, or fail better. This was a huge benefit to his self-esteem and well-being. We are SO grateful for Mark and this program.
Mr. Detlefsen is the director of bands at Sierra Pacific High School in Hanford, CA and has built his program from the ground up over the last 12 years. He is my mentor teacher for my final semester of student teaching and I have learned so much from him as an educator as well as on the logistical side of being a band director. Jeff is the immediate past president of the California Band Director’s Association and the founder of the South Valley Winter Arts Association circuit and always has a full plate of events, fundraisers, and so much more. When he isn’t teaching me or our students, he is heading the non-profit charity Hannah’s Helpers which he started in dedication to his second daughter and in support of families in the community with children with disabilities.
Overall, Jeff is an amazing teacher, mentor, father, and friend and he deserves to be recognized for all the hard work and dedication he puts into his craft.
I want to nominate Ms. Golub because she made me feel appreciated. She’s always kind to everyone and places so much faith in all of her students. She’s always gentle to her students and her presence is what inspired me to rejoin choir. I’ve always felt left out and under-appreciated but she really changed that. Thank you, Ms. Golub!
Justin C. Johnson
Mr. Johnson has been an amazing influential choir director of my High School. Not only does he teach the music he teaches us how to apply it emotionally and in our everyday lives. He has made hundreds of students feel valued and welcomed and has never ceased from pushing us to do our best. He has led my choir to winning a National Competition in Atlanta and getting us to participate in a National Choir in New York City under Anton Armstrong.
There are millions of reasons why, but one specific one is that he’s an all around amazing teacher. He makes sure that everyone is included and nobody feels left out. He keeps it real 24/7, but in the best way where his constructive criticism doesn’t leave you feeling less then. I’m also nominating him because he knows when to switch off the teacher and be a friend when needed. He also cares about each student and supplies ample opportunities to grow in and out of the classroom.
Kole is one of the most talented, caring and funniest people ever. He speaks to his students like a friend more than a teacher. He helps you through everything no questions asked and is overall one of the best people i’ve met.
Kole is a wonderful conductor and Grad Teacher Assistant. I can tell he’s passionate about what he does, and allows for everyone’s voice to be heard. He’s given me a chance to grow and shine as a student through opportunities I wouldn’t even have given to myself. He has taught us to be storytellers through our music and how to use our voices to change the world. He challenges us through our conversations within our community as a college students in choir, but does the same within the repertoire. He works hard but also develops personal relationships with us and is such a relatable person!
As with so many of the amazing teachers nominated here, Jenn Erdody, the Music Director at Milford High School, is hard-working and passionate about music and music education. I’ve seen so many of her students and the impact she’s had on them. And she takes that passion well beyond the classroom. I first encountered her as my son’s choral teacher when he started high school. Shortly after that, I found out that she’s the director of the Souhegan Valley Chorus, a community chorus based in Milford. I joined that chorus and have had the good fortune to perform alongside each of my kids with Jenn as my director ever since. The variety of music she brings to our semi-annual concerts has made each one special. Over the last couple of years, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with her in her role as Organist and Chancel Choir Director at the Methodist Church. Here again she continually encourages everyone and enhances our music at every opportunity.
I’m nominating Mr. Roberts because he not only makes choir a fun, engaging part of everyone’s day, but he explains the beauty behind each piece of music that is learned and how we should approach it, making his passion for what he does spread to his students. I have never experienced a teacher so passionate about what they do and it is absolutely wonderful! I have been lucky enough to witness him (from his first year teaching) take a choir program that was not really recognized and not very involved to a program that holds multiple awards, smiling faces, and a sense of family like no other. Stepping into a class with Mr. Roberts is like stepping into a home. He makes EVERYONE around him feel included and special and I cannot give enough praise to him. He has truly changed my life (along with many others) and is the reason I have confidently chosen to study music. I hope to be even a little bit like him someday. He is a treasure to so many people. ❤️
Dr. Rayvon T.J. Moore
Dr. Moore inspires us to do more than just sing, but rather he inspires us to create music that lives and breathes in every harmony, rest, word, and dynamic. Doc pushes his musicians to be perfection, not because perfection is achievable but because he sees our potential to create flawlessly beautiful music to brighten up the world around us. He loves all of his students and creates connections with us both inside and out of music. He has also been my mentor as I am pursuing music education and teaching me conducting.
Siler is my 4th hour choir teacher and she is the best at her job because she makes choir more than just singing with other people she brings people together and makes everyone smile. She has helped me make friends and get closer to people. She has opened my eyes up to more things than I could’ve ever imagined and she has impacted my life in the most positive way possible.
I am pleased to nominate Ms. Mathews, as she has demonstrated a deep commitment and passion for music education. Not only is she passionate about music, but she is also passionate about helping her students grow as individuals. Ms. Mathews is retiring after this school year, and her enthusiasm and dedication to her students did not go unnoticed! She has undoubtedly brought joy, inspiration, and unforgettable memories for us students that have changed our lives forever. I want to thank her for providing us with wonderful experiences, igniting our passion for music, and instilling our love for music. Ms. Mathews gave me the best high school experience I could ever ask for! We love you!
Mr. Lotze has been my band director for four years now, just as long as he’s been in the district, and he is truly one of the best human beings I’ve ever met, never failing to fill the room with contagious energy and kindness. Over the past four years, our band program has doubled in size thanks to his ability to motivate and connect with every single student. In his first year, Mr. Lotze showed us Eric Whitacre’s Godzilla Eats Las Vegas. When I jokingly suggested we play it, he responded, “Maybe – if we work hard enough!” Last week, Godzilla became the last song I ever played in high school. When Godzilla was handed out in September, murmurs of doubt filled our band. However, Mr. Lotze was able to transpose that doubt into something wonderful with his passion and enthusiasm for sharing the joys of music. Mr. Lotze has truly changed my life by not only being such an awesome teacher, but someone who will always be there to support anyone who walks through his room with all his heart.
I am nominating Mr. Phillip Schroetter due to his ability to revamp our choral program. During the 2020-2021 school year, he faced the challenge of not only being new to our high school but also having to keep the program running during the pandemic. Mr. Schroetter put in countless hours to ensure that his students would receive as normal of a choir season as possible. Even though he has only been at our school for three years, he has brought back the tradition of excellence our choral program was known for. Recently, his chamber choir was selected as one of the top choirs in the state of Iowa. He is also always there to listen, even if you are not a member of his choral program.
I am nominating Mr. Luke McGinnis because he one of the best, if not the best, vocal music teacher in Indiana. Mr. McGinnis is the Vocal Music and Piano Teacher at Munster High School where he also serves as the music director for the Munster Theatre Company. Under his direction, the Munster High School Choral Program released its first full-length album Through the Valley (2021) will embark on the first international tour in school history to Austria in June of 2023. His Students routinely receive Gold ratings at Regional and State Solo and Ensemble Contests and are frequently selected for state, regional, national, and international honor choirs. In other words, Mr. McGinnis consistently puts in the hours and works extremely hard to make sure that his students succeed. He truly is a remarkable teacher who is dedicated to furthering the music education of every student he encounters!!
Mrs. Clausen has provided an incredible environment for our choir program. She constantly encourages us to remain true to ourselves as well as to each other. Not a day goes by without words of encouragement from her. She shares endless knowledge on music theory and helps us grow as artists and as people. Every day I wake up and the first thing that I think about is going to Jazz choir and singing with Mrs. Clausen as our director. She helped me discover my passion for music and always is reliant and resilient. Mrs. Clausen deserves this award because she puts so many hours into not only our program at Casteel High School, but the community. She serves as a chairman in the region, the state, and even represents Arizona at the national level. Mrs. Clausen also is the musical director for our theatre program and continues to spread her kindness outside of the classroom. Overall, Mrs. Clausen is no ordinary teacher; she is a mother, a friend, and an inspiration to everyone.
Mrs K continues to go above and beyond for me and all of her students. She offers us countless performance opportunities ranging all the way from a jazz boat cruise to singing at a nursing home. Not only does she offer plenty of musical opportunities she also makes a point to give our choirs the time to bond. Just this past weekend our chamber choir group had our “retreat” and we saw “Into The Woods“ and also went to “Medieval times”. I can’t express how great full I am to have such an awesome choir teacher as her. Truly coming from the bottom of my heart she has shaped me into the person I am today through music and just being there when I need her too. She sacrifices her own time to make these memories for us and we are so grateful for that. We love you Mrs K
Mr. Jarvis has positively impacted the lives of students for over 20 years. He is known for keeping his students engaged in the music while maintaining an environment of positivity and cooperation. I had him as a teacher in middle school and he helped spark hundreds of musical minds. He took over the role of high school choral director in fall of 2021. He was met with the difficulties of change and balance, and dealt with those obstacles using the experience and wisdom passed down to him from his many directors of years past. His humorous demeanor has aided him in being a passionate, and considerate choral director.
Mrs. Cometa is truly one of the most hard-working and dedicated people I know. She has been one of my greatest inspirations in music, and has been incredibly helpful in guiding me on my musical journey after high school. Not only is she a wonderful person, but she has chosen some of the BEST repertoire. Last April, Chamber Choir got the opportunity to sing Eric Whitacre’s Five Hebrew Love Songs with a live string quartet; an experience many of us in the choir will never forget. Mrs. Cometa is incredible at what she does, and our high school is insanely lucky to have her. She always creates a supportive and engaging environment resulting in high level musicianship and connection. I am endlessly grateful to have her as my teacher, and I truly hope she knows how much of an impact she has had on me, my peers, and those who came before us. She is all that I could ever ask for in a choir/theater director, and I hope to be even a fraction of the music teacher she is later down the road.
I have had Mrs. Cometa as a teacher for four years. As a freshman, I was contemplating leaving my school and transferring to another. I felt that I didn’t belong at all. I was in the entry level chorus, and one day we had choral placement hearings. I didn’t know I could sing. When I got a callback for the top choir in our school, one of three freshman girls, I was ecstatic and decided to stay. I didn’t get in that year, but the next year I did. Through the community Mrs. Cometa built, I’ve met my best friends, discovered my own love for music, and now as a senior I know I belong here. Whether I have good news, bad news, or extremely boring news, I can always tell Mrs. Cometa, and she will always listen. I had terrible confidence, I was afraid to stand out, to be myself, but junior year in getting to know her changed me. Mrs. Cometa has fostered an incredibly loving and accepting community, and because of that, I believe she should win teacher of the week (or best teacher ever).
I am nominating Melanie Cometa because She is one of the best music teachers I have ever had. Not only has she offered us many opportunities to take us for tours, but also have new experiences through music. Like how she chose the piece 5 Hebrew Love Songs. Or In our recent choir tour to Philadelphia, where we took first place in every competition. She has tought me and my fellow students the importance of being good musicians and good people. not only has she been the directer that shaped my life she will be the directer that changes generations to come!
Mr. Topping (or as he is known by his students, Topp) is truly a remarkable choir director who consistently impacts our entire local community. Topp leads with strength, humility, and an incredible sense of team work. Every day Topp pushes his students to be their best and always lends a hand when his students’ personal lives get hard. He offers a sense of family that many students don’t get to feel. This year, Topp led one of his choirs, the Chamber Singers, to the PMEA all-states conference. We could honestly never do it without Topp. He believes in every one of us when we don’t believe in ourselves. Thank you Topp for everything you have done for your students. Never stop doing what you’re doing – your passion for your art never goes unappreciated. Thank you. We love you so much and your sparkly shoes!