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Teacher of the Week

On a daily basis, I am blown away by the work of educators the world over. Not only am I lucky enough to have crossed paths with inspirational teachers throughout my life but many of you share your stories of incredible people you’ve had the joy of encountering – people who are changing the world one student at a time. Every Thursday, I will share a new “Teacher of the Week” and invite you to submit your nominations.

Your Nominations

Dr. Michael G. Martin

“If you need me up there to perform, then I didn’t do my job.” Dr Martin told this to the Hilliard Darby Symphonic Choir in 2007 as we were struggling with a piece and about to rehearse it without him in the room. Dr. Martin has no idea of the impact this statement made not only in my life as a musician, but in my career as I learn to grow and mentor others in a corporate setting. I know I never would have sang at Carnegie Hall without his musical influence in my life. He cares about the growth of his students, letting them take the reigns as musicians to find their voice. Oh blessed am I that I may sing. Thank you, Dr. Martin!

Mrs. Yvonne O’Dea

Mrs. Yvonne O’Dea is tremendously talented and loves sharing it with her students by inspiring them on a daily basis to be the best musicians they can be. Music has always been her passion from an early age where she went on to study it at Ithaca. She has been a High School Choral Director for many years and loves her job with all her heart. The unique bond she creates with each and every student is incredible. Mrs. O’Dea has the biggest heart and works hard by directing various choral ensembles. With all of her hard-work and talents, her students will be traveling to perform at Carnegie Hall this year. It’ll be the experience of a lifetime all thanks to this amazing lady. We appreciate everything you do. Thank you Mrs. O’Dea for always making the choir room a forever home and our happy place.

Martha Miller (U.A.E.)

I have been a choir student for Mrs. Miller since the sixth grade; I am currently a senior. If this doesn’t show how amazing she is, then I would like to put out there that because of her, I pushed myself as a musician to be selected in ACS’s audition-only choir: Chamber Choir. Mrs. Miller is truly one of the most warm-hearted, passionate and positive people I have met in my entire life. She has pushed me to be a better musician and has helped me truly appreciate the richness in music. Mrs. Miller’s connection to music is something undeniable and refreshing, she inspires me to be my best self. In college, Mrs. Miller was apart of the top choral program. Her choir traveled all over the United States to participate in choral festivals. One very memorable experience was in Los Angeles; Mr. Whitacre watched her choir perform Lux Aurumque. I think that Mrs. Miller has truly highlighted the beauty music has, and the stories that can be told all within one to two chords.

Mr. Benjamin Lupo

Not only is Mr. Lupo very kind and caring to his students, even going out of the to help us with subjects that didn’t relate to music, but he also made a major change in my life. Thanks to him, I fell in love with choir that helped make me the decision to major in voice performance at the Ohio State University. He helped me audition for numerous honors choirs such as one going to Carnegie Hall and one that toured Europe. I will never be able to thank him enough for the change he’s made in my life. Mr. Lupo is such a blessing!

Steve Durtschi

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.

Steve Durtschi

Steve Durtschi is one of the hardest working teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. His dedication to his students and the art of Choral conducting is unparalleled. During my time working with Steve Durtschi I learned so much about musicality and appreciation for the benefit of hard work. Steve Durtschi has been teaching all Choral and AP Music Theory classes at Timpanogos High School since 2010. During his time there his choirs have achieved the highest ranks possible at festivals they’ve participated in.

Mr. Robinson

Mr. Robinson is the highlight of everyone’s day every day. He is the kindest director I have ever had. For many of us he is more than a teacher or director, he is a good friend. Mr. Robinson is always pushing us to do our best, but in a fun and kind way. He challenges us and makes us want to be as great as we can be. He also very humble. If we don’t do well at competition he puts it all on himself and tells us he is sorry he didn’t do something different, which personally I think takes some guts even if he isn’t right about it being his fault. Mr. Robinson really knows a lot about music and he always wants to teach us a new thing to make us better.

Richard Medrano

With his open heart and musicality, Rich has given back to the community. He conducts with the City of Angels Community Choirs in Granada Hills, CA. This community choir includes the Master Chorale, as well as Children’s Choir. His emapthy and open arms invite you to join not only a group of singers, but a family – a humble family that creates wonderful music for the community. Rich has given the choir the opportunity to go Christmas caroling at a local hospital each year in December. He has also dedicated a concert for the children and has raised money for children’s scholarships. Rich has dedicated engraved hand bells of those who lost their lives in Sandy Hook.

Andrew Robinson

Mr. Robinson came into Munster High School my freshman year, and completely changed my outlook on music, and I know he has with so many other people. Everyday he sacrifices so much for our choirs, and always wants the best for every single student. He has a personal connection with every kid, and finds the best opportunities for us, one including us going to Carnegie Hall to be conducted by Mr. Whitacre himself. He has taught so many of us about compassion, and how music can be a way of expressing ourselves. He is the most honest man you will ever meet, and can teach you what it means to be in a choir.

Mrs. Kristen Johnson

Mrs. Johnson isn’t just an incredible music teacher, but also an incredible person. Mrs. J takes the time to get to know every single one of her choir students, even if it’s just talking to them after class. Mrs. J cares so much about every single one of her students, and she lets them know that. My freshman year of high school, we were both new kids, you could say. She was a new teacher in a school, and I a new student. The previous teacher had left her mark, and constantly Mrs. J would hear “That’s not how we did it before,” and would constantly be reminded that she was new. But she learned, she became a better teacher and person, and now she’s making her mark. I cannot thank Mrs. J enough for everything she’s ever done for me. She gave me a place to call home when my house wasn’t safe. She gave me a place to laugh, cry, and feel emotions I thought weren’t possible in my life anymore. Thank you Mrs. Johnson, you saved my life.

Wesley Singleton

Wesley Singleton is the epitome of a life-changing teacher! He never lets his choirs be anything but their absolute best and promotes a humble personality all of the time. He pushes us all to never stop working and always find ways to improve. Mr. Singleton makes Choir a positive community for everyone and causes his students to be passionate about music. Finally, he works EXTREMELY hard, yet he never expects any praise.

Hope Milthaler

Mrs. Milthaler is a dedicated choral educator and friend. She is by far the smartest person I have ever met, with the most conducting savvy, theoretical knowledge, and pure vocal talent I have ever encountered in a single human being. She is an amazing teacher not only because of her extreme musical awesomeness, but because she inspires every student, no matter how hard it may be. She helps students in need, emotionally, spiritually, and even financially. Her choir program turns no student away, even in extremely difficult situations. Mrs. Milthaler deserves the world, and as students, we can never repay her for the her incredible impact on our lives.

Mrs Anne Williams

Mrs. Williams works so hard on make sure everything is perfect. Mrs. Williams makes sure her students know what they’re doing. Not only is she a teacher, but she’s in a choir herself. Mrs. Williams works hard on fixing the mistakes that are made so we can sound right. Mrs. Williams teaches at two schools. She teaches at a middle school and a high school. She takes us to festivals and big sing california. Mrs. Williams Takes time to teach her students music theory. Mrs. Williams is one of the most hard working teachers and she takes faith in what she is doing.

Jason Bean

Mr. Bean prepares us, as highschoolers, to sing at the collegiate and professional level. However, what he has taught us more importantly is compassion and perseverance. Regardless of what is going on in his life outside of the class room, he goes above and beyond for his students. Anyone that gets to be a part of the choral program has a family that will truly be there for them through all of lifes challenges, and we have Mr. Bean to thank for that community and support. He truly changes lives one student at a time. Thank you for everything, Mr. Bean.

Dr. Egidijus Kaveckas (Lithuania)

Egidijus Kaveckas, Artistic Director of Bel Canto Choir Vilnius, 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.

Dr. Stephen Bolster

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.

Ms. Lisa Faletto

Ms. Faletto is the director of choirs at Kankakee Valley High School and is the most gracious, kind, and positive woman I’ve ever met. She is a brilliant woman who knows exactly how to push you to be the best singer you can be. Ms. Faletto has built an amazing choral program during her time at KV, and I feel proud to have been part of her building blocks. Her wisdom and expertise have inspired every student she’s taught–personally, she’s the entire reason I wanted to be a teacher. She’s passionate and wants to unlock that passion in other people, and she always, always has a smile on her face. She’s the gold standard of choral directors and I hope I can be half as awesome as she always was!

Mr. Mathew Krage

Mr. Krage has close to tripled the size of the choir program at Virginia Secondary School since he started. He has also brought a new level of intensity and persistence which keeps the high school kids engaged in their learning and striving for perfection. He also seems to balance his life in such a way that allows him to successfully direct a community choir, a high school musical, a community musical, and put together presentations for the ACDA Minnesota Conference. He has raised the level of musicianship on the Iron Range and continues to grow and build a superb choral program.

Kathy Cunningham

Kathy Cunningham has been the Choral director at Gladwin High School for the past 20 years and has brought our program from one of the lowest ranked in Michigan to one of the highest. Her constant encouragement, kindness, hilarity and openness make her a great teacher. However, what makes her an amazing teacher is how dynamic and impactful her teaching is. The skillful technique and her constant dedication to new ideas helps Gladwin Choirs create amazing music, and her warmth and comfort helps Gladwin Choirs to become a family. Personally, she has made an incredibly large impact on my life and my career choice. From comforting me after a rough State Choir audition, driving me to rehearsals, helping me improve my solo singing voice, to being able to have intelligent music conversations with students, her teaching has made me become a better musician and person.

Brandon Brack

Brandon is one of the most positive teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. He’s such a warm and inviting person that you can’t help but smile when you come to practice. He always takes into account his singers’ individual strengths and makes sure everyone enjoys the experience. His excitement for music is infectious and I’ve never left rehearsal feeling down. Even on the worst days Brandon has this way of lifting your spirits and engaging you in the beauty of the music.

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Nominate a Teacher

All Honorees

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold

This man is a force of nature. Based in Hannover, he has been involved in music at almost every level in Germany, in the classroom, on the stage, on committees, educating and creating new ensembles, taking them far and wide sharing culture and passion for music. His effusive charm sits alongside a determination to see each individual fulfil their dreams and potential.

Klaus-Jürgen, I thank you

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

Adam Orban or “Master Orbiwan” as we called him (if you’re a Star Wars fan you’ll get it,) was my high school choir teacher and has been one of the most influential people in my life and countless others. He taught me in chorus and music theory from 7th Grade through high school. I owe him an incredible gratitude for being one of the people to understand me for who I was and who broke my shell wide open and forced me to do things out of my comfort zone. He saw an awkward, shy 7th grader who wouldn’t speak up in class even if called on, and saw potential in him. His passion for choral music was also contagious. In his time in Sheldon, IA, he took our small choral program to unimaginable heights. At the height of the program, the jazz and show choirs got consistent 1st places and the concert choir was getting straight perfect scores at state contest. I am proud to say I am now a choral director myself and get to call him a colleague and a friend. He truly changed my life.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Adam.

Thank you Jacob for the nomination.

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

This man gave me a most precious gift. He helped me to rebuild my confidence and positivity which means more than I can say. He helped to change the colour and horizon of my world, both for my life and career. He let me know I am stronger than I can imagine. He generously shared his wisdoms and talents with great sense of humour and genuinely engaged the world through his golden voice and his golden heart. He inspired many people to become ‘a better version of themselves’. I will try to pass things I learned from him on to my students as well. Heartfelt thanks to Paul Phoenix – former King’s Singer and now Purple Vocals. You are an incredible man.

With thanks to Mingxia Xiao in Tianjin for the nomination.

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

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

“Everyone is able to sing, there aren’t out of tune people”. – Claudio Silvestri

It’s been a privilege to read the stories of all those who contributed to nominated Maestro Silvestri.

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

Russ Otte (U.S.A.)

Thank you to Peter Hollens for nominating his high school choir teacher, Russ Otte.

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

With an incredible 9 nominations received this week, Amanda Hanzlik – you are our Teacher of the Week.

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

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

For more than 40 years Gary Langford has dedicated his life to music and music education. He was my trumpet and jazz professor when I was a freshman at the University of Florida and through the years he has given so much to so many, in music and just by being a wonderful mentor and human. It was Gary’s honesty that convinced me to change my major from trumpet performance to journalism, and he always was straightforward and kind in his feedback and advice. I went on to have a successful 30-year career as a journalist but never stopped playing or loving the trumpet, jazz and music because of Gary’s undying enthusiasm and spirit. Ask anyone who has met him and they will say the same. Gary is an inspiration to all.

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

Steve Durtschi is one of the hardest working teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. His dedication to his students and the art of Choral conducting is unparalleled. During my time working with Steve Durtschi I learned so much about musicality and appreciation for the benefit of hard work. Steve Durtschi has been teaching all Choral and AP Music Theory classes at Timpanogos High School since 2010. During his time there his choirs have achieved the highest ranks possible at festivals they’ve participated in.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Steve.

Thank you Kris for the nomination.

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

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

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Michelle.

Thank you Chad for the nomination.

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

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

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Emmanuella.

Thank you Aubrey for the nomination.

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

With his open heart and musicality, Rich has given back to the community. He conducts with the City of Angels Community Choirs in Granada Hills, CA. This community choir includes the Master Chorale, as well as Children’s Choir. His empathy and open arms invite you to join not only a group of singers, but a family – a humble family that creates wonderful music for the community. Rich has given the choir the opportunity to go Christmas caroling at a local hospital each year in December. He has also dedicated a concert for the children and has raised money for children’s scholarships. Rich has dedicated engraved hand bells of those who lost their lives in Sandy Hook.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Richard.

Thank you April for the nomination.

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

Sheena is an outstanding choral educator, who’s breathed new life and meaning to students in Bridgeport CT’s inner city high school. After years of budget cuts, music is back: “On Friday mornings, students are serenaded by musical performances as they cue up to go through metal detectors. As people are coming in, security guards are bopping to the music as they check bags.” Sheena has just been awarded Connecticut Teacher of the Year for 2019.

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

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox (U.S.A.)

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox (U.S.A.)

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox, Music Director at Oak Knoll School, has been a part of the music world from her childhood, later studying at Baylor U, and teaching for 40+ years. She fosters a special choral community of singers from grades 7-12, a drama troop, full musical, masses, and two chamber choirs. Service is also one of the biggest aspects of OKS and Ms. Knox’s philosophy. Ms. Knox teaches us to be grateful for our school, one another, and music. She is passionate for the arts and knows the powers of choral music to heal and make community. Music brings her happiness and joy, thus bringing it to students. She aims to better us and implores students, who she calls her children, to be passionate about their dreams. Ms. Knox’s talents are countless: a stunning singer, pianist, and conductor who conducts from the piano bench, never missing a cue while playing beautifully. She is there for all of us. Her light is felt by all. “Ruby” is truly a valuable gem and shining star.

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

Janwin Overstreet-Goode (U.S.A.)

Janwin Overstreet-Goode (U.S.A.)

I met Janwin at TMEA earlier this year and was blown away by the connection that she had with so many former-students across the time we spent together. It’s not a surprise that she’s been honored with the FISD “Making a Difference” Award and the Outstanding Music Educator Award from the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

Janwin – thank you for changing the world, one student at a time.

Dr. Robert Spence (U.S.A.)

Dr. Robert Spence (U.S.A.)

Dr. Spence is an associate professor of music at Elizabethtown College, as well as the director of instrumental studies. He conducts the Symphonic Band and the College-Community Orchestra. In 2017, he was awarded the Kreider Teaching Prize, which is given annually to an outstanding educator at the college. I had Dr. Spence in class during every semester of my college career. He is the prime example of a deeply caring and passionate educator. During his classes, his manner of speaking creates the feeling that he is speaking to each student individually, rather than addressing the group as a whole. He can often be found in his office, essentially giving private lessons to students from his instrumental methods classes. And to top it off, his dry humor is unmatched. Perhaps my favorite memory is his recent comment on my Facebook post, informing friends and family that I accepted a full-time teaching job: “Thank you for your contributions to my future Social Security checks…”

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Robert.

Thank you Abby for the nomination.

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

I would love to recommend Ms. Sandra Chandler, choral teacher and director at Alexander High School, Douglasville, Georgia for this honor. She is a splendid teacher, award winning in her district, and greatly loved by her students. She is a prime example of what ACDA stands for.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Sandra.

Thank you Tim Sharp, Executive Director of ACDA, for the nomination.

Dr. Charissa Chiaravalloti (U.S.A.)

Dr. Charissa Chiaravalloti (U.S.A.)

Dr. Chiaravalloti is the Director of Choral Activities at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. Dr. C, as we call her, is one of those teachers that changes your life. She’s the standard by which you hold all other teachers, even though you know you’re never going to have a director quite like her again. She loves and cherishes music, but she loves and values her students even more. Dr. C supports each and every one of her students, and helps us to grow not only as musicians, but as confident, competent human beings. No teacher has ever changed my life quite the way Dr. C has.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Charissa.

Thank you Allie for the nomination.

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

It was my honor to meet and work with Gregg Breinberg “Mr. B” and the incredible choir, PS22, (from Public School 22, Graniteville, Staten Island, New York) in 2000. Their continued success must surely come from Gregg’s vision, integrity, passion and dedication to young people and music. Each year he auditions children from 10 years old to join PS22 from the school’s wide cross-section of ethnic groups and socio-economic levels, encouraging them to sing as one and express themselves through music. The emotion is palpable, both listening to them and watching them. Mr. B and PS22 have had truly massive success on YouTube, appeared at the Oscars, the White House, on the Oprah Winfrey Show and with Katy Perry and more. Crucially, this team of engaging super-talented young people rehearse twice a week in term-time and sing at school and local events. Mr. B, you are an incredible force for good in an area that continues to face huge challenges.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Gregg.

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

George Hattingh Jr has been a big part in making the dreams of thousands of aspiring sound engineers, including myself, come to life. He is a lecturer and a director at the Academy of Sound Engineering in Auckland Park, South Africa. He is a mentor to me and one of my biggest role models.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you George.

Thank you Ethan for the nomination.

Mr. Chris Wing (U.S.A.)

Mr. Chris Wing (U.S.A.)

As the band director and head of the music department at Greenfield-Central High School, Mr. Wing built a phenomenal marching band and a spectacular concert band program from the ground up. Starting with a horn line that totaled fewer members than the current woodwind section, he pushed through adversity, giving every member the knowledge they needed to thrive, and continues to strive, not for trophies or medals, but for improvement and exceptional performance individually and as a group. He will be the first to admit that if there are points available, he wants them all. However, his desire for the Greenfield-Central Cougar Pride Marching Band to be the best it possibly can overrides his competitive nature, and he implores us to focus on how we improved over how we placed.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Chris.

Thank you Elysabeth for the nomination.

Dr. Angela Broeker (U.S.A.)

Dr. Angela Broeker (U.S.A.)

Dr. Broeker is the most loving and generous human being and an incredible Choral music educator. She teaches with such kindness, empathy and grace and is an inspiration to all of the students she comes into contact with. After two weeks of graduate conducting this summer, she gently reminded our class “You are enough. As you already are, you are enough.” Her belief in each of her students is so encouraging…and she is a brilliant musician to boot!

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Angela.

Thank you Coleen for the nomination.

Dr. Cara Tasher (U.S.A.)

Dr. Cara Tasher (U.S.A.)

Dr. Cara Tasher, the brilliant Director of Choral Studies at the University of North Florida, has a tradition with her choir called “hot seat.” (That’s Dr. Tasher in the photo, second from left). She and her singers sit in a large circle surrounding a single empty chair. One by one a student comes to the center of the circle, sits down, and closes their eyes. As soon as they sit the people surrounding them gently bombard them with positive adjectives about their character. “Funny.” “Gracious.” “Generous.” “Confident.” “Beautiful.”

The person in the center can’t go anywhere – they must sit and listen to their friends and colleagues sending wave after wave of positive, specific reinforcement describing who they are and what they mean to the tribe. The overall effect was gorgeous, uplifting and deeply human, and as I tearfully told them afterwards in the middle of a big group hug, “This is the most choir thing EVER.”

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Cara.