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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

Dayne Newberry

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


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

MaryAnn Brilleslyper

Dr.B is one of the strongest people I know. After being diagnosed with cancer, she still made her students her priority. Less than a week after having chemo therapy, she ranked all superior in competition. She is amazingly talented and one of the best directors I have ever worked with. She shaped me into the musician I am today but did it with love and support.

Mr. Adam Wright

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

Erik Reinhart

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

Stephanie Williamson

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

Kristen Morrison

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

Sarah Gallop

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.

April Marie

April is choral director for fifth and sixth grade in a title one school. This program was in sad shape when she took over, four years ago. Since her arrival they have garnered nothing but superior ratings at festival. And have won best in show and best in class. She also, this year, organized the first choral festival ever run in this school district. It was amazing! Her children adore her and have constantly come back to help her with field trips and the festival. I have never seen so many students so eager to give up their time to help a former teacher. Her own words about the Choral festival. “It was long day filled with purpose, beautiful music sung by such precious musicians, and new beginnings. The meaning behind this event was to give students the opportunity to perform in a beautiful space and come to realize what a joy the choral experience can be. I pray all of our students were able to walk away with a renewed passion and love for singing.

Stephen Cook

I am nominating Mr. Cook because he’s the most knowledgeable, understanding, and helpful teacher I’ve ever had and probably also human in the world. I swear he knows every piece of music ever played and is so willing to help anyone who asks for it, as any amazing teacher should. He’s so passionate about what he does and truly puts that into all the work he does, whether it’s freshmen, or seniors. Some teachers I’ve had answer your questions with another question or belittle you to make you feel stupid but I always have felt that Mr. Cook acts out of a love of spreading musical knowledge rather than because of an obligation to do so, and will give you tips, videos to watch, and personal experience to help you overcome the issue. He’s so deserving of recognition for it, in my opinion and has shaped my high school career for the better.


He is an incredible musician, teacher, mentor, and person that completely exceeds every expectation that has been set. He goes out of his way every day to make sure his students understand music to their full abilities.


Some teachers teach students how to play music. Mr. Cook teaches students, myself included, how to feel and to love music. As our school’s associate band director, he has brought so much joy to my friends and I, and he has made music more than something we mindlessly play, but something we emphasize with. As my music theory teacher last year, his passion for the subject encouraged me to not just want to pass tests, but to search for the emotion in the music we analysed. Our band loves and cherishes the time we have had with him, and we hope that he will be recognized for his impact in our lives.


As an orch and band student he really helps me whenever I need it in whatever instrument I have he makes learning fun and exciting plus he give up some of his summers to be with us in band camp and if that isn’t devotion I don’t know what is.


Mr. Stephen Cook has always been there for his students he is funny, kind and thoughtful. He has always tried to inspire his students by telling them how he grew up and explained his journey into becoming a musician. Mr. Cook as said has always been there for his students, and there he’ll stay.


Mr. Cook has inspired me in a variety of ways. He’s always the teacher you can go to if you don’t understand a rhythm or how a piece of music is supposed to sound. He’s always so involved, whether it’s during marching season or concert season. He looks out for all of the band kids, and even kids who aren’t in band. Like his orchestra kids, or just all the students at Boone in general. Mr.Cook has impacted my life for the better. When I first started marching and playing in a big band setting, he was always there when I had questions on how to march and listen to drum line as well as playing my instrument at the same time. Mr.Cook is big on improvement and will let you know if you’re improving. He’ll also provide tips on how to get a better tone, or how to get into Wind Ensemble if you want to.


I believe that Mr. Cook deserves this nomination because he is a very great instructor. Not only am I saying this because he is my teacher but also because he also cares about his students individually. He makes sure that we are all progress uphill and is there for us when we need him. He is also a trustworthy adult that is easy to talk to.


He has demonstrated leadership and having fun. My experience with this teacher has been nothing but good things. He shows that he is good with kids and has fun with his job.


Cook is a special person indeed. While he pushes us to strive to our best he does in the most comedical way possible. It takes a very special person in order to teach in a fun way and I believe no person can do it better than Cook. If I’m going to write cards to a teacher, it will sure be him.


he connects with students on a really personal and inspirational level. he is one of the most open teachers I have ever had. I’ve now graduated, but he and I reach out to each other regularly and I always feel like I have him on my side. he’s always ready to hear me play or do mock auditions and give advice, or just talk about life. he also taught me so much about music theory and made it really easy to understand.


I am nominating Mr. Cook because he is the reason I continued to play clarinet. When I was in middle school, he would come over from the high school I now go to and help the three clarinets my class had. Later, he was a welcoming instructor and urged me to do marching band! This is my 7th year playing, as I’m a senior, and I owe it all to him! Not only is he an amazing teacher and conductor, but an incredible person and truly kind individual! I really want to thank him for all the hard work he does for the band program and for all the motivation and music he’s brought to my life!


He’s a very funny, loving man and you can see he clearly cares for the students. He goes out of his way to do things.


This man is truly inspiring. So kind patient and funny. He makes teaching so fluid and natural and is so incredibly accommodating. He makes everyone feel so comfortable and ready to play music. Not to mention he not only teaches band but 3 orchestra classes as well. He does it all.


I am nominating Mr. Cook because he works so hard for the band program. He’s a welcoming face and always willing to help, bringing a lot to the Sound of the Braves!


Mr. Stephen Cook is the single-most influential music educator that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from. He is incredibly passionate about inspiring youth through music, and I feel extremely lucky to be one of those kids. Truly, his support has touched my life and I will be forever grateful.


I am nominating this teacher because he be doing the most for his kids. He never gives up on kids and make sure they practice so they can strive to do better. These type of teachers who care for their students and really try for them to get somewhere is what the standards in this education needs to improve on.


Mr cook is the most funny and fantastic band director out there, he is passionate and is my favorite person in the world, and everybody knows that he is also a god on clarinet.


Cook is an exceptional teacher. He helps thoroughly in class and prepares us for things in band and out of school. Hes hilarious and hard working, for him and for his students.


I nominate Mr. Cook because he has done so much for us these past few years, he is really good at teaching us music theory and when we have a problem he knows what to do. He also a very fun, loving teacher, he knows when to joke around and when to be serious. Mr. Cook is the best music teacher I have ever had and deserves this. This is why I nominate Mr. Cook.


Stephen Cook is an incredible man. He is clearly passionate about what he does and he never fails to make students infatuated with music. It is impossible to be in a bad mood around him because the energy he has while spreading his love for music is contagious. Without him I wouldn’t be half the musician I am today and I am truly grateful for everything he has done.


I am nominating Mr. Cook because over the last three years in high school he has been the most influential, patient, funny, kind, and talented music instructor I have ever had the pleasure of being a student to. Mr. Cook has been my band director in the schools Concert and Symphonic Bands and he constantly strives to make us the best we can be no matter how much of a struggle us kids can be sometimes. Mr. Cook also runs a lot of marching rehearsals trying to make sure our music and drill is as best as we can get it. Mr. Cook also teaches 3 orchestra classes and 1 AP Music Theory class. I take his AP music class and literally everyday is a joy in there due to his teaching style and keeping us engaged by having fun. All I know is that Mr. Cook deserves this award very much and the Boone High School Sound of the Braves would not be the same without him.


As a graduate of Boone High School, I have to say that being in band all four years was definitely my highlight. One of the reasons for this is due to the fact that I had Mr.Cook as my band director and music theory teacher throughout high school. And while he can be tough on you when learning and practicing, it is not without love and care for music and the student’s progression in their instrument. He always motivated me to be the best at my instrument and to listen to music differently and I will always take what I learned from him with great respect. He continues to be an inspiration for me today in everything I do with music. I believe he deserves Teacher of the Week more than anything and I know it would mean the world to him.


I am nominating Mr.Cook for the tremendous work he puts into both our schools band program, orchestra program, theory program, and the lives of the students. He is always doing something for us, he is one of the most generous people I have met. He is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the work he does and has truly made a deep impact on our band program in the years he’s been here. He always goes beyond the expectation of his job for the student as an individual and for the program as a whole. He always tries to be constructive and help build musical foundation across our school.


I am nominating Mr. Cook because he truly is one of the most passionate and giving band and orchestra directors I’ve encountered. Even after graduating high school, I still feel like I can always come to him for advice, a helping hand, and the resources that I need as a music major. Watching him grow the orchestra program at our high school has been an amazing experience, as he not only teaches students how to play their instruments, but how to love and enjoy music no matter their paths after his program.


Mr. Cook had been a wonderful teacher in Boone High Schools marching program helping us achieve what he thinks to be the best we can be. In our symphonic band he strives for us to be near perfect no matter how tough we can be sometimes. Finally I have Mr. Cook for Music Theory and he is wonderful at teaching that class. I feel like my music knowledge has grown massively due to him. To wrap it up Mr. Cook most definitely deserves to be teacher of the week because he is caring about his passion of music and all the times we’ve shared.


Mr. Cook is an amazing music teacher. He takes the role of our AP Music Theory Instructor, Orchestra Director, and Assistant Band Director. He always is busy helping students, running classes, and rehearsals. He puts so much into both programs and works so hard to improve our music department and he deserves to be recognized for all he does. Even with his busy schedule, he still finds time to be there for his students and is always ready to help or just listen to us. I’ve played music for over half of my life and I have never had another teacher believe in me as much as he has.


I am nominating Mr. Cook because he goes out of his way to help anyone he can. He is one of the kindest, funniest and so helpful. He has helped me become the musician and student I am today and I am so thankful for that. Mr. Cook is someone you can approach and talk about basically anything to and he shows that he really cares for all his students.


A great teacher that encourages a musical drive like no other. A truly great man.


He has been a great deal of importance in my musical career for the last 4years he is a very outgoing, upbeat and enthusiastic teacher and he does nothing but help students and makes them laugh all day long…he will definitely be remembered while I go on later in life…thank you mr.cook

Alex S. Phan

I am nominating Mr. Phan because he has helped me tremendously to find myself as an individual, and to assist me in my development as a musician. Throughout my middle school and early high school years, I have always found myself trapped inside a shell of insecurity of which I could never find a way out. I would always bring myself down, because I couldn’t help but believe that I would never find a path to take in life that would make me truly happy. However, joining choir, and being under Mr. Phan’s enthusiastic direction, allowed me to find what clicked best for me, and what made me most enthusiastic in life. He has helped me thorough some of my toughest times in life without him even really knowing it! Singing in choir is my safe place from all the stress I’ve been undergoing in my junior year in high school, and Mr. Phan has cultivated such a positive and supportive culture in our choir department that I feel like they’re my family away from home. Much love and thanks to him.

Dr. Bret Amundson (U.S.A.)

Dr. Bret Amundson is the Dean of the School of Arts and Letters at the College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth, MN, where he also conducts the Bella Voce women’s choir. I am nominating him because he is truly an amazing choral director and leader. He knows when and how to push people to be the greatest they can possibly be. Bret always knows exactly how to communicate and collaborate with his singers about what it is we are singing about. We’ve witnessed countless audiences come on emotional journeys with us as we explore the boundaries of happiness, praising, hope, fear, heartbreak, and everything in between. He is more than deserving of this acknowledgement. Nominated by: Noelle.


Dr. Bret Amundson is as musically inclined as they get. Not only the Dean of the School of Arts and Letters at the College of St. Scholastica, but also a director of an all-women 40 voice, auditioned, choir on campus. And if that is not enough, Dr. A directs two other local nonprofits—Lake Superior Youth Chorus and Twins Ports Choral Project. He pulls greatness from each and every student and member he works with as well as provides a basis for musical expression. With just a gesture of his hands and movement in his body, the choral sound is completely and drastically changed. Singing under him is one of the greatest joys I have experienced because he provides a platform where growth can and does occur. He is an inspiration to all and deserves to be recognized for all of his hard work! Nominated by: Hannah.


Dr. Amundson deserves this nomination because he gives everything at each and every rehearsal, striving for excellence and teaching us to do the same. Choir isn’t just a class for us; it’s a place to learn, grow, and express ourselves, and that’s largely due to Bret’s influence. He inspires us to become both better singers and better people, teaching us far more than notes and rhythms. Nominated by: Jessica.


I am nominating Bret because he is not only a teacher, but he is also a mentor and friend. He makes all his students feel welcomed and creates a fun atmosphere. I am so honored to be able to have him as a professor. Nominated by: Rose.


I am nominating Dr. Amundson not only for his musical abilities, but for his skill in pulling greatness out of each and every member of his ensembles. In my limited time as his student, I have seen him inspire confidence in people in seconds. The high standards he holds everybody to sets both the individual students and the group up for immense success. His dedication to telling a story through song has transformed the lives of endless singers. When students- of a wide range of ages- reflect on their time is Dr. Amundson’s choirs, his attention to detail and sky-surpassing expectations are just two of many highlights. Dr. Amundson does not simply invest in his singer’s voices and musical talents; he invests in their minds, hearts, and lives. Nominated by: Rylee.


I am nominating Dr. Amundson because he inspires his singers with his musical abilities, willingness to be vulnerable, and dedication to students everyday. No one deserves this recognition as much as this man. Nominated by: Anonymous.


Dr. Bret Amundson is someone I like to think as a diamond in a world of rhinestones, as Dolly Parton would say. I sometimes don’t understand why he stays in Duluth, Minnesota. He’s a part of my life that I’m grateful for every day. He’s pushed me to be a better musician since I was 11 years old, and not only that, but he’s made me a better person. He is a true visionary, and truly believes in his students more than they even believe in themselves. His high expectations and his talent continues to create world class choirs out of middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students. He is truly the best teacher I’ve ever had, and will probably ever have. Nominated by: Sophia.


I am nominating Dr. Amundson for this award because his greatness deserves to be recognized. He is not only an amazing choir director, but a remarkable overall person. I have had the opportunity to be a member of Bella Voce for four years and I have watched him transform many people, including myself. He knows how to push his choirs to levels we never saw possible. The music that we create in our choirs is due to very hard work from each member, but even harder work from Bret’s dedication, precision, creativity, expressiveness, and attention to detail. Not only does Bret allow us to be amazing musicians, but he gives us an environment in which we can be vulnerable and make mistakes. Time and time again he has allowed each of us, and countless audience members, to be transformed by the music and tell each story. I could not think of someone more deserving of this award. Nominated by: Grace.


Dr. A is one of the most fantastic teachers I have ever had. He is inspiring, talented, and incredibly dedicated to helping his students succeed. His positive, get-it-done attitude motivates students to work as hard as they should, and the results are stunning. Beyond that, Dr. Amundson is a wonderful friend to his students. He truly cares about each and every one of them, and I genuinely believe that he always will. His energy and spirit are contagious in the best of ways, and I truly admire his work ethic. I feel as though working with him made me grow as not only a singer, but also as a person, and that is such a rare and important thing. Overall, he is a fantastic human being and a truly amazing teacher, and I believe that there would be no better fit for this award. Nominated by: Kierney.


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.

Ms. Holly Peek

I am nominating Ms. Holly Peek. Although it is her first year music teaching, graduating from the university – where she is now the accompanist – last year, she has already climbed to a highly respectable position : choral director at a high-school with a history of distinguished choirs. She has not let this reputation down this year, regardless of prior years experience, as all of her choirs received distinguished at assessments and competitions! I am not nominating her solely off her extraordinarily long list of respectable music teacher traits, however, I am nominating her because of the person she is. Adorning the skies of her room are a hundred or so origami butterflies filled with compliments from students to other students. That is one of her biggest qualities – having us positively recognize each other and our capabilities. It helps create a choir or supportive members that look to see the beauty of making music, not the strict perfection of it!


She is a wonderful Choir teacher who stepped in just after she graduated. Our past conductor returned to college to fast track her Masters degree and Peek had been a student teacher the year before for our school. We loved her so much that when we learned that we would need a replacement she was the classes top choice. She stepped in knowing that this wouldn’t be her permanent position and that many others would balk at working at a school for only one year, but she took this in stride. She has strived to make this a great year for everyone and especially the seniors who were worried about the traditional ceremonies put in place for years. She has kept an upbeat and bubbly personality and is always willing to learn along with us. We are ever grateful for her support, love, and her willingness to put up with our eccentric class all year.


I am nominating Ms. Holly Peek. Ms. Peek gave me the opportunity to explore the path of directing. I told her I’m a future education major. She has totally let me delve into the world of music at her direction. She’s a lovely person. She knows i have a bit of social anxiety and lets me eat lunch with her before Chamber Choir begins. She’s literally the best teacher. I don’t know if I’d still be majoring in Music Education if it weren’t for her helping me get out of my shell and explore my passion.


Ms. Peek was our student teacher last year; when our long-time teacher, Kelly Clark, won Kentucky Teacher of the Year and decided to leave this year to get her Ph.D. Ms. Peek stepped up and took the job for 1 year until Clark came back. Ms. Peek has given us her all and got us to the state assessment. Ms. Peek is the hardest working person I know, and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. Ms. Peek has tried her best to make the transition the smoothest she could and she has asked us to help her keep all of our many traditions. All I can say to her is thank you.

Mr. Phillip Holthus-Hoover

He works day and night to help middle school and high school students succeed. The passion he has for what he does is truly astonishing and he loves every minute of what he does. The music he gives his students always serve a purpose and he gets a message across with his students by sharing his personal life stories and how connecting to music has helped him. He is not only a role model to his students but also a role model in the lgbtq+ community. He goes out of his way to find ways to fund the fine arts in the school district. Even as an adult I remember how much I enjoyed coming to his classroom, he is the best teacher I had and ever will have.

Mr. David Mead

Mr. Mead is the most dedicated, hard-working man I have ever seen in the school setting. Mr. Mead gives his student endless love and works hard for them and with them, to help them reach their goals. We recently went on a choir trip and during it Mr. Mead worked hard to make sure all his students were happy, healthy and safe. Mr. Mead has worked hard to make our choir the best choir in the district and maybe even the state, achieve 20 years of straight ones at district music contest, get us invited to perform in Carnegie Hall, and many more great accomplishments. Mr. Mead is changing the world one student at a time!

Dr. Dominic Gregorio

Dominic Gregorio was an inspirational leader who took many students under his wing during his life, and sadly unexpectedly passed away in March of 2019. Dominic was my mentor, as I know he was for many musicians, and is the reason why I have chosen to live my life as a choral conductor and singer. Dominic was a brilliant singer and musician, former director of the LA Gay Men’s Chorus, the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Regina, and above all a friend. Anyone that had the honor of meeting this man will always remember the light and love that he radiated, the sense of community that he brought with him, and the smile that could heal any soul. I choose to live by his unwavering wisdom and mantra, “Real love is the only antidote to fear”.

Jason Sickel

I had the honor of having Mr. Sickel as my choir teacher at Blue Valley North High School. Not only was he awarded with Kansas Teacher of the Year, but he is a light and joy that so many students get to experience every day. For instance, he will walk around during lunch and build chords with students (even those who aren’t in choir), as well as rap (yes, rap) about everything from wearing a coat in the winter to our daily agenda in class. Mr. Sickel provides a safe space for all of his students and pushes them to become a stronger singer and person. He has a way of working with students that floods the whole room with energy and excitement. Even on my lowest days, going to choir would always pull me out of the darkness. I am extremely thankful to have had Mr. Sickel as my teacher, and he really deserves to be recognized as much as possible. If you ever get the chance to meet him, I highly recommend it, because there is no other person like him.

Erin Collins

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!


Ms. Collins is the kindest, most hard working individual I have ever come to know. She currently directs four choirs at O’Neill C.V.I’s Performing Arts Program (Ontario, Canada,) but in the past has led up to six choirs at a time while also teaching voice classes, leading choirs outside of school, teaching private lessons, directing musicals, and starring in musicals and being involved in choirs herself. Not only does she posses such deep knowledge of many musical genres, she carries a passion for the arts that is unmatchable, and a kindness and genuine love for all of her students that is rarely seen in teachers. She encourages us to leave our problems at the door and welcomes us into her classroom with an open heart, inspiring us to create the most beautiful music. She is our leader, our mentor, our friend, and sometimes even our second mom. She just radiates with the most amazing energy.


Ms. Collins has made such a difference in my time at o’neill, and is so inspiring! the light she brings to the choir and the school effortlessly brightens the lives of the those around her. Being a part of the O’Neill chamber choir would not be the same without her- going into rehearsal, it’s such a positive space. Everyone is able to leave their troubles at the door and spend time with people they love, doing what they love. Ms. Collins makes it possible for us to have this experience, and for that I will be eternally grateful. She’s such an amazing, caring, compassionate person who deserves the world!


I am a student at O’Neill CVI where I am in the O’Neill Chamber Choir directed by Erin Collins. Since I met her in grade 9, she has had amazing energy and a great love for music. She loves everyone and always helps us improve upon our singing and many other skills. She puts every ounce of energy and strength into every aspect of the Performing Arts program at our school, as well as us as people. She has made a huge impact on my life musically and definitely deserves this nomination.


for her love and dedication to music, and her inspiring energy for artistic action


She is constantly motivates us and pushes us to keep singing, and to never stop learning. She dedicates countless hours of her OWN time to teach us the art of music, and she does an amazing job, all while being a mother, and just a kind human being. She is more than worthy of this award as her work clearly doesn’t go unnoticed from the students.

Jennah Delp Somers

I can say without a doubt that Jennah Delp Somers is the most influential teacher I’ve had in my life. In fifth grade, I joined the organization she co founded, iSing Silicon Valley Girlchoir, and I still find myself counting down the days till our next rehearsal. I know that the minute I walk into the practice room I will be filled with the excitement and joy she radiates. Each time we start singing, I am blown away by her talent and the passion for learning she fosters in us. I swear that it is possible for everything for everything else to disappear when she conducts. She cares immensely about every one of her students, and serves as a role model not just in musicianship, but in leadership, confidence, and being driven pursue your passion. In a world where women’s voices are often stifled or overlooked, Jennah has created a space that encourages young girls to speak out and create change. She has made a supportive community and love of music possible for me and many other girls.


Jennah has been an amazing conductor to me and many other girls in iSing Silicon Valley Girlchoir for 8 years. We are extremely privileged to have a strong, inspiring, motivated, and kind woman as our leader. Jennah is like a mother to all of us, but also shares our young wonder for the beauty of music and its different forms. She will continue to unify and inspire the girls of Palo Alto for many more years.


She always brings her best to practice and encourages her students to push themselves not only musically but also intellectually to embrace their full potential as future leaders, entrepreneurs, and women. She is an inspiration to not only her students but to those who have been lucky enough to get her chance to watch her conduct and bring the magic of music alive.


Ever since joining Jennah’s choir when I was in elementary school, I’ve changed not just as a musician but as a person as well. She cares so deeply about each and every person in the choir and you can really tell how committed she is to the music and to us. I’ve learned how to be a leader and felt more confident in myself because of the things she’s taught me. She is such a role model to me, as a teacher, a mentor, and as a woman in general. Her passion for the music and her excitement for the pieces motivates all of us in the group to strive for excellence and to make beautiful music. I look forward to choir each week and can’t wait to spend more time in the supportive community Jennah has made possible through her joy and commitment to our choir. Through her, I’ve learned to love myself and my voice, and I know that is true for many of the girls in her ensemble.


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 pretense 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.


My choir teacher, Jennah, is incredibly passionate about her music and students, and teaches us to wholeheartedly enjoy singing to the best of our abilities.


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 pretense 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.


Jennah is the best teacher and mentor that I have ever had. She is extremely talented, inspiring, and passionate about what she does. She has given me so many opportunities to grow as a singer and as a person. She challenges us to be our best and cares about each and every one of her students. Joining her choir has impacted my life, and so many other girls like me. It is such a privilege to be in her choir.


Jennah has undoubtedly changed the course of my life during my four years in her choir. She inspires us every rehearsal with her passion and attention to detail in the music. She places tremendous value on each of our voices as soloists while simultaneously helping us to reach new heights as an ensemble. In addition to the countless hours she spends preparing our repertoire and working with us as a group, she helped me to prepare an hour-long senior recital, something I had never really believed myself to be capable of. She has worked tirelessly to give us extraordinary opportunities that otherwise would not be available to us as high school students, and she approaches every rehearsal with a positive attitude and so much enthusiasm. She has made us all better musicians and better people, and she has given me more appreciation for choral music than I ever could have imagined.

Dr Frederick Hemke

Dr Frederick Hemke is one of the most influential person in the world of saxophone development. He inspired and taught over thousands of saxophonists whom you see now around the world. He brought much impact to the saxophone world and he passed away last week on April 17. In memory of him, I would like to nominate as teacher of the week.

Michael Petrossi

Mr. Petrossi was my former middle school band and percussion director. In his multi-decade career at Bethel Park School District, he had overseen and guided the growth of an incredible music program. Mr. Petrossi is dedicated to upholding the tradition, pride, and performance that Bethel Park has. I am nominating him because I have seen the impact he has on so many of his students; myself included. If it wasn’t for him, I dont know if I would have the love for music that I do or if I would have had the courage to pursue music as a college major. Another one of his former students, who he also helped fall in love with music, is now Bethel Parks high school band director. I believe Mr. Petrossi is an outstanding educator, mentor, and friend.

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Nominate a Teacher

All Honorees

Erin Collins (Canada)

Erin Collins (Canada)

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

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

Thank you Recia for the nomination.

Dr. Dominic Gregorio (Canada)

Dr. Dominic Gregorio (Canada)

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

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

Matthew Wanner (U.S.A.)

Matthew Wanner (U.S.A.)

“From the moment you first meet Mr. Wanner, you know there’s something different about him. The care and passion he has for self-expression is evident every day, and it rubs off on every single one of his students. Mr. Wanner does much more than teach music, he teaches his students how to feel and express emotion, how to lift others up, how to be an agent for change in the world. For me and so many other students, current and former, Mr. Wanner is a bright and welcoming light in an otherwise dark and hostile world.”

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

Thank you Lawrence for the nomination.

Valerie Adelung (U.S.A.)

Valerie Adelung (U.S.A.)

Mrs. Adelung makes a really personal connection with her students and you feel a special bond with her. She’s no ordinary teacher, she’s like your school mom. She’s a person that cares about a students way past their education but how they are as a person. She’s instilled a seed of confidence in me that I thought I lost during my years in high school and she really works hard at what she does and deserves a little more recognition than she receives. She’s a wonderful teacher but an even better ‘Mentor’ and she’s truly loved by all that are blessed to have her as a teacher.”

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

Thank you Kaci for the nomination.

Spencer Wright (U.S.A.)

Spencer Wright (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you Kenna for the nomination.

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

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

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

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

Thank you Ashley for the nomination.

Ernest Brusubardis (U.S.A.)

Ernest Brusubardis (U.S.A.)

“Mr. Brusubardis somehow manages to teach his students about every aspect of life through choir. He is compassionate, understanding, wise beyond measure, and always saying things which inspire, instruct, and stick with you long after graduation. Many a student (including me) will recall being told by Mr. B before a concert that “you can’t make beautiful music until you have a beautiful heart.” We awaited the moment as we sang when he would give us a look as if to say ‘yes, yes there it is. That is beauty.’ Mr. B is a treasure among teachers, and anyone who has had the privilege of working with him is beyond blessed. He is a role model for those who need one, a class act in his customary blazer, and a trove of endless life advice. His love for his students is visible to all who may walk into his classroom. Many people wouldn’t be who they are today without him, and I truly doubt he could ever receive enough recognition to amount to what he has done for all of us.”

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

Thank you Josie for the nomination.

Melynda Lamb (U.S.A.)

Melynda Lamb (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you Christopher for the nomination.

Wayne Lackman (U.S.A.)

Wayne Lackman (U.S.A.)

“Mr. Lackman is the most passionate and caring teacher I have ever had the privilege of being in class with. He is the reason many students attend school on a daily basis because his class brightens everyone’s day. After 30 years of teaching at one high school plus many more at other schools, Mr. Lackman told us he was retiring. After the initial sadness, we were able to secretly rehearse two songs for him at his very last choir concert, where he was able to direct every student he’d ever taught for the very last time. Lackman has changed so many people’s lives, and continues to support and encourage us every day. I am so thankful to have been apart of Mr. Lackman’s choir department, he has greatly impacted the way I see the world for the better.”

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

Thank you Maddy for the nomination.

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

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

Dr. Gackle is a literal angel— I mean it. When we sit in her office and chat I know for a fact that she is heaven sent. She is an incredible choral musician. She programs music in a way that tugs deeply at your heartstrings. She gives music a story that everyone can relate to, or relates it to an anecdotal time in her life. She doesn’t choose music that is emotionless. Every week, I look forward to our Tuesday/Thursday rehearsals so I can continue to fall more in love with choral music and center myself in what the songs make me feel. She is an incredible educator and I am so lucky and grateful to know her.

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

Thank you Madison for the nomination.

Mr. Brent Whitaker (U.S.A.)

Mr. Brent Whitaker (U.S.A.)

“Mr. Whitaker is one of those people that believes that teaching a subject is not just teaching the subject. He would teach us music, but foremost, he taught us about life and how music enforces the lessons we learn in life. Things like discipline, focus, hard work, dedication, active listening, and many more things shaped our choir to become one of the best in the state! I believe that if it weren’t for what Mr. Whitaker taught us, I might have become someone with a lacking in core values as a person. I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I do because I followed his example! He is truly one of a kind!”

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

Thank you Kaitlyn for the nomination.

MaryAnn Brilleslyper (U.S.A.)

MaryAnn Brilleslyper (U.S.A.)

“Dr.B is one of the strongest people I know. After being diagnosed with cancer, she still made her students her priority. Less than a week after having chemo therapy, she ranked all superior in competition. She is amazingly talented and one of the best directors I have ever worked with. She shaped me into the musician I am today but did it with love and support.”

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

Thank you Brittany for the nomination.

Robert Rice (U.K.)

Robert Rice (U.K.)

Very few people — in fact possibly only two — can say that they have taught singing to every member of The King’s Singers at a given time. One of those two was Geoffrey Mitchell, a mover-and-shaker in the London singing scene in the 1960s and ‘70s. Mitchell formed his own choir, which pulled together some of the best singers in London. But he also helped the original members of The King’s Singers to develop their distinctive sound (which had its origins in the sound of King’s College Choir) through coaching and advice, once they were out of Cambridge and making it on the world stage.

The other of these two people is Robert Rice, the UK-based baritone and singing teacher, who teaches many singers from lots of the great British choral institutions and beyond. It is easy to imagine that, for a singer, once a certain level of attainment and recognition has been achieved, the role of a teacher diminishes. Yet even many of the very greatest opera singers in the world regularly receive advice and coaching from teachers, and it is these teachers who keep the singers at the top of their game without letting their work stagnate. When someone’s singing (or anything, for that matter) is of a particularly high standard, the role of the teacher becomes almost more important. It takes a particularly skilled teacher, such as Berty in our case, to have the ability, experience and knowledge to identify and help with any issues the one might be having, and to hear the ways in which the craft can still be honed.

Singing, in particular, is an emotionally charged activity. The intimate connection of a person’s voice to who they are makes teaching singing often a delicate process. As well as being extremely knowledgable, Berty is hugely sensitive and is able to encourage progress in people’s singing without ever making them feel flawed, as it is so easy to do. He is particularly good at combining psychological metaphors and images (which create ‘sub-conscious’ vocal results) with detailed physiological and technical information which helps the singer’s understanding of how their voice works. It is for this expertise that many recent King’s Singers have been drawn to Berty Rice; for those of us with a demanding touring schedule, and a high volume of concerts, keeping one’s voice in good working order and never becoming complacent in one’s work is crucial. One element of Berty’s teaching makes him particularly attractive to members of The King’s Singers; he is able to be flexible in what he teaches and how. The art of blending one’s voice to fit into a recognisable group sound (whilst also retaining its solo character) is a very specific one, and not the typical work of a singing teacher, who may prefer to teach in more soloistic or operatic styles. But finding the common ground between different vocal approaches, and happily adapting to the needs of the pupil is one of Berty’s great strengths.

Not content just to be an excellent teacher, Berty is also an adept arranger of music for voices, and has arranged many songs for The King’s Singers, including some of the group’s most popular numbers. Berty is an inspiring character not just for his skills as a teacher, but as an all-round musician who deals in every ‘section’ of the magical process of music-making: composing, teaching, and performing itself. 

Nominated by Pat Dunachie, Countertenor – The King’s Singers

John Byun (U.S.A.)

John Byun (U.S.A.)

John is one of the best, most dedicated educators I know.

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

EW

Dr. Karen Gardias (U.S.A.)

Dr. Karen Gardias (U.S.A.)

I am nominating Dr. Karen Gardias because she opened my eyes to the beauty of Renaissance music. She is the choral director for three of the choirs at Davis Senior High School as well as the AP music theory class teacher. Dr. Gardias is highly educated not only choral music, but also in music theory. She is so dedicated to making sure her students have a firm music foundation in order to continue to study music or just have a greater appreciation for the art. I have absolutely loved being under her in the Madrigal choir she directs. She is patient, kind, and at the same time, holds high standards for her students which makes all of us strive to do the best we can. She pours out her life for her students and is always available to talk and help us with anything, musical or not.

Sarah Gallop (U.K.)

Sarah Gallop (U.K.)

“Sarah Gallop is one of the most inspirational musicians I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She has a gazillion other jobs but finds time and space every Thursday to lead our small, but perfectly formed community choir in Hadleigh, Suffolk UK. Sarah is a music teacher by day, teaches singing in the evenings and STILL finds energy to lead us all to higher grounds when it comes to singing. She is cheeky, chirpy and full of infectious enthusiasm. Under her direction, the choir has gone from strength to strength, gaining confidence in our ability to bring joy to others through music. It is Sarah’s passion that drives us on to challenge ourselves in performances. We have covered everything from Eric Whitacre’s Seal Lullaby to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, from Orff’s O Fortuna to ELO’s Mr Blue Sky. Onwards and upwards, Sarah G. With heartfelt thanks on behalf of Hadleigh Community Choir.”

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

Mr. Adam Paltrowitz (U.S.A.)

Mr. Adam Paltrowitz (U.S.A.)

“Mr. Paltrowitz, or Pal as the POBJFKHS music department refers to him as, knows what he is doing. For nineteen years he has been developing a very strong and intelligent choral program within the school based on tradition, leadership, and dedication. I have never seen anything else like it in any other program. In addition to the teacher run choir program, he advises 8 student run A Cappella groups, where all the music is arranged, taught, and performed in two concerts all by students. As the leader of one of these mentioned groups, I credit all my skills in arranging, music making and performing to him. Mr. Paltrowitz even creates articles about his specific systems which can be found on Choral clarity, along with original compositions. He is truly a pioneer in the choral education world and no other teacher can compare to Adam Paltrowitz.”

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

Dr. Matthew Erpelding (U.S.A.)

Dr. Matthew Erpelding (U.S.A.)

“Dr. Erpelding’s teaching and leadership brought an inclusiveness and camaraderie to the choral program that was missing. He created an environment where no one is afraid to audition. He always inspires with energy and enthusiasm. Dr. Erpelding teaches every choir he works with to express the emotion of the music and that connecting with the music, the audience, and, most importantly, each other is the key to understanding and performing music.”

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

Professor Angela Tipps (U.S.A.)

Professor Angela Tipps (U.S.A.)

“Professor Tipps is the director of the Middle Tennessee State University Women’s Chorale, and not only has she grown the ensemble from 20 women to over 70 in a few years, she has also taken us to perform at TMEA, ACDA, and at high school’s all around middle Tennessee. She has changed all of our lives for the better and without her my college experience would have been a very different one. She taught me how to love singing again, how to be so in sync with the people around me that it feels effortless. Professor Tipps is one of the crowning jewels at MTSU and she deserves as much recognition as possible for the tireless hours and endless love she pours into her students.”

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

Stephen Bolster (U.S.A.)

Stephen Bolster (U.S.A.)

“With his retirement imminent, I am reminded of what an amazing and beautiful person and teacher Dr. Bolster is. Like many college professors, he is well versed and in his craft and profession, both as a choral director and voice teacher, particularly in his knowledge of repertoire and talent for programming, but what makes him outstanding in my mind is the depth and breadth of his sheer passion for choral music and singing.”


“He is a compassionate, passionate person in everyday life and it comes through in the music he makes. He is like family to me and always made me feel like I mattered.”


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

Jennah Delp-Somers (U.S.A.)

Jennah Delp-Somers (U.S.A.)

Jennah Delp-Somers – thank you for changing the world one student at a time.

“Teaching is not a pursuit to be taken lightly. The knowledge you impart and the manner in which you impart it can alter the way a student regards the world and their place in it–irrevocably. Teaching demands a degree of self-assuredness earned through the mastery of one’s craft, and, in equal measure, a degree of willingness to abandon pretence and revel in shared learning. Jennah Delp-Somers embodies these principles, and as a result, coaxes excellence from her students. This is my seventh and final year as her student at iSing Girlchoir. Under her tutelage, I have grown from girl to a young adult, and have come to recognize the power in vulnerability. Jennah is a force of nature, and all who know her are better for it.” Nominated by Lauren

Dr. Lee Willingham (Canada)

Dr. Lee Willingham (Canada)

After having changed the lives of so many high school students through his incredible choral and band programs, Dr. Willingham continues his musical inspirations at the university level and helps to bring aspiring young singers and conductors and educators to their own high levels of potential. Dr. Willingham was my high school music teacher who brought out the best in me in so many musical facets and encouraged any and all of my musical endeavours. I had the privilege of then continuing to sing with him at a community level where he brought together all levels of singers to sing, travel, record and enjoy the beauty and comradery of choral singing. Thank you, Lee, for everything you have given to all of the singers, students, conductors and educators whose lives you have touched.

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

Martha Miller (U.A.E.)

Martha Miller (U.A.E.)

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

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

Dr. Bret Amundson (U.S.A.)

Dr. Bret Amundson (U.S.A.)

Dr. Amundson received many nominations for Teacher of the Week. Here are a few of our favorites. You can read all the nominations further down this page. Thank you Bret for changing the world one student at a time. 


I am nominating Dr. Bret Amundson because of the incredible impact he has made on my life and countless other people. Not only are his music and teaching abilities outstanding, but he also continuously shows every singer how invested he is in the entire process. In addition to developing our musicianship, Dr. Amundson pushes us to think about how we can take lessons from rehearsal and apply them to everyday life. During every rehearsal he highlights the importance of hard work, dedication, mindfulness, and connecting to the story you are trying to tell. He encourages us to set high goals for ourselves and gives us the tools to reach them individually and as a choir. I am incredibly thankful for what he has done for me as a friend, mentor, director, and fellow music lover. Each day he is making a difference in the lives of many and inspires others to do the same. Nominated by: Madilyn.


I am nominating Dr. Bret Amundson because he has changed the meaning of choir. In rehearsals, he emphasises the symbols and messages found within songs in a way that is truly transforming. These messages accentuate the emotions brought out in our performances, giving each song a unique and personalized experience. Dr. Amundson has incredible faith in his choirs, for he pushes us to do our best in hopes of teaching important messages to our audiences, and in hopes that we will use them to transform our own individual lives. Dr. Amundson has shown that choir isn’t only about vocal technique, it’s about changing the world. Nominated by: Elise.


Dr. Amundson inspires me. Whether to be a better singer or a more authentic version of myself, Bret shows me how to go all in and expect greatness from myself and those around me. He teaches our choir to be intentional with our music, and that we have the potential to spread personally meaningful messages and beliefs through song. Bret has a way of using music to inspire and improve the lives of those around him, myself included. Thank you, Bret, for helping me grow. Nominated by: Liana.

Dr. Egidijus Kaveckas (Lithuania)

Dr. Egidijus Kaveckas (Lithuania)

Egidijus Kaveckas is one of the most dedicated musicians we have ever met. Always fully committed to music, he has taught us, that once everyone is sincerely in it, choral singing becomes magic. Since last year when Egidijus started working with us, we have been motivated by his strong sense of responsibility and great work ethics. A natural perfectionist who believes that true beauty can be achieved, he persuades all singers to get the best out of them. Sometimes, when we receive his emails written in the early AM hours, we wonder if he has stayed awake long into the night, or has woken up very early to work on planning our repertoire and other matters. Despite his almost obsessive work habits and orientation to details, Egidijus is emphatic and friendly, his politeness and “no drama” approach keeps rehearsals cozy and goal oriented. We would like to thank him for being a great musician, teacher, and a wonderful person.

Thanks to Dovile & Evaldas for the nomination

Kathleen Allan (Canada)

Kathleen Allan (Canada)

Thank you, Kathleen, for your dedication to teaching and for changing the world one student at a time.

Heidi Forslund (U.S.A.)

Heidi Forslund (U.S.A.)

Heidi Forslund is a force to be reckoned with. For 7 years, she commuted between two schools, Cavelero Mid High and Lake Stevens High School, so that we could have a strong program in our district. When Heidi arrived at Lake Stevens School District, she had very small numbers at both schools (a mere 25 at the high school) and choir was not a name in our community. For the next 7 years, she worked hard to build structure and family within the district’s choir program. She upped the program’s overall participation to around 190 students with 2 classes at Cavelero, 2 at the High school, and one smaller jazz choir in the morning. Over the years, we have gone on to win many awards and many 1+ scores at both schools. Choir became a known force in the community, one that even band couldn’t overshadow. Heidi is someone else. She taught us values that no other music teacher had taugh me and gives everything she has to make sure choir is a thing everyone wants to be a part of and feels welcome.

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

Thanks to Gaby for the nomination.

Mrs. Wong Lai Foon (Singapore)

Mrs. Wong Lai Foon (Singapore)

The success of the Singapore Symphony Children’s Choir is testament to choral director Mrs. Wong Lai Foon, who has since 2007 built an empire of youth choirs under the SSO banner, inspiring a new generation of choral singers to strive for musical and artistic excellence. The Children’s Choir performs regularly with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and has collaborated with other world-class artists for sell-out performances. Wong is naturally in huge demand within her community for her conducting skills, and she is a joy to work with.

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

Thank you Emily for the nomination.

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold (Germany)

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold (Germany)

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

Klaus-Jürgen, I thank you

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you Jacob for the nomination.

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

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

With thanks to Mingxia Xiao in Tianjin for the nomination.

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

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

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

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

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

Russ Otte (U.S.A.)

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

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

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

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

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

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

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you Kris for the nomination.

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you Chad for the nomination.

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you Aubrey for the nomination.

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you April for the nomination.

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Abby for the nomination.

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Allie for the nomination.

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

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

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

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

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

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

Thank you Ethan for the nomination.

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

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

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

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

Thank you Elysabeth for the nomination.

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

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

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

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

Thank you Coleen for the nomination.

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

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

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

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

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