Sean has been a middle school band director since 2005. He also arranges halftime shows for high schools and colleges across the country. His resume includes commissioned pieces for bands and ensembles. Sean also co-conducts our community band. Sean’s love and knowledge of music is an inspiration to his students and the more mature members of our community band. He pushes us, musically, beyond our expectations which gives us great pride in our accomplishments. Many of his students have pursued a career in music. Sean has a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from his alma mater, Michigan State University, as well as a Master’s in Conducting.
Dr. Stephen Holcomb
Dr. Holcomb is one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever had. Not only dedicated to the music, but more so to his students. He never does anything if he can’t justify it by showing it improves our growth as musicians and as people. He doesn’t allow students to slack off, and he also doesn’t allow students to see themselves as anything but having the potential to change the world. His programming skill is insane. There are good directors, and then there are good directors who are stunning at programming. He is like if Walt Disney were a conductor. He is crazy on all the best ways possible. When he gets that twinkle in his eye, you don’t have any idea where he will take the rehearsal. The man must be nearly 70 but he operates with the speed of a 30 year old. You will not find a single person who has taken him as a choral director who won’t remember him for the rest of their lives. Not only that; he is the kindest man in the university.
Mr. Grayson Mullis
When Covid swept the nation this young director was just hired for his second ever teaching job out of college. Then a few months into the school year the head band director was let go and Mr. Mullis found himself to be the head of bands in the wake of chaos he has stepped up and has helped the band through its toughest year to date.
with the sudden resignation of our main director, mullis – with only 2 years under his belt – had acquired an entire band all to himself. as this was his first year at vhs he didn’t know any students or even the school. when it was just left to him he took all of his students under his wing and gave everything he had into making sure that this band program wouldn’t fall apart. when a student isn’t having a good day, he’s there for them any time of the day. he’s an inspiration to all of his students and more and we all love him more than he knows!
This past year has been wild, with the pandemic, the canceling of so many events, we’ve all endured hardships. Last summer, our former assistant band director moved to a different school, and Mr. Mullis was hired. Long story short, our band director just randomly didn’t show up again at school without a word as to why. We were told he wasn’t coming back. Since then, Mullis has taken up the role all on his own in only his second year of ever teaching. With him leading, I feel like our band program here at Veterans High School has ascended to new heights and he’s done an incredible job that I honestly don’t think anyone else could have managed to do. I stand by that statement wholeheartedly. He’s an inspiration to all of us, and an amazing musician who I think deserves a little recognition.
When Covid swept the nation this young director was just hired for his second ever teaching job out of college. Then a few months into the school year the head band director was let go and Mr. Mullis found himself to be the head of bands in the wake of chaos he has stepped up and has helped the band through its toughest year to date
His position as band director was thrust upon him with no warning this year, and he has handled it with outstanding grace. He is the most genuine and open person I have ever had the privilege of learning under and has taught all of us to have patience, dedication, and purpose in and outside of band.
Mr. Mullis was hired this past July as our Assistant Director. He came to us as a second year teacher. One month into an already challenging start to the school year, our band suffered the sudden departure of our Head Director, leaving Mr. Mullis to not only run the regular band program under ever changing COVID conditions, but also lead the marching band through a full football season, holiday concert performance (via live stream) and preparations for Large Group Performance Evaluations. Through all of this, Mr. Mullis has been a calming, steady presence for his students during a year that has been anything but calm and steady. As parents, we are so grateful to him for stepping up to care and lead our children! Mr. Mullis is beyond deserving of this honor.
He is just the most outstanding person to give all the confidence and motivation we as band students need in such a difficult year. The passion, care, and dedication to this band program is immaculate!
He has risen to the challenge of not only being a first year high school director but also being one during a pandemic and has soared above expectations. He blesses his ensembles everyday with his knowledge and experience and seeks to show them everything he knows. He is always open to listening to their personal issues and wants every player to leave his program better.
We lost a band director this year and he was thrown into his position, but he has never let his student down. Through all of this year’s challenges he has supported us and been there when we needed him.
He’s pretty wicked considering the fact that he got dumped a bunch of responsibility after being a teacher for only a month. He’s pretty epic if you ask me.
Mr Mullis came into our program as a young assistant band director, trying to get a fresh start in his career. Our head director resigned, and Mr Mullis had to take the responsibility of running a band he just met. And still, despite all the odds, he took the risk and kept on going. He has shown the band compassion, understanding, and a joy for conducting. He truly has passion in what he does, and has given a new meaning of band for me.
After two band directors left us , Mr. Mullis stepped up and has not once left our side, in just one semester he’s manage to become our best friend and a role model to all of us. Our program was an inch away from ending and mr. mullis saved us and sacrifices so much for us everyday, after so many people have let us down.
Mr. Mullis is a new teacher at our school this year, and he has not only done a consistently incredible job, he’s done so with so much more than he signed up for being unexpectedly put on his plate this year. He was hired as an assistant director, but when our other director who was in the lead unexpectedly had to leave the school, Mullis stepped up and took the lead of our marching and concert band. He helped all of us get through the emotional pain of losing an important teacher and has all around cared for us in our musical, academic, mental, and emotional well being. He did all of this as a second year teacher, with this year being his first year in high school, not to mention in the middle of a global pandemic in which all expectations of school life have been flipped upside down. The challenges that Mullis has faced this year are way more than should be asked of anyone, but he has excelled in every way as a teacher, and he has shown outstanding leadership and adaptability.
Mr. Mullis is a phenomenal teacher. He has done so much for the program through losing two band directors and the pandemic. He’s made everything so much easier on all of the students and will continue to do great things for the program.
During his first year teaching high school band, Mr. Mullis has made an exceptional first impression on our band family and I couldn’t be more proud of his hard work and dedication. Mr. Mullis has taken the unexpected lead as head band director and handled it with such grace and resilience that I didn’t think anyone could possess. He always pushes us to go above and beyond but is also very understanding when we fall short. As a second year band director, Mr. Mullis always looks for ways to perfect his teaching and that shines through everyday in class. I couldn’t be more proud to have such an amazing director and friend.
We lost a band director this year and he was thrown into his position, but he has never let his student down. Through all of this year’s challenges, he has supported us and been there when we needed him.
Mr. Mullis came into our school in his second year of teaching and became acting band director. He not only did his job but excelled. He’s become such an amazing person to look up to as an educator and a person. He works so hard and cares about every student who walks through the band room doors. He is extremely understanding and always is willing to talk to you about anything.
Because we lost both our band director and our assistant band director this year and he was there for us, both physically and emotionally. He’s very understanding and loves his job. He pushes us to succeed but also is very big about us checking in with ourselves and making sure we’re okay emotionally during this rough time. He’s quirky and fun and just the overall best teacher I’ve ever had.
Mr. Gregory Conway
I am nominating Mr. Conway from Hopkins Jr. High because his music program, although going through many hurdles and challenges from funding, etc., has still emerged as one of the best and most loved music programs in the nation. He spends nearly all of his days nurturing his students and is approachable, understanding, kind, and caring. Students would fight over who gets to help him, in and out of class. Our music class was always our favorite. During break, students would gather to help him clean and rearrange the music room, and his classes and trips have formed unbreakable bonds between us. Many of us have found our love for music in his class. Mr. Conway challenges us, encourages us, and truly teaches us. From extra rehearsals, helping with recording All-State auditions, personally driving students to honor ensemble rehearsals at 5 AM, posing for funny pictures with us on trips, every memory is treasured by each and every one of us. He truly goes up and beyond his job description.
I am nominating her because even through the pandemic, Julia worked day and night to be there for her students and make the virtual choir experience something positive. She has personally been there for me through a lot during this pandemic and never failed to check in on me if she noticed something off. She truly has a love for her job and for her students and I am so very thankful for all the work she has put into our choir department.
Dr. Amy Knopps
Dr. Knopps has gone above and beyond for us at the University of Missouri. She is in charge of Marching Mizzou and this year she fought for us to have as Normal of a season as possible. She worked so hard for us to have a fantastic season dispite the limitations that we had in place. Shes always enthusiastic and cares deeply for her students. Shes offered to have one on one Zoom calls just to talk to her about how we were feeling about anything. She even helped me personally through the loss of a close family member. She is very passionate about what she does and all around an absolutely fantastic educator.
Gorringe is an amazing choir teacher, for as long as I have been in the Decatur concert choir (I’m a junior so 3 years) he has created a fun and hardworking environment where every student’s contribution is valued with utmost importance. We have sang 3 Whitacre prices during my time in this choir and Gorringe has made singing them an absolutely amazing experience. He has taught me so much about my own love for music and has provided me with a place to truly be myself.
Gorringe has been teaching at Decatur high school for 25+ years and all of his students absolutely love him. He currently teaches orchestra, women’s choir, jazz choir, concert choir, and guitar. Gorringe has created a community at Decatur where people can come and share their passion for art and music. Over the years in his program I have grown not only musically but also as a person and I have made lifelong connections and friends. To Gorringe the music department is more than just a program it’s a family.
He is what I strive to be. He’s a father figure to me. In dark times when I didn’t know what else to do he was there for me. He showed me the wonders of music and the healing that is accompanied with it. He puts his all into every student he teaches. He just shows this trait that you don’t see in people anymore.
Shane Adams (U.S.A)
I haven’t met a better teacher in my whole life. It was 2011 and I was in Japan studying in Berklee College of Music Online in one of his harmony classes. I kept writing song ideas every week and he’s been putting so much of his time and effort to analyze the harmony for me. It was such a difficult time during Japanese tsunami. I was so scared and we were siting on skype talking about music. He asked if I shouldn’t be taking precausions instead of attending his classes. I said that music is more important. He always admired me and this is how I learned so much in his classes. He was the most amazing teacher ever!
Ms Croft is only a third year teacher but she exemplifies what a music teacher should be. Despite teaching virtually and hybrid this year she maintains relationships with her 500+ students and creates safe spaces for her k-5 kids. Her grasp of musicianship and pedagogy is unparalleled. Her classes are filled with love, music and laughter and are most surely the highlight of her students’ week.
Mr. Williams, our choir teacher, has given us such wonderful opportunities in music. He pushes us everyday to do our best, critiques us, and cheers us on. We were able to go to the Whitacre Workshop in Atlanta right before the country got shut down because of him, and I’m so grateful for that experience. He’s always so real with us, always himself and takes time to listen to our personal issues if we have them. I couldn’t ask for a better choir teacher.
Mr. Williams is the choir director at Veterans High School. Mr Williams is an inspiration to every single person that meets him. He creates a very friendly and safe environment. He is there for his students to teach and to listen when he is needed. He is the best teacher I have ever had and has taught me so much as a singer and person. He is so energetic and believes in us even when we don’t. He submitted a recording for the gmea conference and qualified as a mastery choir. Even though we were unable to attend in person he hasn’t wavered in creating music to perform and record even though the recording date for it has been pushed back because of quarantines. He has inspired me with his love of music and now I am planning on becoming a music educator. He is the best choral director I have ever met and an even better person.
Ms. Lydia Smith-Lockwood
Ms. Lockwood is such an inspiration as a teacher and human. She is a classically trained concert pianist originally, but now dedicates her life to teaching high school choirs and associated music courses. She is the director of Choirs at Upper Arlington Schools in Columbus, OH. Ms. Lockwood brings such a different approach to high school education because of her past experiences. In addition to her Masters in Piano Performance, she also studied at the Mozarteum in Austria and was awarded the Yale Outstanding Music Teacher award. Comfortable on the stage as well as in the classroom, there just simply is no one like her! In addition to her exceptional talent as a musician and teacher, she is an equally amazing human! She is always there to provide advice and always lighten the mood. She truly cares about her students and that is why Ms. Lockwood is one in a million.
James (in the UK) hasn’t been teaching cello long but has managed a 100% pass mark for his pupils, he has only had a laptop for a short while but was already making ‘lockdown’ films on his iPad. He’s developed great techniques and rapport with his students and just recently his ABRSM Grade 7 student got a high Merit, having gone from Grade 6 standard only in 6 months. I’m a proud Mum!
Dr. Matthew Fritz
Dr. Fritz has been my favorite professor at Elizabethtown College since I started here as a freshman. He has always created and fun, safe space for his students and shared his love of music with us. I have always said concert choir is the best part of my week and many of my classmates agree. Dr. Fritz has a heart of gold and is an incredible educator and over all an amazing human being. I think he deserves to be acknowledged for all he has done for his students!
Mr. Betz, the choir director at Stagg High School in Palos Hills, IL, goes above and beyond every day to make each of his students feel special– both virtually and in person. While excelling as both a musician and a teacher, Mr. Betz is a safe haven–his door is always open to talk, and he genuinely cares about student success as both musicians and as growing young adults. While the pivot to virtual learning has been tough, he has come up with clever ways to keep students engaged. Several Wednesdays per semester are deemed ‘Open Mic Days’, where students can perform anything they’d like for one another. It keeps their creativity alive and creates a fun-filled day of learning and entertainment. He worked with his extra-curricular Madrigals choir to design logo sweatshirts and drove to many of their homes to personally deliver the final product. He has built the Stagg choir community into a positive group of engagement and passion, and the program is so lucky to have him!
Robin Hughes, retiring this year after an amazing teaching career, inspires every student to be their best, step up and show everyone who they are and who they can be. She never stops looking for opportunities for her singers to build and develop their musical and personal character. Robin has been a leader in the Minnesota choral community, serving on boards, creating events that connect community and choirs and raising funds for community groups that support teens. Amidst the COVIC-19 pandemic, Robin has not had the opportunity to close her final year with her favorite concerts, events, a choir trip to NYC and celebrating the end of the year with her seniors. So, she did what she always does…found a way to honor each senior individually. Taking 4 days to drive around town, Robin delivered robes for senior photos and visited more than 100 choir members at their homes, often singing with them one last time.
Mrs Dupuis puts her heart and soul chorus. She creates a safe , open , loving and musical space through choir . She constantly gives me life advice and guides me , and many others. Mrs Dupuis has touched my life and multiple other students/peoples life forever . Hartselle High School is forever blessed by her presence.
Amy Neal is my choir director at Forsyth Central high school. I’m nominating her because she has done incredible work not only to grow our program, but to support my individual endeavors in music. She is one of the people who has fostered my love for choral music since we met 3 years ago, and it’s an honor and a privilege to have her as my director.
Robin Hughes; Director of Choirs at Mankato East High School
Robin Hughes is always looking for new and exciting ways to give her students rewarding and memorable opportunities. In addition to traveling with her high school choirs every 2 years she connects them in collaboration with other choirs around the state of Minnesota including The Gustavus Choir in southern Minnesota to choirs in Duluth to the far north. Mrs. Hughes also helped bring together 4 area public, private and community high school choirs in an annual concert event that collects donations for a teen drop in shelter. She is the picture of passion and compassion!
Mr. Gress is a phenomenal choral director, teacher, and mentor. His kindness, patience and resolute faith allow him to brighten the lives of every student he had ever taught. Most students, entering the Church Farm School, had never sung in a choir before in their lives, but after one year, they would have developed a genuine appreciation for music-making, and would look forward to coming back next year. He believes in the potential within each of his students, and works tirelessly to cultivate that potential within us. For me, being in choir with Mr. Gress had been the definition of a life-changing experience. From not being able to match pitch in the beginning, I am now deeply passionate about choral music and intend to pursue music as a career, all thanks to Mr. Gress’s guidance and mentorship. We love you Mr. Gress! Thank you for all you have done for the CFS Choir and Singers. You are truly amazing.