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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

Mr. Joshua Shafer

This individual is nothing short of a miracle. Mr. Shafer has introduced an outstanding choir program at Liberty High School in Peoria, Arizona, which for many years had no choir program whatsoever. From 10 students to over 100 in the first year, he constantly reminds us of humble beginnings and powerful futures. He is truly an inspiration and will stop at nothing for his students or his passion. Music. We build families. We build cathedrals.

Angela Hampton

Angela Hampton is the choir director at Floyd Central High School. She had devoted an enormous amount of her time while teaching to make sure each one of her students is the best they can possibly be. She genuinely cares about the wellbeing of her many students, and sacrifices countless hours a day to help give them the opportunity to succeed.

Rita M. Stevens

Rita is a retired choral director in the Redlands Unified School District who built an award-winning choral program and has worked with Eric Whitacre professionally. She is currently a home hospital teacher with the district and provides teaching services to those students who are too ill to attend school in the regular classroom. In addition to her prior choral success with students, she is now assisting students who are quite ill at home or in the hospital with their studies so they do not fall behind. She is a remarkable, inspiring educator in our local community of Redlands, California.

Michael Kirk Cundari

Mr. Cundari has been the director at Palm Desert High for 3 years, and has had extensive experience prior to this school. He is a phenomenal choir teacher and guide who always brings an abundance of enthusiasm and eagerness to class every day. My love for music has grown exponentially since I’ve been a student of his, and he has helped me realize that music is more than a concept – it is a universal language that has the ability to change a person’s life through its sheer brilliance and ethereal sound. There is no greater joy than being taught by this man, and I cherish every moment I spend under his guidance because he has made me a better musician and has given me a newfound appreciation for the unmatchable experience that is the world of music.

Dr. Joey Martin

Dr. Joey Martin’s dedication to our program at Texas State is unrelenting, and he not only pushes us to strive toward our best musical selves, but provides us with plenty of loving space to grow as human beings.

Leia Browning

As not only a single mom with two children but a full time teacher as well, she brings joy and energy into the class room even if all of us are feeling down. she encourages us to do our best then takes that and pushes us harder than any choir teacher I’ve ever had. Yet even as she pushes our singing she always makes sure that our health and comes first. We are a family and we treat each other like it.

Brandon Moore

He has helped grow so many high school choir students into beautiful music makers, bringing together generations of singers with one song that brings us all together as a family.

Dr. Matthew Erpelding

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.

Maryann Brilleslyper

Dr.Brilleslyper started the choir department at our now 12 year old high school. In her time there, she has formed 8 choirs, taken choirs to Carnegie Hall, gotten many kids into honor choirs across the nation, ranked superiors at every choir competition she competes at, will be representing the U.S. at the 75th D-Day Choral Celebration in France, and most importantly, is the best role model for all of her students. She not only teaches but forms bonds with her students that will last a life time. She brings passion to every class and never fails to make her students excited about sing. She is a true inspiration and I am proud to call her my mom away from home.

Dr. Jamie Bartlett

Dr. Bartlett was not only my college chamber choir director and academic adviser, but also my mother away from home, my musical mentor, and the most encouraging director I’ve ever had throughout my singing career. She has a way of being your biggest cheerleader, while also expecting and pushing you to achieve nothing less than the best and most you can give. She made my 18 member chamber choir the highlight of my college experience, not just because she pushed us to produce music that brought me to tears as I sang each concert, but because she has a truly inspiring love and passion for what she does and for every single one of her students.

Parker Haley

Mr. Haley works so hard to let his kids know that they are loved and are important to him. There is never a day when he doesn’t great his class with a smile or an encouraging word. He has been a great mentor to me as a fellow teacher and checks in to make sure that I’m doing okay. And when I’m not, he will take as much time as he has to encourage and support me. This attitude is something that he brings into his classroom, making sure no students fall through the cracks, no matter how many of their other teachers may have given up on them.

Geoffery Miller

Mr. Miller was the person responsible for my love of music. He pushed me to become a better musician, and because of that, I am now a second year music education major in college at NKU. He is the reason I started loving playing trumpet. He gave us the best music to play, and he gave me opportunities that led me to becoming the best musician I can be. I am where I am today because of him, no doubt.

Dr. Jim Henry

Dr. Henry, is one of the most inspiring people in the world, He is an amazing conductor, voice coach, and lecturer. As the Director of The University of Missouri Saint Louis Choruses, and the 4 time Barbershop Harmony Society International Champion Chorus “Ambassadors of Harmony” Everybody learns something new, whenever they meet with this amazing teacher. He is also the Bass of two Champion Quartets ( The Gas House Gang and Crossroads) He is an inspiration to all, and will never let you leave without a smile on your face.

Holly Lewallen

Holly was my high school choir teacher for 4 years. She made me feel at home and she helped me become a much better vocalist. She practically kills herself every year to make her choir sound the best they can be. She works so hard and is the best teacher I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.

Dr. Joey Martin

Dr. Martin is an excellent example of generosity of sprit, sweetness and grace, but most importantly a musical mind that is inspiring. He is tenacious and always seeks a way to be better personally and professionally. His drive is infectious. I have learned from his innate artistry as a director and accompanist. The doors he opens and opportunities he gives his students are signs that he is passionate about us AKA his “kiddles” or “kit Kats”. I will always know that at Texas State University I am loved and I matter to Dr. Martin.

Gabriel Chodos

Passionate Pianist and Educator. Was Chairman of the Piano department at New England Conservatory of Music for 25 years, AND regular summer faculty at Aspen.

Jacquie Olivieri

Jacquie goes above and beyond teaching elementary school children not only music, but also reading. She also gives back to the community by playing principal flute with the Blazing River Freedom band, Cleveland’s LGBT ensemble. While not gay herself, she bravely supports equality proudly through performance.

Beth Menke Miller

Ms. Miller is not only an exceptional teacher and performer she also takes a strong interest in the development of her students. In and out of the classroom Beth Miller has been a supportive energy to everyone she knows. If you’re lucky enough to know her you’d say that she is truly one of the most caring,passionate, and real people you know.

Kelly DeHaan

Even nearly ten years later, his unsurpassable knowledge, experience, love of music, and love of his students continues to inspire me on a regular basis, both from memory and from seeing him still in action. If it weren’t for Kelly, I know my high school and later experiences would have been void of any real light.

Preston Bowthorpe

Because of the work he has done with both advanced and beginning choir students, Preston Bowthorpe has had students of all ages balanced in multiple choirs take his classes even though he graduated from college very recently. He teaches music to the individual student, not just the class.

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Nominate a Teacher

All Honorees

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold

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

Klaus-Jürgen, I thank you

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you Jacob for the nomination.

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

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

With thanks to Mingxia Xiao in Tianjin for the nomination.

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

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

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

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

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

Russ Otte (U.S.A.)

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

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

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

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

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

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

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you Kris for the nomination.

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you Chad for the nomination.

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you Aubrey for the nomination.

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

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

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

Thank you April for the nomination.

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Abby for the nomination.

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Allie for the nomination.

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

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

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

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

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

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

Thank you Ethan for the nomination.

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

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

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

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

Thank you Elysabeth for the nomination.

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

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

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

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

Thank you Coleen for the nomination.

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

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

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

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

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