Dr. Susan Kelly
Dr. Susan Kelly is currently directing the Tennessee State University choirs; however, I first encountered Sue as my high school director in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania at Abington Heights High School. Nearly every one of her students could attest to her startling dedication, her striking ability to connect to her students, and her limitless openness and kindness. Since meeting her and studying under her, she has inspired me to always move steadfastly in the direction I’m going. Many of my first leadership opportunities were granted by her and her program. She has pushed so many students in the right direction. Now, she is no longer my teacher, but rather a friend to ask advice of, or to share a quick laugh with.
Dr. Susan Kelly
Dr. Susan Kelly is currently the choir director for Tennessee State University’s choirs— and she built this program from the bottom up. I had the pleasure of singing for her in my small suburban high school— Abington Heights in Clarks Summit, PA. Susan Kelly brings 110% to everything she does, and she is a teacher who truly LOVES her students, caring more about the people they become than the grades on their papers. She has an endless sense of humor, and pushes students past their boundaries of fear and apprehension (which we’ve all encountered as singers!). More than a teacher, she was (and is) a dear friend and mentor. When I was having a rough time in high school, I used to eat lunch with her and a few other students in her classroom. She would offer advice, friendship, and company— her doors were open to anyone. She left PA for the opportunity to build and shape a choir program at TSU, leaving her home to join an entirely new culture, to bring music to those who needed it.
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.
Brent Whitaker is conductor of a choir based in a highschool that is located in the middle of a cotton field – Southeast Bulloch High School. He takes teenagers who come from all backgrounds and shows them what it feels like to work hard for something and succeed. The most important lesson he teaches is character. He’s taught his students to work hard for the things they want, inside the music world and out, and because of this, our tiny farm town highschool consistently wins national competitions at the highest levels, and we are continuing to exceed expectations. No private lessons, and no full time voice instructors. We owe it all to Mr. Whitaker for everything he’s taught us. He believes in us despite all adversity, despite any setbacks, and he’s taught me that no matter where you come from, you can achieve the impossible.
Ms. Susanna Smit
Ms. Smit, Susy to her students, is a wonderful flute instructor and a positive role model for aspiring teachers. In her work at Carmel High School in Carmel, IN, and Greenfield-Central High School in Greenfield, IN, she’s touched the lives of not just flutists but entire woodwind sections with her eclectic personality, child-like humor, and ability to empathize with the struggles, concerns, and triumphs of the average high school woodwind instrumentalist. No one could replace her bubbly demeanor and engaging teaching, and the flute and woodwind sections of both Carmel and Greenfield-Central High School are forever grateful.
Dr. Mims is a blessing! He helped me and other students in his choir classes become better singers and wonderful educators teaching in the field of music (choral or instrumental).
Mr. Chris Wing
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.
Mr. Jeremy Basso
Our assistant band director, Mr. Basso, is one of the most vibrant, uplifting members of our music department here at Greenfield-Central High School in Greenfield, IN. Since his employment, he’s been a driving force in the marching, jazz, theory, and concert programs. He drives us forward, ensuring that every member of the band meets the potential he knows they have, takes the time to talk to as many people as he can, and helps up anyone who’s fallen down. His belief in everyone, the way he builds up people at their lowest points, and his drive to make everyone better are some of the brightest parts of our band program.
Amy Kurtz is the director of all four choirs at Clarksburg High School in Montgomery County, MD. In the five short years she has been at Clarksburg, she has been able to expand and develop the choir program into a regionally-recognized program. Her passion for music is exceeded only by her passion for her students. She spends countless hours outside the school day helping her students in whatever way she can- with music for auditions, a ride home, life advice, etc. Amy has a tradition of making each of her seniors a small gift before their final concert, to help them remember their time in the program. Amy Kurtz is a ray of light in her classroom, her school, and the choral community.
Mrs. Bacha was the choir director at Spooner High School in the small City of Spooner, WI for too few of years. In the short amount of time she was teaching here she made choir humorous, rewarding, and just fun to be a part of, while still having the class be educational and serious at the same time. She even expanded the choral to allow for men’s choir and she pushed for the select choir to be able to go to new amazing events such as Carnage Hall in New York and leading them to best in site at state solo ensemble. Teaching aside she was a person that everyone could always trust for a good laugh or a comforting hug. She would be there for anyone who came to her no matter the situation she would always provide her best advice. Overall Mrs. Bacha is an amazing teacher and amazing person, anyone would be more than lucky to learn under her direction.
Mrs. Holt is a constant inspiration for our music department. She is full of life and makes music so much fun. She made me confident in myself when it came to singing in concert and being confident in my abilities. She pushes me to keep trying and going. Even though scheduling conflicts meant I couldn’t have class with her this year she still remains one of my all time favorite teachers.
He is a very talented vocal educator at the University of Washington. His method is incredibly musical and inspirational for all he teaches, he has a knack for getting high schoolers who say they can’t sing to sing. Also he’s my dad.
He has helped me (and all his students from Marina High School and Arrowbear Music Camp) to gain the confidence needed to sing in a choir. I entered Arrowbear Music Camp going into 9th grade, and was terrified. Eric and the other directors help make it a very welcoming place for musicians of all skill levels. His dedication to helping students is one that can’t be surpassed by just anyone.
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 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.
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.
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.