Meet our Semi-Finalists for the 2019 Music Educator of the Year Award

Sometimes we forget just how much work music educators across the country put in to keep music programs alive. But, it’s programs like our annual Music Educator of the Year award that quickly remind us of the amazing impact educators have on students and their communities.

We received applications from all across the country for the Music Educator of the Year award and were left inspired by many of the recommendation letters and resumes we read. But, of all of the applications we received, these music educators rose to the top of our list.

Congratulations to our 2019 Music & Arts Music Educator of the Year semi-finalists:

Alphonso Jiles

  • Director of Bands and Orchestra @ Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro, MD
  • 29 years of experience developing programs built on shared beliefs and empowerment
  • Demonstrated leadership excellence in and outside of the music classroom
  • Influenced student excellence in local/regional competition as well as career development

Berkeley Harner

  • Band Director @ Kate Collins Middle School in Staunton, VA
  • 15+ years of professional experience creating an inspiring and     inclusive educational environment for all students
  • Organized community outreach with elementary schools in order to instill excitement towards music education among incoming classes
  • Promoted local philanthropic efforts through benefit concerts, events and encouraging students to invest in the community.

Bryan DeCristofaro

  • Band Director @ Chatham Middle School in Chapel Hill, NC
  • 5 years of experience growing student development in-house and at contest level
  • In a school roughly 90% minority, strived to inspire these students to be great, focus on theory reading skills, and give them multiple real-world performance opportunities.
  • Advocated for funding, allotments, equipment, resources, and recognition for all music teachers in the county. 

Deborah Turner

  • Music Educator @ Central Middle School in Edgewater, MD
  • 15+ years of experience teaching Band, Orchestra, and General Music and promoting music as an outlet for fun and a sense of family. 
  • Encouraged student excitement with letters written by former students to incoming classes
  • Demonstrated program growth through extensive community outreach with students and mentorship

Dennis McCorkle

  • Private Instructor (Guitar, Ukulele, Banjo, Mandolin) @ Music & Arts in Glastonbury, CT.
  • 15+ years of educational experience inspiring students towards lifelong participation in music. 
  • Encouraged the fun, creative side of music and the joy around mastering an instrument amongst a diverse range of student learning levels and needs.
  • Grounded teaching methods in researched-based findings about performance and practice from neuroscience and psychology. 

Heather Becker

  • Band Director @ Hudson Middle School in Sachse, TX
  • 11+ years of experience building strong fundamental foundations for involved students
  • Demonstrated long-term student retention rate of 90%, growing the program by 140 students in 5 years.
  • Invested in county wide excellence by contributing to the rewriting of the district Band curriculum.

Jason Bohde

  • Private Instructor (Brass) @ Music & Arts in Durham, NC
  • 15+ years of demonstrating educational excellence in teaching a wide range of students in age and ability. 
  • Encouraged students to explore wide ranges of musical genre and repertoire in order to improve student performance and participation
  • Focused on building strong relationships with students and parents, going above and beyond to allow students to express themselves musically in the way that they want. 

Jennifer Seda

  • Band Director @ Bennett’s Mill Middle School in Fayetteville, GA
  • 6+ years of experience facilitating high standards for excellence in music education and performance
  • Revived a nonexistent Band program from 0 to 350 students through active parental and student involvement with the Band at an internal and community level. 
  • Continued to invest in personal growth a development by attending and hosting professional development seminars and symposiums for music educators

John Sedlacsik

  • Elementary Band Director @ Simmons Elementary in Horsham, PA
  • 15+ years utilizing  innovative techniques for developing young musicians 
  • Implemented the use of SmartMusic into all lessons to encourage students to participate and practice more at home
  • Strived to keep a safe and supportive atmosphere to ensure that students not only felt comfortable performing in public, but also for their peers

Jordan Mathisen

  • Band Director @ Pinecrest Academy of Nevada- Sloan Canyon and St. Rose Campuses in Las Vegas, NV
  • 6+ years of encouraging the constant development of musical knowledge among students and on a personal level
  • Launched 3 programs that grew through local school outreach and efforts towards long-term student retention
  • Aimed to break the stigma surrounding Charter School education and limitations by competing against regular public schools and surpassing their ratings, all on a $0 budget

Karen Seamans

  • Band Director @ Gillette Rd. Middle School/Cicero-North Syracuse High School in Cicero, NY
  • 15+ years experience developing program excellence locally and regionally through exposure and performance opportunities
  • Seen growth in programs through active parent involvement and local publicity from accomplishments
  • Led Band through competitions to reach the 2018 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Meredith Partin

  • Orchestra Director/K-5 General Music Teacher @ Sam D. Bundy Elementary School in Farmville, NC
  • 6+ years advancing student musical growth in the classroom by creating an actively collaborative environment with parents and the community
  • Provided accessibility and one-on-one attention to students and teaching them fundamentals to not only make them better musicians, but also better people.
  • Engaged in local councils and committees to help honor creative expression across the generations that serve to continually renew the arts.

Michel Nadeau

  • Band Director @ Burr Intermediate School in Miller Place, NY
  • 15+ years sending over 1,000 students to the NYSSMA solo festival, with more than 80% getting the highest rating of Outstanding. 
  • Author of his own jazz curriculum that his students are able to improvise the blues and use his methods in the classroom
  • Provides one on one attention to students to reach their specific goal and play beyond the fundamentals. 

Mike Oare

  • Band Director @ Great Bridge Middle School in Chesapeake, VA
  • 27+ years leading his students to receive superior ratings each year at the Virgina Concert Band Performance Assessment 
  • Published nearly 50 compositions for Middle School Bands that are used in his classroom and throughout the United States. 
  • Won many awards including National Band Association’s Citation of Excellence award, Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and the Chesapeake Public Schools Middle School Teacher of the Year. 

Monica Leimer

  • Band Director @ DeLand High School in Orlando, FL
  • 15+ years upholding students to never accept less than the best from themselves. That knowing it is okay to make mistakes, as long as we grow and learn from them.
  • Strived towards educational leadership by serving on the state executive board for the Florida Bandmasters Association and FSU Alumni Association
  • Developed a band program that is the pride of the community. Performing with high marks at the local and regional levels.

Peter Briggs

  • Instrumental Music Teacher @ Lincoln High School in Tacoma, WA
  • 11+ years experience using an incremental growth method to help encourage musical and personal development amongst his students. 
  • Fostered a safe learning environment where every student has a place where they belong and are valued. 
  • Lead panels and discussions covering the topic, “Growing Urban Students,” in order to inspire all educators with the tools to find success in challenging situations

Philip O’Neal

  • Choral Director @ Woodcreek Middle School in Humble, TX
  • 15+ years establishing and growing choral music programs/ensembles to high levels of success and excellence
  • Lead his choirs to perform all around the great Houston area for events, competitions, and concerts.
  • Went above and beyond to establish a local community choir for widespread participation from students across the greater northeast Houston area 

Sean Smith (Richard)

  • Band Director @ A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville, NC
  • 15+ years providing an inspiring space for students to be themselves though both personal and musical success inside the classroom and out.
  • Served in multiple leadership roles, including time spent presenting as a clinician and guest conductor for various events.
  • Promoted philanthropic excellence by regular participation in different service projects benefiting local and regional communities. 

Ryan Mack

  • General Music Teacher & Ensemble Director @ P.S. 52K Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, NY
  • 6+ years striving to bring positive change to the community through the education and celebration of art and culture.
  • Cultivated supplemental learning experiences through collaborations with major venues, brands, and organizations. 
  • Continued efforts to seek out additional opportunities to give back and raise donations for families and organization in the local community

Sarah McLamb

  • Choral Director @ Corinth Holders High School in Clayton, NC
  • 15+ years helping students develop not just their technique, but also the “whys” behind each skill they learn
  • Built the choral program from the ground up, working collaboratively with the community to fundraise for classroom supplies 
  • Developed passion for helping teachers be teachers, helping to connect with other directors in the county.

Sherie Grossman

  • Orchestral Director/Assistant Band & Choir Director @ Mt. Juliet High School in Mt. Juliet, TN
  • 15+ years inspiring, motivating and educating students on the joy of performing in an ensemble
  • Established foundation via music theory, history, sight reading, guest conductors, and more in weekly lessons to propel students into early onset music excellence
  • Advocated for more string education within the local community and worked collaboratively with local and regional programs to provide professional development opportunities for students. 

Tom Chapman

  • Band Director/ Recording & Songwriting Instructor @ Lewis-Palmer High School in Elbert, CO
  • 11+ working to expose the joys of music to the next generation of music-makers
  • Promoted an educational foundation that treats students as young, developing musicians, and not cogs in a large music-making machine
  • Furthered local director collaboration, establishing a strong platform of support amongst other music teaching professionals in the area

Vincent Sneed

  • Band Director @ Denmark High School in Chamblee, GA
  • 15+ years of not simply making students learn, but actually inspiring them to learn and improve performance, knowledge, and aptitude. 
  • Aimed to create a fun and engaging classroom experience, which in-turn, increases student numbers year over year
  • Gave back to the local community through various local and regional performances at nursing homes, state conferences, community grand openings, and more.

Zachary Wills

  • Band Director @ Woodington Middle School in Kinston, NC
  • 15+ educating a vast array of students ranging from military ensembles to the young student classroom.
  • Facilitated the growth of 3 concerts a year to over 20 community performances, after-school private lessons, small ensembles, and peer-performances. 
  • Organized collaborative efforts with community sponsors in order to provide better for the ensembles both financially and opportunistically.
Music & Arts

MUSIC & ARTS IS A NATIONAL MUSIC RETAILER WITH RESOURCES FOR PARENTS, STUDENTS, EDUCATORS AND MUSICIANS. WITH OVER 190 STORES ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND THE LARGEST PRIVATE LESSON PROGRAM IN THE UNITED STATES, MUSIC & ARTS IS AN AUTHORITY ON MUSIC EDUCATION AND A RESOURCE FOR NEW AND EXPERIENCED MUSICIANS ALIKE.

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