Meet our Top 25 Semi-Finalists for the 2017 Music Educator of the Year Award!

Music educators across the country put so much into creating amazing music programs and inspiring our youth. However, music educators do not receive the recognition they greatly deserve. In order to promote excellent teachers we created programs like our annual Music Educator of the Year award. This helps remind us of the amazing impact educators have on students and 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, only 25 music educators rose to the top of our list. Winners will be announced at Music & Arts’ Annual Midwest Reception on December 21st in Chicago, and you’re invited! To register for the reception, click here.

Congratulations to our 2017 Music & Arts Music Educator of the Year semi-finalists:

Aaron Rex

Aaron Rex
Jackson City Schools, Jackson, OH

# years of teaching: 7

“Before I met Mr. Rex in sixth grade and began playing the clarinet, I was a loner. Mainly from the shear fact that my father had died when I was six years old. I distanced myself away from everyone after that, until I met Mr. Rex and my clarinet. After a few weeks of playing it, I fell in love with it. All I did in my spare time was play it constantly, trying to improve and get better at my instrument. Weeks went by as they turned into months and I changed into a completely different person. No longer was I the shy, scared student that hid in the corner. I loved to put myself out there and try my hardest for what I wanted in life, and all of that was from the help of Mr. Rex.”

Christine Cumberledge
Christine Cumberledge
Central Junior High, Hurst, TX

# years of teaching: 21

“Dear Mrs. Cumberledge,
Over the past 3 years you’ve been my favorite teacher because you are so understanding and supportive. You care about all of your students and want to see us grow as a person and musically. One of the many things you’ve taught me is that if I want something, I can get it if I work hard and practice with everything I have. With your guidance Ive made a lot of goals and reached them. I push myself to be involved in lots of extras and to make good grades. It all started with a teacher who card and I am forever grateful that you helped broaden my horizons. Thank you!”

Cynthia Wagoner
Cynthia Wagoner
East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

# of years teaching: 37

“Dr. Wagoner truly cares for us as individuals. She works hard to get to know us and will move mountains to help us achieve our goals. This past school year I had some medical issues arise, and Dr. Wagoner was there for me to talk to when these problems conflicted with my schoolwork. She helped me to find a balance between monitoring my health and maintaining a busy music major schedule when I was extremely overwhelmed. Her encouragement and positivity helped me succeed academically during a difficult time.”

Dana Semos
Dana Semos
Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Annapolis, MD

# of years teaching: 24

Dr. Dana Semos has a passion for music and for passing along her knowledge to the next generation of musicians. She has a unique ability to show her students how much she cares about each of them, how much she cares about music and the result is that her students really want to learn about music and play with passion.

Doyle Bellville
Doyle Bellville
Harwood Junior High School, Hurst, TX

# of years teaching: 17

Last year a former student wrote a touching letter thanking me for becoming a father personality in her life. She expressed her appreciation for support through the death of her father and for reminding her to continue pursuing life with vigor. Frequently, students need much more than a music education. – quote from doyle

James Verdone
James Verdone
Northbridge High School, Whitinsville, MA

# of years teaching: 9

A standout moment for me was when Mr. Verdone drove to Syracuse, NY for my son’s induction into a music fraternity. When Jim found out Matt was being inducted he wanted to be there for his NHS alumni. My son was surprised and very honored that he made the trip just for him. It really proved to me how sincere and dedicated Jim is as a teacher. As a parent, who happens to also be a music teacher, I give Mr. James Verdone my highest recommendation for the Music & Arts Educator of the Year Award.

Jane Lambert
Jane Lambert
Stowe High School, Stowe, VT

# of years teaching: 34

The best day of every fourth graders year is the first day of band. This day is made even more special by the teacher, Mrs. Lambert. Mrs. Lambert pushes each and every student to do their best and work their hardest. For example, if we are playing an easier song in band, she will have the more advanced students transpose and play a part with a student who is struggling. Also, this year she is having me challenge myself and play piano with the school jazz band. I have never played piano with a group before but she is helping me through it. She has always been someone who I know I can talk to about anything and get exactly the advice I need.

Katrina Kelly
Katrina Kelly
West Chester Area School District, Exton, PA

# of years teaching: 19

Mrs. Kelly deserves this award because she has a great relationship with her students. She pushes me to become a better musician and helps me when I make mistakes. She makes long rehearsals more enjoyable by making us laugh and have fun playing our instruments. I think Mrs. Kelly is an awesome music teacher and I have a great relationship with her.

Kelly Gallman
Kelly Gallman
Sandy Creek HS, Tyrone, GA

# of years teaching: 23

From the moment I met her, she felt like a second mom to not just me but every single student she has ever had. She takes the time to get to know each of her students which gives her the ability to uniquely help each of them feel comfortable to make mistakes and learn from them. With a heart of gold and a “go get em” attitude, Mrs. Gallman transformed the middle school orchestra and music department into a flourishing place filled with high achieving music flowing from instruments held by not just peers but friends.

Kenneth Poe
Kenneth Poe
Old Donation School, Virginia Beach, VA

# of years teaching: 40

Over the last twenty years, Mr. Poe has not only built an outstanding middle school band program but also contributed a great deal to teachers and students past and present of Old Donation School, whether by its current name or the former name: Kemps Landing Magnet School. It was his example of dedication to music, patience for difficulties, and determination to succeed that encouraged me to enter the arts and make teaching such a big part of my life story. Mr. Ken Poe is truly an excellent music educator, and he is a stellar candidate for the title of Music Educator of the Year.

Kerry Gillard
Kerry Gillard
DuVal High School, Lanham, MD

# of years teaching: 17

Overall, it’s the feeling of seeing kids “get it” and execute it well to the point where they are succesful. No one can take that from them. I love that feeling and working to get students there makes some of the ‘harder’ things in this job worth it. – quote from Kerry

Leah Williams
Leah Williams
Neuse Charter School, Smithfield, NC

# of years teaching: 15

This would mean a lot to our community and students because I am only an extension of them. I could not have created everything by myself. The students want to perform, sing and play their instruments. Our parents want to see our students be successful. With everyone working together we were able to grow a music program that we could be proud of. Being chosen as the Music Educator of the Year would celebrate our community coming together to empower our students through music performance.

Matt Koperniak
Matt Koperniak
Riverwatch Middle School, Suwanee, GA

# of years teaching: 14

Words cannot express the extent of my admiration of Dr. Koperniak. He and I shared a dream of growing student’s love of music no matter their natural ability or our resources. Dr. Koperniak’s efforts made the dream a reality for thousands of students. To watch him lead a classroom is nothing short of viewing a master piece in the making. Every student focused on his every word and instruction. It is truly incredible to see 90 middle school faces thinking and working to be better with every note played and every exercise – all done because Dr. Koperniak is there working, leading, and supporting their work. As I reflect upon our time working together at Riverwatch, I think of Dr. Koperniak as the school’s ‚Äö√Ñ√∫franchise player.‚Äö√Ñ√π Just as professional sports teams select the one play that draws spectators into the arena, Riverwatch Middle School has Dr. Koperniak as our franchise player. He is the player within the Riverwatch line up that every entering sixth grade wants as a teacher because he helps them grow as students. He makes them better people and musicians.

Matthew Nordhausen
Matthew Nordhausen
Le Roy Central Schools, Le Roy, NY

# of years teaching: 15

Having the opportunity to teach and perform alongside three of my high school percussion students as part of the Empire Statesmen Drum & Bugle Corps. Leading/teaching students is incredibly rewarding, especially when they succeed with the information and skills you provide them with, but being able to put that knowledge and those skills into practice right alongside those same students in a top tier competitive ensemble was remarkably rewarding. – Quote from Matthew

Marc Kaufman
Marc Kaufman
Couch Middle School, Grayson, GA

# of years teaching: 18

As a teacher, Marc has taught on virtually every level. His tenure as a high school band director was nothing short of impressive, with numerous accolades at marching competitions and concert festivals alike. Throughout his career, Marc has had to singlehandedly administer marching bands, basketball bands, and a number of other small ensembles to support school functions. Most recently, Marc has resurrected a struggling band program at Couch Middle School. In two years, he’s doubled the size of the band program, as well as the quality. The 2017 LGPE season brought the first superior rating in the history of the school.

Mark Peltz
Mark Peltz
Interboro School District, Norwood, PA

# of years teaching: 28

Mark Peltz has changed my life. He has helped me become a better musician, a better student, and a better all-around person. I started in 4th grade in his band in Norwood School. It became apparent to Mr. Peltz that wasn’t practicing. So, Mr. Peltz called my mom and encouraged asked that I be encouraged to practice more. I’ve come a long way since then. I used to suffer from stage fright. He gave me opportunities to take on solos and was very patient until I felt like I could. He gave me tools to overcome things like hand tremors and asthma while playing. He is my mentor and I know I can always go to him for advice and guidance.

Mary Neely Stevens
Mary Neely Stevens
Mendel Elementary School, Houston, TX

# of years teaching: 38

Mary is an educator who purposely works for the benefit of the whole child. She is compassionate and nurturing not only with the creative aspect of the child but also is instrumental in integrating the arts into the general academic curriculum so that both students and teachers see the many ways to learn through the real connections and benefits of working with both sides of the brain. It is evident that she is a highly motivated, passionate and caring educator.

Melissa Ellenberger
Melissa Ellenberger
Woodmen Hills Elementary, Peyton, CO

# of years teaching: 14

If you were to walk in Melissa’s classroom at any given time, you would not only observe her love for teaching, her students, and music, but also her absolute brilliance in getting kids actively engaged the entire class period. Students are moving and making music! She uses a variety of approaches to teaching music. She creates relevant lesson plans that tap into student interest, incorporates movement, and other modalities into her music lessons. Her lesson designs work to keep the music program fresh and stimulating. She has worked to create interdisciplinary experiences as well, by integrating song, instrumentals, and dance with literature through performances for the school. This makes for a very enjoyable, entertaining, and highly creative atmosphere for all these lucky Woodmen Hills Elementary students.

Melissa Gardiner
Melissa Gardiner
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY

# of years of teaching: 11

My son stands up straight, he solos with style and ease. He has a presence on stage. He shares with others what he has been taught. He acts as a leader because he has been taught to be one. Jacob’s passion for music, jazz as well as other genres is evident in everything he does. Melissa celebrates this, and celebrates the opportunities that her young musicians are afforded. She has imparted her knowledge in theory, technique, and the music education process onto my son. With this base, at eighteen years old, he can be a creative and vital member of his college music community as well as share with his family

Nancy Bos
Nancy Bos
Voice Studio, Bellevue, WA

# of years teaching: 22

Nancy Bos is one of the most influential people I have encountered in my lifetime. Nancy is not only a singing instructor, author, podcaster, blogger, mother, but also one of the most loyal, passionate individuals you will meet. I first came to Nancy at age thirteen when seeking out a vocal coach who could train me in copious genres, unlike my choral-oriented previous teacher. Mrs. Bos’ expertise in classical, musical theater, jazz, and a multitude of other genres provided me with the ability to pursue a variety of pieces, and expanded the versatility of my voice.

Richard McCready

Richard McCready
River Hill High School, Clarksville, MD

# of years teaching: 23

I had the great privilege of being a student of Mr. McCready for 2 years during my high school career. In those two years, Mr. McCready unlocked something in me that I would never have found had he not have been intentionally fostering my potential and my passion. Because of Mr. McCready’s encouragement, excitement, and dedication, I am now studying Commercial Voice with tracks in Music Business and Music Technology, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. McCready instructed me in our school’s Chamber Choir, as well as in Music Technology. When I entered high school, I never would have imagined taking Music Tech (or loving it enough to pursue it in higher education). But, Richard’s infectious passion for creative music drew me in to signing up as the only female in the Advanced Music Tech class. With almost any other instructor, being the girl in an all boy class would have been enough for me to drop it. However, Mr. McCready never made me feel any different or less than the other members of my class. He treated me equally, challenged me just as much, and encouraged me every time I needed it. I found myself looking forward to his class every day, even at the 6 AM alarm.

Ruth Petersen
Ruth Petersen
Bailey Middle School, Cornelius, NC

# of years teaching: 25

Being a student of Ms. Petersen’s is truly the best experience of my entire school career. She is honest, dependable, and incredibly hard-working. She treats every student with respect and understanding. Beyond that, she is a dedicated teacher who is always putting her students’ needs before her own. I have never seen a teacher who is more dedicated to seeing her students strive and go places.

Sally Palmer
Sally Palmer
Sally L. Palmer Music Studio, Bellevue, WA

# of years teaching: 6

Sally is much more than a piano and voice teacher. Sally is an inspiring leader, an advocate for music, a community builder, and a successful author.
Her passion for music education has lead Sally to start two local clubs of the National Federated Music Clubs. She also served as NFMC Washington State President with an emphasis on getting more teachers involved in community and leadership. She was a popular state president and has since gone on to serve at the national level in various positions. Sally’s leadership has helped with shaping policy and making revisions that create a more fair and
rewarding experience for students.

Scott Campbell
Scott Campbell
Southwestern Adventist University/Keller ISD, Keene, TX

# of years teaching: 6

Over the past two years I have interacted with Dr. Scott Campbell here at Southwestern Adventist University. Having observed him in the rehearsal room and the studio setting with our students, I can say without hesitation that Dr. Campbell is a master teacher. His knowledge base, communication style, ability to inspire, and elite skill as a performer highlight his unique and impressive skill set.

Troy Davis
Troy Davis
Aragon High School, San Mateo, CA

# of years teaching: 21

Troy Davis is a committed music educator that continually works to recreate his program to meet the needs of his students. Mr. Davis teaches six levels of bands – jazz, wind ensemble, concert, symphonic, intermediate and advanced at Aragon High School. Aragon has the largest music program of the six district schools and this is directly related to Mr. Davis’ leadership. He also teaches AP Music theory so his teaching skills include both the “how” and the “why” of music education. He has many accomplishments and the following highlight but a few of them. He organized taking 125+ music students to China, Canada, Ireland, and Italy. In China, the students played on the Great Wall and had a concert at the Peking University Concert Hall.

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