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22 Individuals Honored with NFHS Music Educator Awards

By NFHS on March 10, 2021 music directors & adjudicators article Print

The NFHS Music Association is honoring 22 individuals with the 2020-21 Outstanding Music Educator Awards. Seven music section awards will be presented, along with 15 state award recipients.

Recipients of the 2020-21 NFHS Outstanding Music Educator Awards are:

SECTION: Section 1 – Anne Severy, Vermont; Section 3 – Lisa Clark, Mississippi; Section 4 – Elizabeth Fritz, Iowa; Section 5 – Susan Laushman, Kansas; Section 6 – Wesley Singleton, Oklahoma; Section 7 – Mishy Kirby, Utah; Section 8 – Jennifer Brooks, Oregon.

STATE: Alabama - Becky Halliday; Arkansas - Peggy Jeffries; Colorado - Tim Libby; Idaho - Wayne Millett; Illinois - Andy Davis; Indiana - Douglas Elmore; Maine - Kristen Thomas; Minnesota - Burton Svendsen; Missouri - Brian Reeves; Montana - Jenanne Solberg; Nebraska - Del Whitman; New Mexico - Tyler North; New York - Erin Tapia; South Dakota - Daniel Eye; Washington - Bruce Walker.



Section 1

Anne Severy

Cornwall, Vermont

Anne Severy has been the band director at Middlebury Union High School in Middlebury, Vermont since 1986, and has held similar positions at Rutland (Vermont) Junior/Senior High School and West Rutland Schools dating to 1981. In addition to leading Middlebury Union’s concert band, marching band and string and jazz ensembles, Severy gives instrumental lessons and teaches courses on music theory, music history and music composition.

Severy, who has guided the school’s Jazz Ensemble to numerous first-place finishes and helped students earn spots in the National Honors Orchestra and Concert Band, has served as president, president-elect and past president of the Vermont Association for Jazz Education for the past six years. She also has longstanding memberships with the National Association for Music Education (40 years); the Vermont Music Educators Association (VMEA) (40 years); the National Educators Association (39 years); the New England Music Festival Association (35 years); Green Mountain Music District V (35 years); and Vermont Unit 11 of the International Association of Jazz Educators (20 years).

In 2018, Severy was named Music Educator of the Year by both VMEA and Green Mountain Music District V, which previously awarded her the honor in 2006. She was also chosen as University of Vermont Teacher of the Year for Secondary Education in 2015.


Section 3

Lisa Clark

Ridgeland, Mississippi

Lisa Clark is the choral director for Madison Central High School (Grades 10-12) and Rosa Scott High School (Grade 9) in Madison, Mississippi. Prior to taking on her current roles, she directed choral music at several other Mississippi schools including Ridgeland High School, St. Joseph Catholic School, Neshoba High School, Neshoba Middle School and Holmes Community College.

Clark has mentored grand champions in multiple choral classifications and has led choirs to consistent “superior” ratings at district and state festivals, including “Best in Class” recognition at the Riverland Choral Festival. Madison Central’s notable performances under Clark’s tutelage include the Mississippi Governor’s Inauguration, the Mississippi House of Representatives, Mississippi Highway Patrol graduation and the state’s high school superintendents meeting. She has been a member of the Mississippi Professional Educators Association, the Mississippi Music Educators Association (MMEA) and the Mississippi American Choral Directors Association for more than 20 years and has served as chairperson and regional director of the Mississippi Distinguished Women during her 15 years of membership. 

Clark was the 2019-20 recipient of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Outstanding Music Educator award and earned Mississippi Music Educator of the Year from the MMEA in 2010. She is also a past winner of the Governor’s Power of One Award.


Section 4

Elizabeth Fritz

Decorah, Iowa

Elizabeth Fritz is a retired music educator who spent 28 of her 35 years in education teaching band programs for Decorah (Iowa) High School and Decorah Middle School. Prior to her retirement, Fritz was responsible for leading the fifth and sixth grade bands, woodwind lessons for grades 5-12, middle school jazz band and assisting with the high school band.

Fritz’s pupils regularly scored “superior” ratings at festivals, and the Decorah Band Department was honored as an Exemplary Music Program by the Iowa Music Educators Association (IMEA) in 2009. Fritz is the creator of the Iowa “Model of Excellence” Mentoring Program for Young Arts Educators and the Tri-State Middle School Honor Band, which brings middle school musicians from Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin to perform together in Decorah. Among her professional leadership positions, Fritz has been president of the Iowa Bandmasters Association (IBA) and the Northeast Iowa Bandmasters Association (NEIBA), an administrator for the Music Mentors of Iowa, technology chair for the IMEA and a judge and auditor for the Iowa High School Music Association.

In 2014, the IBA recognized Fritz with the 30 Year Tenure Award and made her the first-ever female recipient of the Karl King Service Award in 2013. She received her first professional honor – the NEIBA Phillip Sehmann Excellence in Teaching Award – in 2004.


Section 5

Susan Laushman

Pittsburg, Kansas

Susan Laushman has spent much of her 35-year career in music education as the music teacher at Pittsburg (Kansas) High School, where she teaches vocal music, piano lab and music theatre. She has also been part of the music department staff at Pittsburg State University and worked as a vocal music teacher at Carl Junction (Missouri) High School.

Each year since 2010, 35 to 45 of Laushman’s vocal students have been selected to the District Honor Choir, with 8 to 14 of them going on to the Kansas All-State Choir. She was also instrumental in developing Pittsburg’s Multigenerational Choir, which played a large role in the high school being honored as a National School of Character. Laushman has been a member of the Kansas Music Educators Association and the Kansas Music Teachers Association (KMTA) for more than 15 years and served as the Southeast Kansas Representative of the Kansas Choral Directors Association from 2010 to 2017.

Her list of awards includes KMTA Outstanding Music Educator of the Year and Southeast Kansas Outstanding Music Educator honors in 2012, and Kansas Federation of Music Teachers Teacher of the Year and Pittsburg Unified School District 250 Globe Award recognitions in 2006. In 2016, the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce named Laushman a Pittsburg Woman of Distinction.



Section 6

Wesley Singleton

Edmond, Oklahoma

Wesley Singleton is head of the vocal music department and a private voice instructor at Memorial High School in Edmond, Oklahoma. Prior to starting his position at Memorial in 2013, he was head of vocal music for Bartlesville (Oklahoma) Public Schools and Lone Grove (Oklahoma) Public Schools, and also served as Bartlesville’s district fine arts supervisor.

Singleton has occupied many capacities for the Oklahoma Music Educators Association (OMEA) including president, vocal vice president, All-State Mixed Chorus chair, All-State Treble Chorus chair and All-State Chorus Committee member, and has been part of the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA) Music Advisory Committee and Prescribed Music Selection Committee. He has helped many students earn places on the OMEA All-State High School Chorus and the Oklahoma Choral Directors Association All-State Jazz Chorus, and has consistently led concert choirs, soloists and ensembles to “superior” ratings at OSSAA festivals. He also currently serves as the National Association for Music Education Choral Council for Education Southwest representative.

Singleton was inducted into the OMEA Hall of Fame in 2015 and received the association’s Exemplary Music Educator honor in 2009. He was also named a Teacher of Today by the Edmond Rotary Club in 2018 and Lone Grove Public Schools Teacher of the Year in 2003.


Section 7

Mishy Kirby

Ogden, Utah

Mishy Kirby is in her 27th year as a music instructor at her high school alma mater – Bonneville High School (BHS) in Ogden, Utah. She currently teaches five different choirs, musical theatre and an advanced placement music class and is the musical director for Bonneville’s school musicals.

Kirby has been a member of six different professional organizations – including the National Association for Music Education, the American Choral Directors Association and the Utah Music Educators Association (UMEA) – since 1994. She is currently the UMEA’s choral vice president and previously served as All-State Choir chair and Choral Committee Member, and has been a Utah Ambassador of Music staff member since 1998. Kirby’s choirs and soloists routinely receive “superior” ratings at region and state festivals, and she has seen many of them selected to All-State Choir and State Honors Choir. Others have gone on to achieve honors at National Association of Teachers of Singing and National Federation of Music Clubs events.

Kirby is a sought-after adjudicator for Utah High School Activities Association sanctioned events and had the honor of directing the Utah State Ladies Choir in 2006. She was a 2008 recipient of Weber School District’s “I Love Teaching Award” and has been named Bonneville High School’s Teacher of the Month 15 times.


Section 8

Jennifer Brooks

Gresham, Oregon

Jennifer Brooks is the coordinator of music for David Douglas School District in Portland, Oregon, and previously was a music teacher and director of bands at David Douglas High School (DDHS) and Banks (Oregon) Junior and Senior High Schools.

Under Brooks’ leadership, David Douglas High School became a powerhouse in several competitive divisions of the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA). From 2010 to 2019, the school achieved six runner-up finishes and one third-place result in the Full Orchestra Division, five top-five finishes in the 6A Band Division and placed in the top five in the String Orchestra Division three times. Brooks has taken on a number of professional service commitments since 2010, including NFHS Music Committee chair and Music Committee Section 8 representative; Tri-M Music Honor Society advisor; Oregon Music Educators Association (OMEA) District II president, band chair and group manager for symphony, wind symphony, symphonic band and jazz band; Oregon Band Directors Association president; and OSAA Championships Committee and Activities Committee member and liaison to OMEA. She was also part of the Oregon Ambassadors of Music staff for five years.

Brooks received the Mary V. Dodge Award from the Portland Youth Philharmonic in 2013 and helped DDHS become a GRAMMY Signature School in 2011 and GRAMMY Enterprise Award winner in 2012.


Andy Davis

Darien, Illinois

For 16 years, Andy Davis has taught music at Reavis High School in Burbank, Illinois. While at Reavis, Davis has helped choral enrollment increase from 25 to more than 100, and band enrollment from 45 to more than 200. It has also added a string orchestra, a guitar curriculum, and a music production curriculum. His students have earned Division I ratings of superior at numerous festivals over the years, including the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Organization Festival and the Midwest Music Festival.

Davis currently sits on the IHSA Music Advisory Committee and the IHSA Music Managers Committee, and he is a member of the National Association for Music Education. Davis has performed with numerous groups, including the Chicagoland Educator Orchestra, Windiana, the Tinley Park Community Band, and as a guest musician with the Air Force National Guard Band.

Davis earned his National Board Certification in 2017, and he was nominated for Grammy's Music Educator Award in 2014 (quarterfinalist) and again in 2020.


Douglas Elmore

New Albany, Indiana

For nearly 40 years, Douglas Elmore has served as the orchestra director of Floyd Central High School and Highland Mills Middle School, directing nearly 350 students in five orchestras. Under his direction,Floyd Central orchestras in total have earned over 50 Gold (Superior) awards at Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA) festivals.

In addition to his duties with the Floyd County schools, Elmore recently served as conductor of the Floyd County Youth Symphony for 28 years, 24 as music director. Since 2017, Elmore has worked as the music director of the Louisville Youth Orchestra. He has also adjudicated multiple ISSMA and Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA) festivals for both solo and ensemble and large organizations and served on multiple ISSMA committees.

Among his honors, Elmore earned a Teacher Creativity Grant from Eli Lilly in 1997. He also was named Floyd Central High School Teacher of the Year in 2011, was the Indiana ASTA High School Orchestra Director of the Year in 2014 and, in 2017, was a Grammy Music Educator Award Quarterfinalist 


Daniel Eye

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Daniel Eye is in his 11th year as director of bands for West Central High School in Hartford, South Dakota. His duties include directing the school’s concert band, marching band, pep band, jazz band, drumline, percussion ensemble and musical pit.

Eye’s bands at West Central have consistently earned top three finishes and is generally considered the top Class AA parade marching band in South Dakota. On three occasions, West Central’s band has been invited to perform at the nation’s oldest 4th of July parade in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Eye is a currently member of the South Dakota Bandmasters Association, the National Association for Music Educators and the South Dakota Music Educators Association, where he serves as Middle School Band chair. As chair, Eye coordinates all aspects of the Middle School Band festival weekend.

Since 2018, Eye has been a Yamaha Exclusive Artist and an Apple Certified Teacher, as well as a Vic Firth Endorsed Educator since 2007. He was also named West Central teacher of the year in 2016-17.


Becky Halliday

Helena, Alabama

Dr. Becky Halliday is an associate professor of music at the University of Montevallo (UM), where she administers courses in teacher preparation and music education. She also teaches elementary general music for pre-K through sixth grade students in Randolph, Alabama, and taught the same subject area in Georgia and Mississippi for 17 years while leading workshops and clinics throughout the Southeast.

Much of Halliday’s work has been centered around The Kodály Concept, an interactive, collaborative and highly kinesthetic method of music education engineered to develop the core skills of musicianship. Halliday is the founding director of Montevallo’s Kodály Institute and co-director of the university’s Young Musicians’ Camp, and currently serves as president of the Sweet Home Alabama Kodály Educators Chapter of the Organization of American Kodály Educators. She is a current member of the Council of General Music Education for the National Association for Music Education and is a past president of the Higher Education Division of the Alabama Music Educators Association (AMEA); and has published written works in state and national journals while serving on the Editorial Board for the Music Educators Journal.

Halliday is a past recipient of the University of Montevallo College of Fine Arts Distinguished Teacher Award, as well as the Lacey Powell Outstanding Music Educator Award for the AMEA.


Peggy Jeffries

Jonesboro, Arkansas

Peggy Jeffries is the band director at Nettleton High School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and has overseen activities for the school’s concert band and jazz band since 1999. Prior to her time at Nettleton, she was the band director at Blytheville (Arkansas) West Junior High School for six years.

Jeffries has led the Nettleton band to “superior” ratings in “concert” and “sight-reading assessment” categories for 21 consecutive years and has mentored a large collection of students to placement in honor bands, jazz bands, concert bands and chamber orchestras at the all-region and all-state levels. Since joining the Arkansas Bandmasters Association (ABA) and the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association (ASBOA) in 1993, Jeffries has served both organizations in a variety of roles. She has been ABA vice president, secretary, treasurer and member-at-large; and Region V secretary, Region VIII chair and treasurer, and a member of three different state committees for the ASBOA. She has also been affiliated with the Arkansas Ambassadors of Music since 2001 and recently became part of the Delta Symphony Orchestra Guild in 2019.

For her leadership within the Jonesboro Alumnae Patroness Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota – an international music fraternity – Jeffries has received honors such as the Sword of Honor, Rose of Honor and Recognition Pin for service.


Tim Libby

Denver, Colorado

Tim Libby is in his 21st year as director of bands at Cherry Creek High School (CCHS) in Greenwood Village, Colorado, and previously taught three years at Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado.

Libby’s bands have been selected 12 times to perform at state and national conventions, highlighted by a wind ensemble that played at the National Concert Band Festival in 2018 and two jazz bands that performed at the Colorado Music Educators Association Clinic/Conference as recently as 2017. The Cherry Creek marching band has placed first in its category multiple times while performing at the Denver Parade of Lights and has also recorded high finishes at regional festivals, including a second-place result in 2019. Libby is a past president of the Colorado Bandmasters Association and is a board member for Phi Beta Mu, an honorary fraternity for bandmasters. He has also previously served as interim director of the Lamont Wind Ensemble at the University of Denver and was a guest conductor at the Lebanese Band Association for the Promotion of Music International Summer Band Camp held in Beirut, Lebanon.

Libby was awarded Cherry Creek High School’s Teacher of the Year honor in 2013, and, in 2015, was recognized as one of “50 Directors Who Make A Difference” by School Band and Orchestra magazine.


Wayne Millett

Aberdeen, Idaho

Wayne Millett became the music teacher at Aberdeen (Idaho) High School in 1990, and currently teaches band, choir, guitar, musical and stage crafts classes. Over his entire 38-year teaching career, which includes time spent at high schools and middle schools in Utah, Millett’s students have been involved in more than 80 musical productions.

Millett has consistently guided Aberdeen bands to “superior” ratings at district festivals and from 2006 to 2019, led them to 10 first-place awards at various other events including the Music in the Parks Festival and the Gene Harris Jazz Festival. Millett has been very active at the state level throughout his career, serving as the Idaho Music Educators Association’s (IMEA) overall president and president of its Fifth District, and webmaster; and has been a member of the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA) Fifth District Board of Control. Nationally, he has been affiliated with the National Association for Music Education since 1983 and is a former member of the American Choral Directors Association.

Among his numerous accolades, Millett received the IMEA Distinguished Service Award and the IHSAA West Lowe Memorial Award in 2016; Idaho Fifth District Music Educator of the Year in 2002 and 2011; and Aberdeen School District Teacher of the Year in 2005.


Tyler North

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Tyler North has served New Mexico as a music educator for 19 years, teaching middle school and high school band, as well as music technology and music theory. As the director of bands at Sandia High School, he oversees the education and operation of two concert ensembles, one jazz ensemble and a Steel (Pan) ensemble as well as the Matador marching and pep bands.

In his tenure at Sandia, North has significantly increased the student participation in the band programs through new initiatives, including creating a music technology lab as well as a Steel Ensemble in order to allow more students to experience music.

At the state level, North served as the New Mexico Music Educators Association (NMMEA) District VII President from 2014 to 2019 and has served on the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Board since 2017.

North earned the Sandia High School Inspirational Teacher Award in 2002 and 2019, and eight times honored with the Albuquerque Public Schools “Keys to Student Success” Commendation. In 2021, North was named Music Educator of the Year by the NMMEA.


Brian Reeves

Maryland Heights, Missouri

Brian Reeves began his teaching career in 1992 as choir director at Odessa Junior and Senior High School. In 1996, he moved to Parkway North High School where he has directed its choir since. In his 24 years at Parkway, he has led its choir to the highest rating of 1 at Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) State Large Ensemble Festival each year.

Reeves has served terms as president of both the Missouri Music Educators Association and the Missouri Choral Directors Association, and from 2007 to 2019, he served on the MSHSAA Music Advisory Committee. In addition, last year Reeves was on the Selection Committee for Leadership Ballot of National Association for Music Educators Southwest Division.

Reeves has been honored with the Luther T Spayde Award by the Missouri Choral Directors Association, an Outstanding Music Educator Award by the St. Louis Suburban Music Educators Association, named Outstanding District Director by the Missouri Choral Directors Association and was Teacher of the Year of Parkway North High School.


Jenanne Solberg

Whitefish, Montana

Jenanne Solberg spent more than 30 years performing in various orchestras in Montana and Wyoming, during which she began her career as a music educator. In 1990, she started a string education program at Billings Central Catholic High School, eventually becoming the director of the choir and band programs. From 2002 until her retirement last year, Solberg taught music at the middle school level for Whitefish School District 44.

At Billings Central Catholic, the orchestra, band and choir earned Superior ratings at the District Music Festival each year of Solberg’s tenure. Students from all ensembles were selected to All-State each year and two students selected to All-National Honors Orchestra. At Whitefish, Solberg created the orchestra program for fifth and sixth grade in 2003, which now includes 230 students. Whitefish students have been selected for All-State Orchestra every year, with several members represented at All-Northwest Honors groups as well.

Solberg has served as president of the Montana String Teachers Association and as vice president of the Montana Federation of Public Employees. In 2009, Yale named her one of the 50 Most Influential Music Teachers in the United States.


Burton Svendsen

Rushford, Minnesota

From 1978 until his retirement in 2016, Burton Svendsen influenced countless students in the Rushford (Minnesota) Public School District as band director for grades 5-12. In 1990, Rushford consolidated with the Peterson School District, which added direction of elementary bands to Svendsen responsibilities.

Throughout his tenure at Rusford, Svendsen’s bands participated in the Minnesota Music Educators (MMEA) Celebration of Young Musicians program and, through Rochester, Minnesota’s Civic Music, participated in a program that brought world music musicians into the public schools.

Svendsen was the music representative on the Region 1A board of the Minnesota State High School League for four years, including three as chair, and managed the large group music contest for Region 1A for 14 years. Even in retirement, he has managed small group music contests for Region 1A, including three contests the past two years.


Erin Tapia

Baldwinsville, New York

Erin Tapia is the director of bands and Fine Arts Department Chair of Westhill High School, a position she has held since 2018 after 15 years as the associate director of bands. As director of bands, Tapia oversees the wind ensemble, concert band, jazz lab, Brazilian percussion ensemble, pep band, musical pit band and chamber music ensembles.

Under Tapia’s direction, more than 75 students annually perform in the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Spring Solo and Ensemble Festivals, including multiple All-State student selections. More than 60 of Tapia’s students have participated in instrumental collegiate music ensembles after graduating from Westhill, many who have pursued majors and careers in music education, music performance, audio production and engineering, stage management, and music therapy.

At the state level, Tapia is her zone representative for the NYSSMA and has served a term as the association’s president. She is also the former chair of the New York State Band Directors Association Membership Committee.

In 2020, Tapia worked with the National Association for Music Educator’s Mentor Training Program and has had performances with the Central Winds Music Educators’ Wind Ensemble at the Midwest Clinic in 2009 and 2016, and the Texas Bandmasters’ Association in 2019.


Kristen Thomas

Lisbon Falls, Maine

Kristen Thomas came to Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, Maine, in 2007 as choral director. In 2012, she added drama club advisor to her list responsibilities before assuming duties as the school’s Performing Arts Department Head in 2018.

Under her direction, the Mt. Ararat Chamber Singers earned Silver Awards at the Heritage/World Strides Festival in 2008, 2010 and 2012, and the Mt. Ararat Treble Choir achieved a Bronze Award in 2008 and Silver Awards 2010 and 2012. In addition, the Mt. Ararat Stage Company “Chicago: High School Editions” was earned a Broadway World Maine nomination for Best Educational Theater Performance in 2019.

At the state level, Thomas has served as chair for the Maine Music Educators Association All State Music Festival since 2013. In that capacity, she oversees the details of the festival that includes housing more than 500 students, 150 teachers and chaperones. After quickly switching the festival to a virtual format last spring, Thomas has been working to reimagine the 2021 festival into a meaningful virtual experience for students.


Bruce Walker

Richland, Washington

Since 2011, Bruce Walker has been the music director of the Yakima Youth Symphony. That follows eight years as director of orchestras in grades 6-12 for the Sunnyside School District. When he began at Sunnyside, the high school orchestra had five members. When Walker left in 2014, it numbered more than 120 students.

Under Walker’s direction, Sunnyside’s orchestra earned a gold medal at a festival in San Francisco in 2011 and a silver medal at Music in the Parks in 2009. In addition as a private cello instructor, Walker has had numerous students selected for Washington Music Educators Association (WMEA) state solo and ensemble.

Walker has served as site manager for the WMEA Chamber Orchestra and group manager for the WMEA All-state Orchestra five times each. He also currently sits on the Board of the Suzuki Association of the Americas and served as president of the American String Teachers Association for Washington.

Walker’s accomplishments include conducting orchestras in Nevada, Arkansas and Texas, and in 2018, he conducted the WMEA All-state Orchestra. Walker has also been guest conductor of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra and the Oregon East Symphony.


Del Whitman

Lincoln, Nebraska

Since 1986, Del Whitman has served as orchestra director of Lincoln East High School. During his tenure at the school, he has also directed the band and choir, and since 2000, been the Music Department Chair.

Under Whitman’s direction, Lincoln East’s orchestra has earned Superior ratings at every All-City and district contest since 1989, and more than 500 students have been selected for Nebraska Music Educators Association (NMEA) All-State Orchestra. Whitman has taught students who have gone on to play as members of professional orchestras in Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Calgary, London, Omaha and Lincoln.

For the NMEA, Whitman has served two terms as chair of Orchestra Affairs, is a four-time session presenter and was a cello auditions revision consultant. He also served as president-elect of the Nebraska Chapter of American String Teachers Association in 1993-94.

Among Whitman’s honors, he was named Nebraska Teacher of the Year in 1997 and 2015 by the American String Teachers Association.