Nineteen individuals have been selected to receive the 2014-15 Outstanding Music Educator Award given by the NFHS Music Association.
The Music Advisory Committee selected the recipients based on their outstanding contributions to high school music programs and activities. The awards recognize high school or college band, choral or orchestral directors, supervisors and adjudicators.
This year, six individuals were selected as section winners and 13 were selected as state winners.
Section 1 – James Chesebrough, New Hampshire
James Chesebrough has dedicated the past 39 years of his life toward music education. He began regular, full-time music teaching in 1975 with Princeton City Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio. After six years in Ohio, Chesebrough took a job with Lin-Wood Public Schools in Lincoln, New Hampshire. He worked primarily as a music teacher for the district for the next 20 years.
Lin-Wood was small, and lacked the music background of other schools when Chesebrough arrived. During his time at Lin-Wood, he worked to transform music education in the district. By the time he left in 2001, Lin-Wood had a sequential K-12 music program that was both well supported and respected.
While at Lin-Wood, Chesebrough also taught and conducted at nearby universities. In 2001, he left to pursue a doctoral degree in Musical Arts in Conducting. He also went on to teach music at the collegiate level.
Chesebrough, who has been involved with the New Hampshire Music Educators Association in some capacity since 1981, served as a representative to the New Hampshire Band Directors association for two different districts, and is currently the organization’s president-elect.
Section 4 – Tom Haugen, Iowa
Tom Haugen has viewed music as a passion, rather than a career. After graduating from Luther College in 1961, he continued playing music for the Austin (Minnesota) Symphony Orchestra and began his first year of teaching in Alden, Minnesota. Moving around to eight different school districts, he eventually settled in Alexandra, Minnesota, where his marching band placed first or second in 80 competitive parades.
In 1985, Haugen founded the Tri-State Band Judging Association, where he continues as the head of the organization. Moving on to teach at the collegiate level in 1998, he taught at the University of Minnesota–Morris, his alma mater, where he currently stands as the supervisor for music education student teachers. Haugen was elected to Phi Beta Mu, an honorary band directors organization, in 1996. Since his retirement in 1998, he has presented more than 15 clinics at different conventions, including the Nebraska Bandmasters Convention, Minnesota Music Educators Convention, Iowa Bandmasters Convention and Canadian Bandmasters Convention.
In 2001, Haugen was inducted into the Minnesota Music Educators Association Hall of Fame. Three years later, he became one of Iowa’s first recognized mentors through the Iowa Model Excellence Mentorship Program, working with teachers to become successful music educators.
Section 5 – Beth Dampf, Missouri
Beth Dampf has been involved in music education since her first job out of college. She began her teaching career as a choral director at the junior high and high school levels in California, Missouri. She worked in California schools from 1986 to 2007 when she took a high school choral director job with Jefferson City High School in Jefferson City, Missouri. Today, Dampf still holds this position while also directing the children’s choir at the California United Church of Christ and the Missouri Future Farmers of America State Chorus.
Dampf has received numerous accolades for her work throughout her career. She was named 2014 Teacher of the Year in the Jefferson City Public School District and a Grammy Music Teacher of the Year Nominee, and she received the 2014 Luther T. Spayde Award for Choral Excellence from the Missouri Choral Directors Association, among other recognitions.
She has also conducted performances at the White House, Carnegie Hall, the Epcot Center, the Rose Bowl Parade, and the Lincoln, Jefferson and U.S. Navy Memorials.
Thus far, Dampf has taught 31 Missouri All-State choir members and 21 Missouri All-State show choir members.
Section 6 – Robert Floyd, Texas
Robert Floyd’s music education career has spanned almost five decades beginning in Richardson, Texas, and leading to his current position as the executive director of the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA). Since he became executive director, the association has grown by almost 4,000 members, member and student services have increased, and a new headquarters has been built.
In his first year as the director of bands at Richardson (Texas) Lloyd V. Berkner High School, his band won Honor Band in Class AAA with 60 students. He led groups to Class AAAAA honor band titles two other times – in 1986 and 1990.
Floyd has held various positions with TMEA throughout his career at both the regional and state levels, serving as the vice-president and band chair in 1977-78 and president in 1981-82. He also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Dallas Wind Symphony as well as resident conductor following the death of the symphony’s founder.
In 1981, Floyd started lobbying efforts with the State Board of Education and the Texas State Legislature. He is a major proponent of issues such as graduation requirements, textbooks, extracurricular activity rules, inclusion of performing arts in the required curriculum, protection of instructional time for performing arts classes during the school day and protection of the marching band substitution for physical education.
Section 7 – Claudia Bigler, Utah
Claudia Bigler is entering her fourth decade of music education, and has spent the past 23 years at the Box Elder School District located just north of Salt Lake City, Utah. Her work at Box Elder includes teaching two courses and overseeing six choirs. Every summer, Bigler composes an original "theme song" for her chamber group. She has had one of these songs published, and two more will be released in the fall.
Bigler’s career began in the Salt Lake City area with the Jordan School District in 1973. Following a year in that district, Bigler held music specialist positions with the Horizon School in Ogden, Utah, and the Utah Home School Association. In 1986, she took a job teaching choir and general music in the Carbon School District – a district she would stay with for six years before taking her current position with Box Elder in 1992.
Bigler has received numerous accolades for her work in music education. She won the 2014 Outstanding Music Educators Award given by the Utah High School Activities Association. In 2012, she won the Utah Music Educators Association Superior Accomplishment Award, and was named 2006 Golden Apple Teacher of the Year by the Ogden Standard Examiner.
Bigler has served on multiple committees for the Utah Music Educators Association and the Utah High School Activities Association. She was also named president of the Utah American Choral Directors Association chapter from 2002 to 2004.
Section 8 – Dave Matthys, Oregon
Dave Matthys’ career spanned 35 years, and all but one focused on music education. He retired from teaching school programs at the end of the past school year, but continues to offer private lessons. Prior to his retirement, Matthys worked in the Lake Oswego (Oregon) School District as the music coordinator and band director since 2003.
Matthys began his teaching career at Bandon Junior High and High School as the band director in 1979. From there he went on to serve as band director for North Marion Junior High and High School, Reynolds High School, Oak Harbor High School, the Beaverton School District and Cleveland High School. Save for Oak Harbor, which is located in Washington, all of Matthys’ career has been spent in Oregon schools. He spent one school year (1999-00) at Clackamas High School as a guidance counselor, but left because he missed teaching music.
Matthys has given multiple presentations at Oregon Music Educators Association conferences on topics ranging from Google in the classroom and sight-reading room techniques. He also has contributed a lecture at Portland State University on reviving band programs and worked as a university supervisor of student teachers.
He has been heavily involved with the Oregon Band Directors Association (OBDA), the Oregon Music Educators Association and the Oregon School Activities Association. He served as president of the OBDA from 1994 to 1996.
He also served on the selection committee for the Portland Rose Festival, and implemented a new scoring guideline that has been in place since 2000.
Andrew DeNicola, New Jersey
Andrew DeNicola has been directing student bands for the past 42 years, including the last 38 years at John P. Stevens High School in Edison, New Jersey. During this time, DeNicola has guided one of the premier band programs in the region and state. In each of the last 25 years, DeNicola has had between 10 and 36 students qualify for All-State Band – the most of any high school in New Jersey. He has also had three students qualify for All-National Band – a honor that is only recognized once every four years.
DeNicola attended Montclair State College from 1969 to 1973 and graduated with a bachelor’s in music education. Following graduation, he went on to become band director at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School from 1973 to 1977.
During his career, DeNicola has received many awards and honors including: Music Educators National Conference Master Music Teacher Award, John P. Stevens High School Teacher of the Year and New Jersey State Jazz Educator of the Year. He was also one of 10 Grammy finalists selected by the Recording Academy Blue Ribbon Committee.
Nancy Robertson, Mississippi
Nancy Robertson has been a leader in music education in the southeastern United States for approximately 35 years. She is currently the head choral conductor for Warren Central High School (WCHS) in Vicksburg, Mississippi – a position she has held since 1999 after nearly 20 years of teaching in Mississippi and Texas. Last year, she served as the High School Repertoire and Standards Chair for the Mississippi American Choral Directors Association.
In 2000, she received the WCHS Teacher of the Year Award as well as the Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year Award. Her choirs have traveled to Atlanta, Chicago, San Antonio, Houston, Disney World, Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. Her students never received less than a Superior rating at any of those performances.
Robertson has also been heavily involved in the Mississippi Music Educators Association. She has been a member since 1986 and served as president of the high school choral division from 2012 to 2014.
Dr. Sandra Leconte, Illinois
Sandra Leconte has dedicated the past 40 years of her life to music education in the Chicago area. She currently works at Curie High School as a vocal music and piano teacher, a position she has held since 2006. She also serves on the Curie High School Local School Council and the Illinois High School Association Music Advisory Committee.
Leconte is also a member of the National Association for Recording Arts and Sciences Chicago chapter, and is on the organization’s board of governors. She has been involved in a myriad of organizations including the Chicago Federation of Musicians and the International Reading Association.
Leconte is an undergraduate alumnus of Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. Additionally, she possesses a master of music degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, a certificate of advanced study in educational leadership from National-Louis University in Wheeling, Illinois, and an Ed.D in educational leadership from Argosy University in Sarasota, Florida.
Mark Lehmann, Iowa
Mark Lehmann’s music education career has taken him all over the state of Iowa since his first school teaching job in 1974. In the past 41 years, Lehmann has taught at both the high school and college levels. He retired from high school teaching in 2010 to take an adjunct professor position at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.
Before teaching at Wartburg, Lehmann worked as a vocal music instructor at Waverly-Shell Rock High School in Waverly, Iowa, from 1996 to 2010. Prior to that, Lehmann held the same position at Hampton-Dumont Community Schools in Hampton, Iowa from 1979 to 1996.
Lehmann had 172 students chosen for Iowa All-State Choir while at Waverly-Shell Rock, and five students were selected for national American Choir Directors Association (ACDA) Honor Choirs. He instructed 69 students who were chosen for Iowa All-State Choir while he worked at Hampton-Dumont.
Lehmann has been heavily involved with the Iowa High School Music Association as well as the ACDA North Central Division. He was executive board president of the former in 2007-08 and 2009-10.
Lehmann was a founding member of Comprehensive Musicianship Project in Iowa, and has served on its steering committee all but one summer when he toured Europe. Through this program, thousands of music educators across the Midwest have been inspired to approach music education with a holistic view.
Rex Barker, Nebraska
Rex Barker is approaching his 33rd year in music education, a career that includes just three stops along the way: Northwest High School in Grand Island, Nebraska; Millard South High School in Omaha, Nebraska; and the entire Millard Public Schools system. Barker has been involved with Millard since 1988. In 2013, he was given the Millard Public Schools Excellence in Secondary Teaching Award.
Under Barker’s direction, the Millard music program has received numerous national awards and recognitions. The Millard Public Schools have been named in the Top 100 Places for Music Education in 2000, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2012. Millard South was awarded a Grammy Signature School designation in 1999.
Through all that success, Barker’s students have also been able to participate in many events across the nation. The Millard South band has performed at the Alamo Bowl, Orange Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Musicfest Orlando and the Red River Exhibition in Winnipeg, Canada.
Barker has also participated in numerous music organizations. He served as president of the Nebraska Music Educators Association in 2008-09 and 2010-11. He has also been a member of the National Band Association, the National Education Association and the National Association for Music Education for more than three decades.
Randall Fillmore, Kansas
Wherever he has gone, Randall Fillmore has strived to impact his students’ lives and guide their growth as music students and human beings. From superior ratings and honor band recognitions to performances at national festivals, Fillmore’s hard work has given his students recognition and opportunity.
Fillmore’s teaching career has spanned more than 38 years at the high school and university levels, with the majority of his time at high schools in Kansas and Oklahoma. From 1985 to 2005, he was the band director at Salina (Kansas) South High School, and he has spent the past 10 years at Lawrence Free (Kansas) State High School, where he also works as the school’s band director.
Fillmore has also served on various associations and committees concerning music education. He was the Kansas State Chairman for the National Band Association from 1990 to 2011. He has also provided input for the Kansas State High School Activities Association as the Required Music List-Band Committee Chair since 1998.
Dustin Seifert, New Mexico
Dustin Seifert has been teaching for fewer than 20 years, but has already made an indelible impact in the world of music education. Seifert has worked at the university-level of music education since 1996 when he began as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. From there, his career included stops at Iowa State University and Eastern New Mexico University. He has worked at the latter since 2000, and has been the Department of Music chair for the past eight years.
Seifert has quickly racked up numerous awards for his work. He was named 2015 Music Educator of the Year by the New Mexico Music Educators Association. He won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2005, and the Spirit of Eastern award at Eastern New Mexico in 2004.
Seifert is on the National Association for Music Education’s (NAfME) collegiate advisory committee, and the National Band Association’s board of directors. He also served as the NMMEA president in 2010-11.
Steve Warner, Arkansas
Steve Warner has been director of bands at Jonesboro (Arkansas) High School since 1995. Before coming to Jonesboro, he taught at West Memphis (Arkansas) High School, Poplar Bluff (Missouri) High School, and Hughes (Arkansas) High School. Warner just completed his 37th year of teaching and his 19th year at Jonesboro. At Jonesboro, Warner conducts the high school symphonic winds and directs the school’s marching band.
For the past 19 years, the Jonesboro High School Band has consistently earned First Division Superior Ratings. The high school band has been a leader in placing students in both the All‐Region and All‐State Bands. Warner’s career emphasis has been on the concert band. Built upon the strength of the concert program, quality ensembles have developed in the concert, jazz and marching bands.
Warner has received local and national notoriety for his work as a music educator. He was named one of 50 Directors that Make a Difference by School Band and Orchestra Magazine in 2008. He has also received numerous awards from the Jonesboro School District honoring his outstanding contributions to the district. Those awards include the Golden Key, Education Stamp and Top Cane Award.
He has taught more than 400 students who were selected to Arkansas All-State Bands and is a 13-time Grand Champion at the Arkansas Open Marching Championship.
Susan Walker, Montana
Susan Walker’s career has spanned nine school districts and 41 years – the last 26 of which have been spent at Big Sandy (Montana) High School. She has helped build a successful music program at a school with less than 100 students.
Even with a small pool of students, Walker has still managed to produce three All-State Band and four All-State Chorus members in her time at Big Sandy. Almost 70 percent of her solos and ensembles advance to the state level, and nearly half of those receive Superior ratings.
Walker has also involved herself in various music organizations locally and nationwide. She has been a part of the Montana Music Educators Association, Montana Bandmasters and the National Association for Music Educators for more than 30 years.
Michael Brashear, Texas
Michael Brashear has been a staple of Texas music education for almost 40 years. From the classroom to administrative leadership, he has dedicated his career to providing music education opportunities for the students of Texas to enrich their lives through music.
Brashear’s first teaching job after receiving his undergraduate degree from Tarleton State University was director of bands at Austin Junior High in Irving, Texas. From there, he moved to an associate band director position at Stratford High School in Houston before holding director positions at Northbrook in Houston and Cy-Fair High Schools in Cypress, Texas. In 1993, he was named director of bands and fine arts department chair at Berkner High School in Richardson, Texas, a position he held for 23 years.
Brashear made the leap to full-time administrative duties in 2006 when he was named director of fine arts for the Richardson School District. After two years in that position, he left to become the executive director of the Texas Bandmasters Association – a post he maintains today.
Brashear’s bands have performed at many festivals both in Texas and out of state including Florida, California, Washington D.C. and Hawaii earning many “Best in Class” trophies and outstanding musician awards. Hundreds of Brashear’s students earned first-place ratings at the University Interscholastic League Solo and Ensemble Contest as well as local festivals. Several were presented “Outstanding Soloist” awards.
Many of his former students have continued to make music an active part of their adult lives. Former band students now perform with The President’s Own Marine Band, The United States Army Field Band, The Navy Band as well as professional orchestras. Others are now professional music educators or teach private lessons professionally.
Mark Cain, Oklahoma
Mark Cain has spent his entire 33-year career in one spot – the Western Heights Public School District in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Since being named junior high choral director and high school assistant director in 1982, his title has changed, but his location has not. He held this position until 1992 when he became a high school choral director, a position he still holds today. Cain was also named the district’s fine arts coordinator in 1999, and he has directed the high school musical since 1982.
Cain is a class of 2012 Oklahoma Music Educators Association (OkMEA) hall of famer, and has won a handful of teacher-of-the-year awards, including the Western Heights High School Teacher of the Year award in 2006-07.
Cain’s choirs have consistently performed well in competitions. His choirs have won the Sweepstakes Award in Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association state competition 19 times, and were named Best in Class 15 times.
Cain has also been a part of the OkMEA and the Oklahoma Choral Directors Association since 1982 and held various positions in each organization. Additionally, he was a founding member of the Central Oklahoma Choral Directors Association.
Wayne Genova, Colorado
Wayne Genova’s music education career spanned 36 years and covered everything from middle school to the university level. He began as a vocal music and orchestra teacher at Pueblo (Colorado) Freed Middle School in 1971 and retired as a vocal music teacher at Pueblo South High School in 2007.
Genova’s teaching career earned him various awards and recognitions for his work. He was a Disney Teacher of the Year nominee, a member of the Pueblo Performing Arts Guild Hall of Fame and even had “Wayne Genova Day” designated by the City of Pueblo in his honor.
Genova is still an active member of the National Association of Music Educators, and was a part of the Colorado Music Educators Association, American Choral Directors Association and the Colorado ACDA for more than two decades.
Ron Gerhardstein, Washington
For the past decade, Ron Gerhardstein has served as the band director for West Valley High School in Yakima, Washington. Over that time, he has grown the program to include three levels of concert band, two jazz ensembles, a percussion ensemble and marching and pep bands. He got his start in the West Valley School District in 2001 as a band and choir director at West Valley Junior High School.
Gerhardstein holds a doctoral degree in music education from Temple University, and was a Grammy Foundation Nominated Teacher in 2014. Approximately 70 percent of his band students participate in the Regional Solo and Ensemble Festival.
Gerhardstein is also heavily involved in outside music education organizations. He has held various roles with the Washington Music Educators Association and was the president of the Yakima Valley Music Educators Association from 2006 to 2008.