2016-17 Outstanding Music Educator Awards

By on March 24, 2017 music directors & adjudicators article Print

Section Winners


Since she began teaching at Iroquois High School in Louisville, Kentucky, Linda Pulley has been building a positive musical environment that embraces the performing arts. She has taught at Iroquois High School since 2006 while also being the band team teacher at two middle schools.

Pulley is the Iroquois High School Music Department Chair, the Kentucky Ambassador of Music, and the Kentucky Music Education Association District 12 President. Under her guidance, the Iroquois High School band has received several awards for proficient solo and ensemble performances.

Pulley has been the recipient of the Kentucky Music Education Association High School Music Teacher of the Year (three times) and Iroquois High School Teacher of the Year. She enjoys working one on one with each student to foster his/her musical growth while advancing an interest in the performing arts.

Teaching at a school with the highest percentage of poverty level students in Jefferson County and the highest rate of students speaking English as a second language, Pulley looks forward to the challenge she faces every day. For 13 years, she has built up the band program to give students an opportunity to excel in music.



Nancy Robertson began teaching elementary school in 1980 and currently works at Warren Central High School in Vicksburg, Mississippi. For 15 years, her students have been consistently receiving superior ratings in district and state choral competitions.

In 1989, Robertson created and has been the director of a summer show choir program. She has been the Warren Central High School Teacher of the Year, the Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year and received the Ernestine Ferrell Award for Excellence in Choral Music from the Mississippi Music Educators Association and the Mississippi ACDA.

Robertson was elected as secretary of the High School Choral Division for MMEA in 2008, her second time holding that position, and from 2012 to 2014 served as its president. She is also a member of the American Choral Directors Association.

Robertson has traveled to Atlanta, Chicago, San Antonio, Houston, Washington D.C., Disney World and the Bahamas with many of her choir students for national competitions, never receiving less than superior ratings. Robertson is also an adjudicator for many choral competitions in and out of Mississippi.



Dr. Sandra Leconte has been vocal music educator around the Chicago area since 1974. She began her teaching career at Corliss High School and subsequently eight more schools until she settled in at Curie High School in 2006.

In 1992, Leconte received a Chicago Public Schools High School Grant award for $20,000 to establish a Midi piano lab at Lincoln Park High School. Since 1984, her vocal soloists and ensembles have received superior and excellent ratings throughout the Chicago area.   

Leconte has been a member of many associations and committees including NARAS, MENC, ASCD, International Reading Association, CFM, CRA, Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., IHSA Music Advisory Committee and the Curie High School Local School Council. In these associations, she has held many positions including, president, vice-president and financial fortitude chair.

Leconte teaches and encourages her students to perform culturally diverse styles to engage all singing groups and audiences. She inspires many of her students to give back to the community as teachers, music business owners, performers and goodwill ambassadors.


South Dakota

Cathleen Britton’s music education career has spanned nearly 40 years beginning in Westfield, Iowa, up to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she spent most of her teaching career. Her wish in teaching is for her students to simply enjoy and love music.

After joining the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) in 1988, Britton worked he way up to becoming South Dakota’s ACDA president from 2005 to 2007. As president, she grew ACDA membership and increased the enthusiasm and quality of choral education across the state. She was recently appointed by the ACDA National Office as High School Repertoire and Standards Chairperson for the North Central Region.

Britton’s students have received nearly 700 superior awards. As for Britton, she has received the SD ACDA Lifetime Achievement Award, South Dakota Music Educator of the year and was inducted into the Aberdeen Central (South Dakota) High School Hall of Fame for Fine Arts.

In 2014, Britton retired from being a music educator in high school but continues to give back by mentoring teachers and choral programs throughout Eastern South Dakota. In fact, her position at O’Gorman High School has been filled with one of Britton’s former students.



Susan Clothier began her music career as a high school band assistant at Western Heights (Oklahoma) Public School. Since, she has been the band director for four high schools including Putnam City North High School in Oklahoma City, where she has taught since 1999.

Her consistent success with student musicians makes her classroom a desired destination for music student teachers at the university level. Several Oklahoma schools have turned to Clothier to guide them in constructing a successful band program at their schools.

Clothier has received numerous teacher of the year awards from the schools she has taught at, as well as from Partners for Excellence in Teaching and Oklahoma Bandmasters. This past fall, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Bandmasters Hall of Fame.

She is a member of Oklahoma Bandmasters Association, Oklahoma Music Educators Association, NAfME, Oklahoma Music Adjudicators Association and the Oklahoma Education Association. In 1994 and 1997, Clothier served as president of the East Central Oklahoma Band Directors Association and president of Oklahoma Small Schools Band Directors Association from 1994 to 1998.



Alan Scott views teaching music as a way to spread the art through his student’s performances. He began teaching in 1990 and has now settled down at Murray High School in Salt Lake City, Utah where he has taught since 1995.

Scott’s a capella choir has received superior ratings in the State Choir Festival for 19 years and his bel canto choir for 10 years. With his help, Murray High School has hosted a Winter Choral Invitational for the past 21 years. With the assistance of Utah Music Educators Association (UMEA), Scott managed and administered Utah’s first High School Men’s Honor Choir and is the state choral vice-president.

Scott has received many accolades throughout his teaching career. He has been the UMEA Rookie of the Year, UMEA Choral Educator of the Year and was selected as the 2016 High School Music Educator of the Year Award for Utah.

Since becoming a music educator, Scott has been a long-standing member of the UMEA serving as the choral vice-president from 2002-04 as well as the Utah chapter president of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) from 2009 to 11. For 20 of Scott’s past 22 years, singers from Murray High School have sung in All-State Choir.



Mark Lane has been a music educator around the Washington and Oregon areas for more than 36 years. He began teaching in the Elgin (Oregon) School District in 1979 and moved to a few different schools before settling in to Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington in 2006.

As the associate director of bands and associate professor of music education, Lane teaches courses along with the 65-member symphonic band, 60-member symphonic winds and team-teaches the 150-member marching band. He is the conductor of the Washington Ambassadors of Music Tours, travelling to many places including England, France and Germany.

Lane has been the recipient of the WMEA Music Educator of the Year Award, National Band Association Citation of Excellence, Tri-Cities Crystal Apple Award for Excellence in Education. In 2015, he was one of four nominees for president of the NAfME.

Lane is a member of the NAfME, WMEA, Oregon Music Education Association and Northwest Music Education Executive Board. Every year, he oversees Central Washington University’s State Solo and Ensemble Contest which brings more than 5,000 people to town for the musical performances.



Andy Johnston has dedicated the past 30 years of his life to music education. He began teaching privately in a studio in 1984 before he became a teacher for public schools in 1992. After five years teaching at a school in Oklahoma, Johnston moved to Springfield, Missouri, where he taught most of his career at Glendale High School.

In 2002, he led a successful campaign to keep teaching strings in the elementary schools. A proposal to cut the program was again made the following year, but Johnston designed a new schedule to better fit elementary classroom teachers’ timeframes while also saving the school district money, again saving the strings program for elementary schools. 

Johnston recently became the orchestra director at nearby Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri. He has also been involved with local youth symphonies since 1998, serving as assistant conductor, conductor and music director.

Johnston, who has been a member of the American String Teachers Association, the MENC and the NAFME was also the vice-president of the Missouri Music Educators Association from 2006 to 2008. He implemented and hosted the All-City Fifth Grade Orchestra Concert, showcasing hundreds of elementary school students to parents, administrators, and community members each year.


State Winners


Christopher Bruya has taught jazz education at multiple levels — high school, community college and university — for more than 30 years. He began teaching at the high school level in 1985, but since 2002, he has been the director of jazz activities at Central Washington University.

Bruya has been the recipient the Washington Music Educators Association Collegiate Music Educator of the Year, the Innovation Award for creation of the MIDI Lab at Mt. Hood (Gresham, Oregon) Community College, the Outstanding Junior Faculty Award at Pacific (Forest Grove, Oregon) University and the American School Band Director Association State (Oregon), Regional and National Stanbury Award Winner.

He has extended his reach of jazz teaching methods and curriculum ideas through his work as an adjudicator and clinician at regional high school jazz band competitions. Bruya also produces video recordings for YouTube, which are often used by fellow jazz educators as examples of the standard that all should strive for.

Bruya has been a member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and the Jazz Education Network (JEN) since he began teaching 32 years ago. As a board member for the Oregon Music Educators and the state International Association for Jazz Education (now JEN) chapter, Bruya established standards for all-state high school jazz ensembles including creating audition materials and procedures.



Denise Cotton’s passion for adjudicating allows her to go to district, state and regional contests and competitions where she can give positive feedback and constructive criticism to help students and teachers improve their music skills. She has been teaching vocal music either privately or at a school since 1976.

Cotton has been a member of NAfME, Nebraska Music Educators Association (NMEA), ACDA, and Nebraska Choral Directors Association (NCDA) since 2003. This past year, she took a position as the NCDA’s treasurer which has helped her put on choral activities around the state.

 At Lincoln (Nebraska) Southwest High School,Cotton and her colleagues have developed a tiered high school music theory curriculum. Their work has proven to develop the level of music knowledge and ability for all music students in the vocal and instrumental program. This curriculum is now the model for all school district music classes and it will be presented this fall at the state leve lfor music educators at the NMEA State Conference.



Ethel Pierce spent her entire career in Southeast Arkansas where she taught at Rison (Arkansas) High School for 38 years. After retiring from Rison, she continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at the University of Arkansas at Monticello and at Pine Bluff where she teaches woodwind methods.

Pierce is a member of the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association, Arkansas Bandmasters Association, Phi Beta Mu International Band Directors Fraternity, Arkansas Music Educators Association and Kappa Kappa Psi Honorary Band Fraternity. During her stretch as a member of these associations, she held many positions, among them president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary and board member. 

Pierce considers her life work to be ensuring that all people no matter their circumstances, are given the opportunity to be part of a band program and music education. She now sees it as her mission to mentor young band directors into providing the same opportunity for people that she has for 42 years.


New Mexico

Joseph Flores has spent his career teaching at various schools in the Las Cruces and El Paso areas developing and improving music programs along the way. He began teaching at Onate High School in Las Cruces in 1997 and is currently at Zia Middle School.

In 2016, Flores received the New Mexico Music Educators Association (NMMEA) Music Educator of the Year and the New Mexico Golden Apple Foundation Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. Under his direction, his music groups have consistently earned superior ratings for music excellence at the local, state and national levels.

Flores is a member of the NMMEA as well as the New Mexico Activities Association. At NMMEA, he served as president from 2011 to 2013 and prior to that was Southwest District President and the Band Division Vice-President.

Additionally, he is an active guest speaker, guest conductor, adjudicator and clinician in the New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri and Florida. Flores was selected as the first director of bands and elective department head at New Mexico’s newest comprehensive high school, Centennial High School. In the inaugural year, the band program had 60 students and under Flores’ direction, the department doubled enrollment in just four years.



The path Kelly Knedler has traveled chose him; he did not choose musical education. For the past 31 years, he has worked extensively in the theatrical realm, and for 19 years, he has been teaching musical theater and vocal music.

Knedler has taught at Dodge City (Kansas) High School since 1997 with a few years’ gap teaching at two other high schools. He was the Kansas Music Educators Association Southwest District Teacher of the Year in 2011 and has been nominated for numerous other awards.

Knedler has worked in more than 60 musical, drama and opera stage productions with such roles as actor, director, music director and set designer/builder. In his spare time, he is a choral music adjudicator, voice-over artist for radio and television commercials, choral music performer and high school sports radio analyst.

He is a member NAfME, Kansas Music Educators Association, ACDA, Colorado Choral Directors Association, Colorado Music Educators Association, Kansas Choral Directors Association and Tri-M Music Society.



Dr. Gerald Kreitzer has taught vocal music at the elementary, high school and university levels for nearly 40 years. His choral ensembles have gained recognition performing at regional and national conferences since 1993.

Kreitzer is a member of the Iowa String Teachers Association, Iowa Bandmasters Association, Lambda Chi Music Fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Iowa Choral Directors Association, ACDA and the Iowa Music Educators Association. He has served as a regional representative and president during his membership at the IMEA.

He was inducted into the Sioux Falls (South Dakota) O’Gorman High School Fine Arts Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Sioux Falls Washington High School Performing Arts Hall of Fame in 2013. Kreitzer has also been a guest conductor for numerous performances around the Iowa and South Dakota area.

As a member of the Iowa Department of Education Music Framework Committee, Kreitzer wrote the standards and curriculum for vocal music in secondary schools. He also served on a committee in the Cedar Rapids School District to overhaul their musical standards and outcomes.



Len Killough is currently in his fifth year as Director of Bands at Hernando (Mississippi) High School. Under his direction, the Hernando High School Band has received the Sweepstakes Award for superior ratings each year of his tenure.

Killough is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Phi Beta Mu, Hernando Desoto Band Directors Association, Northeast Band Directors Association, Mississippi Bandmasters Association and I55 Band Association. He is currently the 2nd Vice-President of the Mississippi Bandmaster Association and was the I55 Band Association President in 2008.

The Hernando band placed second in the Mississippi High School Activities Association 5A Marching Band Championship in 2012, third place in the MHSAA 6A Marching Band Championship in 2013 and first place in the MHSAA 6A Marching Band Championship in 2014 and 2015. Killough is a three-time recipient of the National Band Association Citation of Excellence.

Killough and his band have marched in the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C., the Disney Parade in Orlando, Florida and the Flambeau Parade in San Antonio, Texas. His concert band has also performed at the Dixie Classic Festival in Chicago, with the symphonic band winning the Sweepstakes Outstanding Band Award.



Lara Reem is an accomplished director of music and educator at Washington (Illinois) Community High School with more than 25 years of experience though the number of competition wins aren’t what she values. She cares more about the number of students who go on choose music as a profession and spread the art.

Reem is a member of the NAfME, American Choral Directors Association, National Education Association/Illinois Education Association and National Federation of High Schools. She is also the past president of the Washington Education Association, which is when she won the WCHS Excellence in Education Award.

She is active on social media to promote programs and teach mini lessons as well as posting performances to YouTube. During her free time, she volunteers at choral events within her community to assist and offer constructive criticism to performers.

Last year Reem became the music director and conductor of Illinois Central College (Peoria, Illinois) Philharmonic Chorale consisting of approximately 60 members. Last year she was also a nominee for the Grammy Music Educator Award.


West Virginia

Michael Knepper has worked his way up the teaching ladder going from elementary school, to middle school and now high school. Since his first teaching job, Knepper has remained in the Berkeley County School District of West Virginia.

Under his guidance, the Inwood (West Virginia) Musselman High School band has received numerous awards and marched in Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Knepper has received the Grammy’s National Music Educator Award and the Business Partnership’s Outstanding Teacher Award.

He is a member of the NAfME, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), NAACP and West Viginia Music Educators (WVME) Region IX where he has served as concert chairman and vice-president. As vice-president, Knepper oversaw coordinating for 37 high schools and middle school’s musical performances. 

In 2013, Knepper was featured on the School Band and Orchestra magazine’s list of “50 Directors Who Make a Difference.” He claims the most wonderful experiences in his life happen during school musical performances because he sees his students “unlocking their own creativity.” He has led his concert and jazz bands to several championships, always receiving superior ratings in competition.



Robert Loveridge has been teaching high school band at Helena (Montana) High School since 1992. He began his teaching career in 1979, and teaches in Montana as well as Wyoming.

Loveridge is a long-standing member of the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, Montana Music Educators Conference, Montana Band Master Association, NAfME, Wyoming Music Educators Association and Montana High School Association (MHSA). He is the festival chair/manager for District V of the MHSA, where he organizes music festivals and helps teachers prepare/register to participate in these festivals.

For seven of the past 10 years, he has received the Helena Education Foundation Distinguished Teacher Award and received the Helena Educators Association Educator of the Year Award in 2015. Under Loveridge’s direction, Helena bands have received superior ratings at regional and national events for numerous years.

Helena bands have been invited to perform at Disney World and Universal Studios 10 times, six of those as the featured performers. Loveridge has also hosted school music groups from Canada and Japan.


South Dakota

For the past 25 years, Rolf Olson has taught as the director of bands at the University of South Dakota. This past fall, Olson took a new job at Northern State University (South Dakota).

In 1991, Olson co-founded the South Dakota All-State High School Jazz Festival which he continues to oversee. He has been a conductor, adjudicator and clinician for numerous band festivals and competitions at the state and regional levels.

Olson is a member of NAfME, International Trumpet Guild, MTNA, South Dakota Bandmasters Association, International Horn Society and the South Dakota Alliance for the Arts. In his free time, he contributes articles to the South Dakota Musicians magazine.

The first band he ever taught won multiple awards and traveled to Washington D.C., for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Olson’s brass choir, under his supervision, was chosen to perform on two European tours. He has been the recipient of the South Dakota High School Activities Association Distinguished Service Award and Phi Beta Mu Outstanding Bandmaster Award.