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Schmitt Music's Educators of the Year: Angela Wyatt, Scott Erickson, Todd Burkholder!

Congratulations to Schmitt Music’s 2015-2016 EDUCATORS OF THE YEAR Angela Wyatt, Scott Erickson, and Todd Burkholder!

In an effort to recognize the work of outstanding school music educators, Schmitt Music and the SDC (Schmitt Director Center) set out to find the best of the best, and we’re honoring exceptional educators in three categories: elementary, middle school and high school. We accepted nominations from the music community at large, receiving 31 submissions from a six state area in the Upper Midwest. Thank you to those who took time to nominate and recognize their colleagues, and congratulations to all the deserving, outstanding educators who were nominated to be one of the three 2015-2016 Educators of the Year!

This year we had a very distinguished panel of judges evaluating the submissions for Schmitt Music’s “Educators of the Year” awards. We trust their experience and integrity, and would like to say thank you for accepting the challenge of selecting the winners!

John BenhamDr. John Benham is founder and president of Music in World Cultures, Inc. and the author of Music Advocacy: Moving from Survival to Vision. He is a nationally recognized consultant for crisis intervention on behalf of music programs in public schools, for which he has received both the Minnesota Music Educators Distinguished Service Award and the MENC National Distinguished Service Award. He is the first recipient of the Distinguished Music Alumni award at University of Northwestern. In 2003 he was named a Lowell Mason Fellow by the MENC and in 2010 he was the recipient of the ASTA National Advocacy award.

Jerry LuckhardtJerry Luckhardt is associate professor of music and acting director of bands at the University of Minnesota School of Music. Along with teaching courses in conducting, he conducts the Symphonic Band and Chamber Winds. Professor Luckhardt is also music director of the Medalist Concert Band in Bloomington, MN and serves as conductor and artistic director of the Encore Wind Ensemble of Minneapolis, MN. He has appeared as a guest conductor and clinician with ensembles throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Luckhardt was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the MMEA in 2002.

William WebbWilliam Webb was last year’s sole Schmitt Music Educator of the Year award winner, and as the first recipient, will start the tradition of participating on the panel of judges to select the next winners. “In addition to helping thousands of students develop their passion for music, my most impactful music education accomplishment was leading the formation of MBDA (The Minnesota Band Directors Association) as a founding officer, president-elect. Over 25 years ago, when discussions about forming MBDA started, I was approached by Frank Bencriscutto, Miles Johnson, and Russ Pesola about serving as the first president-elect. I decided to forgo my pursuit of a Ph.D. and invest the next 7 years of my life getting MBDA up and running. I am proud to see a healthy, vibrant Minnesota Band Directors Association flourishing today.” He is a recent director from the Edina School District in Edina, MN.

Each of our judges this year commented on how difficult it was to select just three winners. All of our deserving nominees show a dedication to music education that is truly inspirational. Get to know a bit about the 2015-2016 Educators of the Year below you’ll find excerpts from the winners’ responses to our inquiries regarding their experience, their teaching styles, and their music programs.

Angela Wyatt

Northview Elementary, Oak Ridge Elementary School of Leadership, Health & Environmental Sciences | ISD 196, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan | Eagan, MN

Angela WyattDescribe why you think you were nominated for this award.

Although I am not sure why I was nominated it may be partly due to the Band For All instrument donation program I implemented in 2007. This program was created as a way to increase diversity in all District 196 bands. Students who are on free or reduced lunch may use a donated instrument for a one-time fee of $20. This year, over 600 students in District 196 are able to participate in band because there is a Band For All instrument available to them… I love teaching beginning band. As their first instrumental teacher, my students’ skills reflect my teaching. If they have a bad habit there is no previous teacher to blame; it all comes back to me. This motivates me to work hard so everyone has a strong start. Beginning summer band lessons are my favorite teaching of the year; students are so excited and ready to learn. I enjoy the challenge of finding fun and creative solutions to whatever my students find challenging. And yes, fifth graders are able to play with nuance! …

How would your students describe you?

“Not the best in the world at electronics, but pretty good at the instruments!” (one of my students was referring to a Smart Board problem we had earlier this year). I think they would say I am energetic, have high expectations and am passionate about the music.

What has been your biggest obstacle in your teaching career and how did you overcome it?

The biggest obstacle while teaching is remembering to not blame the learner for not understanding or playing correctly but to simply work on finding out how to help them learn. I work on this every day.

Scott Erickson

Sanford Middle School | Minneapolis Public Schools | Minneapolis, MN
Scott Erickson, Mark Bobnick
(L-R) Schmitt Music’s Mark Bobnick presents Scott Erickson with his Educator of the Year award

Describe your approach to your job.

My approach is to take very seriously the job of getting these students ready to play in high school. No matter what a student’s own intentions might be, no matter what their cultural or socioeconomic background, I try my best to make them see that musicianship is musicianship. I also try to make it as fun as possible, selecting popular and film music repertoire alongside the ‘serious’ stuff, but always seeking authentic, challenging arrangements… I’m proud to say that over 90% of my concert band kids go on to play in high school.

How would your students describe you?

Funny and loud. I like to tell musical stories, stuff that happened to me when I was a band student way back when, or on the bandstand later in life… Shouty, because I have a big voice and use it effectively – whether in praise or…not. But always-always-always because I want them to be their best.

What is the most memorable moment in your career so far?

Several years ago, at our spring concert, my 8th graders presented me with a beautiful baton and case – and the story of how my old baton REALLY got broken in their 6th grade year one day when I had a sub. On the same night, it was formally announced that the band position at Sanford was expanding to full-time.

What has been your biggest obstacle in your teaching career and how did you overcome it?

I think my biggest obstacle has been finding my voice with adults. I tend to think that the work speaks for itself when we put on concerts, but I don’t think that many understand the hours of preparation (on my side) and the hours of practice (from the students) that go into it. I’ve overcome this by taking on a leadership role in the building beyond my normal duties, where I have become more comfortable articulating not only the needs of the band program, but all of the arts and specialists I represent.

Todd Burkholder

Armstrong High School | Robbinsdale Area Schools | Plymouth, MN

Todd BurkholderWhat is the one thing that you would like to accomplish in your current job?

I have had many big dreams as I work with students. One main goal is to build student leaders who have confidence with their music performances and who share the vision of our goals that we have in the music program. It is amazing as a teacher seeing students enter as 9th graders learning about the program then developing into such quality student musicians and leaders. I know it is a lofty thought but I feel like we are teaching students how to develop as people and enjoy quality lives through the discipline of music. My greatest satisfaction is listening to students who have long graduated from our music department who share meaningful memories of their time learning music and performing with their friends.

What are your career goals?

My main goal in my career is to build a band program that is balanced, quality and sustainable in all areas long after I have left my job…

What has been your biggest obstacle in your teaching career and how did you overcome it?

I think the biggest obstacle to my career has been the endurance factor trying to find the energy to complete each year of teaching. Every school year presents a mountain to climb and it takes everything within me to complete it. I could not do this job without outstanding colleagues at every level, terrific administrators, boosters and a wonderful wife who understands that she married a high school band director who will not be at home over 100 evenings out of every school year.

Who do you most admire in the music education field and why?

The person I admire most in the music education field is Dr. Harold Krueger, a retired music professor from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I attended Augustana because of this man and he means the world to thousands of music students who studied with him… He was a music innovator who pushed the envelope with music genres and he was able to totally draw his college students into his vision and goals. Certain music teachers have this intangible persona where students will do virtually anything for an instructor and Doc Krueger had this humble yet magnetic personality leading all of us to want to be like him and to teach like him.


CLICK HERE to download the complete “Educators of the Year” feature article (PDF), including all of this year’s nominees and award winners! We have included excerpts from the nominees’ responses to our inquiries regarding their experience, their teaching styles and preferences, and their music programs.