Music Educator Awards

Annual CSO Music Educator Awards

Music Educator Awards

Sheraton Hotel
Downtown Columbus

Sponsored by Kim & Judith Swanson

Established in 1997, the Columbus Symphony’s Music Educator Awards recognize those individuals who instill and inspire a love of music in the children and adults of central Ohio. The purpose of these annual awards is to promote a greater understanding of and appreciation for music education, as well as to honor those individuals who are making a real difference in our community through their dedication to music education. One award is honored in each of the following categories:

Elementary Music Educator          Secondary Music Educator           Community Music Educator

Each Music Educator Award winner receives a monetary grant to be spent at their direction for a broad range of music education endeavors, such as purchasing music, instrument repair, or professional development classes for the educator. For additional information, please call (614) 221-4916. 

2020 Music Educator Award Winners

Elementary Division - Debra Keller-Perry, Elementary Vocal Music Teacher, Clinton ES & Winterset ES, Columbus City Schools

Secondary Division - Daniel Gleich, Instrumental Music Teacher, Centennial HS,  Columbus City Schools

Community Division - Susan Larson, Director of Newark-Granville Youth Symphony and Executive Director of Newark-Granville Symphony Orchestra

The 2020 Music Educator Awards will be presented at the annual dinner fundraiser at the Sheraton Hotel on Saturday, March 28 at 5:30pm. Tickets are $65 and include dinner and Symphony concert and are available by calling the Education department at 614-221-4916 before March 16. The winners will also be presented on the stage of the Ohio Theatre preceding the Columbus Symphony concert. 


Nominees should be music educators in the central Ohio area who:

  • Make a lasting difference in the lives of students of all abilities and backgrounds
  • Routinely go “above and beyond the call of duty” by extending efforts beyond the classroom
  • Make a significant impact on their community through music education
  • Inspire students to reach appropriately high levels of musical understanding and ability
  • Demonstrate longevity in the field of music education by their many years of work
  • Instill a lifelong appreciate of music in their students

Nomination must include:

  • Notation of the educator’s nomination category – elementary, secondary, or community.
  • Three letters of support (no longer than 3 pages each) describing how the nominee meets the selection criteria.
  • Nominee's information: name, place of employment, title, home and work addresses, email address, number of years in current position, and total years experience in music education.
  • Nominator’s information: name, email address, relationship to nominee, home and work addresses, and phone number. 
2019 Music Educator Award Winners:

The 2019 Music Educator Awards were presented at the annual dinner fundraiser at the Sheraton Hotel on Saturday, April 6. Columbus Symphony musician Steven Wedell  acted as emcee for the event. The winners were also presented on the stage of the Ohio Theatre preceding the Columbus Symphony concert. The Music Educator Awards are made possible through the generous support of   Kim & Judith Swanson.

Additional 2019 nominees for this award are listed below. To see a list of past award recipients, CLICK HERE.

Karla Cherwinski | Elementary Educator
General Music Teacher
Indian Trail ES
Canal Winchester Local Schools

An elementary general music educator for 25 years, karla Cherwinski currently teaches 1st and 2nd grade music at Indian Trail Elementary. She earned a Bachelor of Music from Capital University, Kodály certification from the Kodály Institute at Capital, and a Master’s in music education from The Ohio State University. She was recently named the director of the Kodály Institute at Capital University.

Jim Chickrell | Secondary Educator
Director of Bands
Logan Elm HS
Logan Elm Local Schools

Currently in his 44th year of teaching instrumental music, Jim Chickrell has served as director of bands at Logan Elm High School for the past 31 years. As such, he is responsible for 5th and 6th grade instrumental instruction, directing the McDowell Junior High School band, and teaching music theory and history at Logan Elm High School as well as direct its marching band, concert band, and pep band. 

Catherine Willis | Community Educator
Urban Strings Columbus

In 2007, Catherine Willis founded Urban Strings Columbus, a central Ohio-based community youth orchestra of students ages 7-18 that perform classical music, as well as preserve and perform the music of traditional and contemporary African-American composers and arrangers, focusing on the enrichment of the musician through the incorporation of expressive music such as jazz, gospel, hip-hop, pop, and R&B

Other nominees included 

  • William Giacomelli, Hilliard City Schools
  • Angel Hillyard, West Jefferson Schools
  • Kara Johansen, Worthington City Schools
  • Debra Keller-Perry, Columbus City Schools
  • James Becker, The Wellington School
  • Keith Watson, River View Local Schools
  • Tom Traini, South-Western City Schools
  • Chad Wulf, director of the Singing Buckeyes Barbershop Chorus
  • Travis Damicone, Columbus City Schools
  • Nick Gonzalez, The Goddard School
  • Nick Crowther, Hilliard City Schools
  • Chris Kuhn, Westerville City Schools
  • Susan Larson, Newark-Granville Symphony