Music Educator Awards

Annual CSO Music Educator Awards

Music Educator Awards

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. The nomination process takes place in the Fall. For additional information, please call (614) 221-4916. 

2020 Music Educator Award Winners

The Music Educator Awards are made possible through the generous support of Kim & Judith Swanson. Additional 2020 nominees for this award are listed below. To see a list of past award recipients, CLICK HERE.

Debra Keller-Perry | Elementary Educator
Vocal Music Teacher
Clinton ES & Winterset ES
Columbus City Schools

Debra Keller-Perry has been teaching for 31 years and holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Capital University, a Master of Education from Marygrove University and full Kodály Certification from Capital University. Debra feels that a music teacher must be a powerful role model and her goals are to create musically literate children, help them think in a cross-curricular manner, empower them for success in a global community and to discover the lifelong joy in making music.

Daniel Gleich | Secondary Educator
Instrumental Music Teacher
Centennial HS
Columbus City Schools

Danny Gleich has been honored to serve the students of the Columbus City Schools for the past 19 years being a proud graduate of Northland HS himself. He received his Bachelor of Music Education degree at The Ohio State University and his Masters in Education degree from Ashland University. As director of bands at Centennial HS, Danny helped to build what is now the largest band in Columbus.

Susan Larson | Community Educator
Director, Newark-Granville Youth Symphony
Executive Director, Newark-Granville Symphony Orchestra

Susan Larson is the founder and artistic director of the Newark-Granville Youth Symphony, which she has led in performances at the John F. Kennedy Center in 2011 and for the Ohio Music Educators Association Conference in 2009 and 2015. Ms. Larson earned her BS degree in music education and violin performance from Kent State University, and graduate studies from The Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin.

Other nominees included 

  • William Giacomelli, Hilliard City Schools
  • Nicole Mazon, Hilliard City Schools
  • Angel Hillyard, West Jefferson Schools
  • Kara Johansen, Worthington City Schools
  • Nick Gonzalez, The Goddard School
  • James Becker, The Wellington School
  • Dustin O'Neill, Columbus City Schools
  • Keith Watson, River View Local Schools
  • Tom Traini, South-Western City Schools
  • Joshua Reynolds, Columbus City Schools
  • Nick Crowther, Hilliard City Schools
  • Chad Wulf, director of the Singing Buckeyes Barbershop Chorus
  • Chris Kuhn, Westerville City Schools
  • Mary Fran Cassady, director of the Dublin Singers


The Nomination process begins in the fall. To receive information contact the Symphony education department at 614-221-4916.

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

Nominations 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.