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Music Educator of the Year Award

Each year, the Oregon Symphony in Salem honors a music teacher as Music Educator of the Year. The process begins with the nomination of candidates from any area of public classroom music education in the Salem-Keizer School District, including orchestra, band, and choir. The director of music for the Salem Keizer Schools makes the nominations, with possible additions from a committee of Oregon Symphony in Salem board members. Once the list is set, the committee members observe the teachers in their classroom setting, concerts, or other venues, then select the winner(s).

At the season’s final Oregon Symphony in Salem concert, the Music Educator of the Year is introduced to the audience and given a plaque, which is accompanied by a financial award to be used by the recipient’s school.


2019/20 Winner: Ariana Recher

Ariana Recher

Ms. Recher is the music director at Wright Elementary in Salem-Keizer School District, where she teaches grades K–5 general music, as well as the 4th and 5th grade choir.

This year’s Music Educator of the Year selection committee was chaired by Lane Shetterly, who serves as the president of the Oregon Symphony in Salem Advisory Committee, and also included Hector Agüero, associate professor of music at Willamette University; Toni Skelton, an independent music educator; and Justin Thorp, attorney.

Lane said, “We had a terrific group of nominees this year, all of whom demonstrated the highest level of commitment to music education. Ariana impressed us with her strong connection to her students and theirs to her. She was not only teaching them musical skills; she was creating an enduring place for music in their lives.”

Ariana is passionate about providing equitable opportunities for all students to stay involved in music throughout the year. Seeing every student within her school, she is able to provide a variety of ensemble opportunities, supplementary to the traditional choral and instrumental ensembles, such as marimba and ukulele ensembles. She founded the Salem Children’s Chorus which provides summer camp opportunities in music. These opportunities help support all students’ interests and needs to access music.

A native of Chennai, India, Ariana has been teaching in the Salem-Keizer School District since receiving her Master of Curriculum degree from PSU. Additionally, she coordinates the Salem-Keizer Elementary Choral Festival and is director of worship music at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

On learning of the award, Ms. Recher shared, "I am humbled and honored to receive this astounding award. What a privilege and responsibility we have as music educators to learn and instill the art of music through culture, community, academic knowledge, and expression in today’s youth. Ever so important in these difficult times, music continues to unite us." 

The Oregon Symphony in Salem has been awarding this prize to an outstanding educator from the Salem-Keizer School District since 1990. The winner’s school music program is granted an honorarium by the Symphony to recognize the importance of music education.


Past Music Educator of the Year Award Winners

2018/19: Jim Charnholm, orchestra, McKay High School; Kimberly McConnell, choir, West Salem High School

2017/18: Karly Schindler, general music, Chávez Elementary School

2016/17: George Thomson, West Salem High; Dr. David Brown, Sprague High; and Andy Thomas, Whiteaker Middle School

2015/16: Anisa Rodriguez Foroughi, general music, Four Corners Elementary

2014/15: Rebecca Couch, choir director, Walker Middle School

2013/14: Steve Phillips, general music, Auburn Elementary School

2012/13: Todd Zibelman, symphony orchestra and band director, West Salem High School

2011/12: Tiffany Gaither, general music, Schirle Elementary

2010/11: Carol Stenson, choir director, South Salem High School

2009/10: Jim Taylor, choir director, McNary High School

2008/09: Ike Nail, band director, West Salem High School

2007/08: Bonnie Gallagher, orchestra director, Whiteaker Middle School

2006/07: Holly Albertson, general music, Gubser Elementary; and Rosalie Karalekas, general music, Rosedale and Liberty Elementary Schools

2005/06: Stephen A. Nelson, orchestra director, Sprague High School

2004/05: Paul J. Mayhew, choir director, McNary High School

2003/04: Janet Romine, general music, Faye Wright Elementary; and Russ Christensen, choir director, Sprague High School 

2002/03: Mary Lou Boderman, band director, South Salem High School

2000/01: Richard Dalzell, choir director, North Salem High School 

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