2020 Music Educator of the Year: Brice Henry

Brice Henry is in his fifth year of teaching music at West Liberty-Salem Local Schools in West Liberty, Ohio. In addition to his teaching at school, he also directs his church choir, accompanies a local Show Choir, and offers private lessons in saxophone, piano, and voice.

Growing up in Bellefontaine, Brice was thrilled to return back to his hometown after receiving his Bachelors of Music Education from Otterbein University. While in undergrad, Brice was a member of the touring Concert Choir and Wind Ensemble, was the president of their Ohio Collegiate Music Education Association Chapter, and spent his extra time as a Resident Assistant. For a brief period, Brice also played saxophone with the Westerville Community Band and performed with the Westerville Symphony on their performance of Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije.

Residing in Bellefontaine, he and his wife Bethany have started a family with their two daughters, Harper and Cece, and two dogs, Phoebe and Midnight.

The WL-S Choir program is growing steadily each year, and Brice has hopes to start an auditioned choir that will travel, compete, and perform in many locations.

Brice’s teaching day includes a class in Music Theory, Music Theatre, 1st and 3rd Grade General Music, and Grades 7-12 Choir. In addition to his teaching day, Brice also is the assistant Marching Band director, director of the newly-formed show choir, and co-director of the Musical Productions each spring. Brice is dedicated to being a lifelong learner of music and all it has to offer and is so thankful to teach in an area where local music educators collaborate to create authentic and genuine music experiences for the students.

The Music Educator of the Year Award is open for nominations from the general public. Nominees must be a music educator in a public, parochial, or private school, or private lesson studio, in grades K-12, in Clark, Champaign, Greene, Miami, Montgomery or Madison counties. Educators from the following fields are eligible: General Music, Instrumental Music, Vocal Music, Composition, Music Technology, and Private Instruction Studio.

The award will be presented by Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson from the stage of the Kuss Auditorium during a subscription concert of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

Past Winners of the SSO Music Educator of the Year Award:

» 2019 Valerie (Detray) Buckley

» 2018 Sean Hurley

» 2017 Michael Weller

» 2016 Lydia Smith-Lockwood

» 2015 Karen Gorretta

» 2014 Amy Whitehall

» 2013 Jim Templeton

» 2012 Sharon Safely

» 2011 Evalind Pickering

Valerie (Detray) Buckley received the 2019 Music Educator of the Year Award

Sean-Hurley-right Sean Hurley received the 2018 Music Educator of the Year Award

Michael-Weller-right Michael Weller received the 2017 Music Educator of the Year Award

Smith-Lockwood-right Lydia Smith-Lockwood received the 2016 Music Educator of the Year Award

Goretta-right Karen Goretta received the 2015 Music Educator of the Year Award
MEOY-Whitehill-Award Amy Whitehill receives the 2014 Music Educator of the Year Award from Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson

MOEY-Jim-Templeton Jim Templeton receives the 2013 Music Educator of the Year Award from Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson

MEOY-Safely Sharon Safley acknowledges her 2012 Music Educator of the Year Award

MEOY-Pickering Evalind Pickering receives the 2011 Music Educator of the Year Award from Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson


2023-2024 Sponsors:

Springfield Symphony Orchestra

Valerie (Detray) Buckley – Music Educator of the Year 2019

Valerie (DeTray) Buckley has been teaching with the Northeastern Local School District of Clark County, OH since the Fall of 2008. Prior to that time, she taught for 4 years with the Orrville City Schools and 1 year with the Southeast Local School District of Wayne County. Mrs. Buckley directs the Chamber Singers, Symphonic Choir, Women’s and Men’s Choir of Kenton Ridge High School and the 7th grade choir and 8th grade choir at Northridge Middle School.

A native of Oak Harbor, Ohio, Mrs. Buckley earned her Bachelor of Music Education (both horn and voice) from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio in 2003. As an undergraduate, she was a member of the Chapel Choir, Symphonic Winds, Wind Symphony, Horn Choir, and the Capital/Bexley Orchestra. She studied private voice with Stephanie Henkle and horn with Nicholas Perrini. In 2016 Buckley received her Master’s Degree in Music Education with a Kodály Emphasis from Capital University.

The Kenton Ridge Choirs are in high demand and perform throughout the community and state. Under Mrs. Buckley’s direction, they continuously receive Excellent and Superior ratings both at District and State Large Group Contest and in 2013 the Women’s Choir performed at the OMEA Professional Development Conference. Members of her choirs have performed in All-State Ensembles and at Solo and Ensemble events. They have won several awards including “Best Overall Choir” at the Clark County Choir Festival and earned a performance spot at the Schuster Performing Arts Center as part of a competition sponsored by Heartland Federal Credit Union. Other notable performances include singing at the Ohio Statehouse, performing the National Anthem before a Cleveland Cavaliers game, Walt Disney World, and New York City.

When she is not directing, Mrs. Buckley sings with the Capital University Choral Union, plays the horn in pit orchestras, sings with various church choirs, and helps out with the Kenton Ridge Marching Cougar Band. She sang with the Summit Choral Society’s Masterworks Chorale as the Alto soloist for the Bach Mass in B-Minor performed in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, China. In her free time she enjoys singing show tunes, watching tv, and spending time with her friends and family. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, Derek, and their dog, Atlas, and cat, Lana.

Sean Hurley – Music Educator of the Year 2018


Sean Hurley received the Springfield Symphony’s “Music Educator of the Year” award at the January 20 concert.

After teaching 5 years at Brookville High School and Middle School, Sean returned to his hometown of Beavercreek to become the Jacob Coy Middle School Choral Director. Sean has created 3 new ensembles: Una Voce, Unaccompanied Minors, and New Horizons, a 6th grade combined school show choir. Sean was recently hired as the director of the Springfield Children’s Chorus.

Some of Sean’s achievements over his career are being the music director of the “All State Show Choir” for the Ohio Department of Transportation, which received a Grammy for its music video and public outreach and being the guest conductor for District 12 OMEA Middle School Honors Choir and the 5th Grade Honors Choir ACES. Also, Sean’s Una Voce choir was selected and will be performing at the Ohio Music Educators Professional Development Conference in February this year. One of Sean’s favorite memories with the Jacob Coy Choir was making the backing track for The Ohio State School of Optometry music video parodying “Hamilton”, which featured the 2016-2017 Una Voce. Sean loves choir for its ability to develop confidence, empathy, focus, and cultural understanding in all of his singers.

Sean loves spending time with his wife, Heather, and one-year-old daughter, Braeylnn. Sean spends most of his free time singing nursey rhymes, listening to pop a cappella, playing board games, and trying new restaurants.


Michael Weller – Music Educator of the Year 2017


Michael Weller received the Springfield Symphony’s “Music Educator of the Year” award at the February 25, 2017 concert. Mr. Weller is the music teacher at Ridgewood School in Springfield, Ohio. He also is the Music Minister at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Xenia.

Mr. Weller is a longtime resident of Springfield where his music training closely connects to the history of the Symphony. He attended Springfield North High School and played first horn all three years under John Smarelli who was the concert master of the Symphony for many years. Mr. Weller also played for John Ferritto in the youth Symphony, 25 years with the Fellowship Winds quintet, and eleven years in the Wittenberg Symphonic Band.

Mr. Weller studied horn with Fritz Holker, Richard Chenowith, and Colvin Bear at Wittenberg University where he received a Bachelor of Music Education degree in 2004. Michael has also been active in Springfield’s community theater where he played many notable roles in Civic Theater productions and in the Summer Arts musicals in Cliff Park. He sang with the Ohio Lyric Theater Chorus and performed at the opening of the Kuss Auditorium.

Michael Weller began teaching at Ridgewood School in 2005. Up until then Ridgewood had not included an instrumental program in its 87-year history. Mr. Weller began purchasing and refurbishing instruments www.honeytraveler.com/pharmacy/ with much help from Kincaids Music. All students at Ridgewood School in grades 4-8 now participate in one of three bands. Mr. Weller also shares the gift of music with Kindergarten through third grade. He has developed a unique music curriculum, and a notation system that creates early success in performance and music reading skills with younger students.

Besides three concerts a year, Mr. Weller also directs the school musical. He teaches the students how to build the set, run the sound and lighting systems, and collaborates with many staff members including Gail Suzel in dance, Molly Loftis in art, Colleen Huey in props and costuming, and Beth Dixon as an acting coach. This year Ridgewood is proud to present “The Wizard of Oz.” Students in the Ridgewood Band have also have participated in the OMEA large ensemble adjudicated event for the last three years under the direction of Mr.Weller.

Mr. Weller loves to see the wide-eyed wonder of students as they enter his classroom and hopes to instill a love of music in them for years to come.

Lydia Smith-Lockwood – Music Educator of the Year 2016

Smith-Lockwood4BioMrs. Smith-Lockwood has been the Director of Choral and Orchestral Music at Shawnee High School since 2006. The program at Shawnee High School has grown during her tenure. The students are regular participants in OMEA and they consistently receive superior and excellent ratings at the State level.

She has taught over one thousand students of all ages since moving to Springfield in 1997 to take over a struggling music program at Hayward Middle School. She was the accompanist/director of the Ohio Lyric Theatre Springfield Children’s Chorus for ten years. She is currently the Music Director at Covenant Presbyterian Church and also the accompanist for the Springfield Symphony Chorale.

Her groups have performed in Carnegie Hall, Chicago Symphony Hall, The National Cathedral, and the U.S. House of Representatives. The Shawnee High School Symphonic Choir has also backed Kenny Rogers and Sandi Patty at the Kuss Auditorium. Lydia has accompanied over 24 musicals, 7 operas, and innumerable soloists, concerts, and other musical programs. Her performances have extended internationally into Japan, Italy, and France.

Along with her degrees from Willamette University and Wright State University, she has studied at the Mozarteum in Austria. In 2011, she received an award at Yale University recognizing her with the Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award for Ohio. Ms. Smith-Lockwood is also a past recipient of the Clark County Excellence in Teaching Award and the Larry Zirkle Excellence in Teaching Award. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D in Educational Leadership at the University of Dayton.

She is married with two children. She enjoys traveling, reading, good wine, and spending time with her friends and family.

For the 2015-2016 Music Educator of the Year Award, the SSO received many nominations for outstanding music educators in Clark and Greene counties. Lydia Smith-Lockwood emerged as the top candidate and was selected by a unanimous vote by the SSO’s Education Committee. “We are excited about presenting this award to Lydia Smith-Lockwood,” said Director of Operations and Education, Alek Peugh. “She embodies everything this award was created to honor: devotion to her students and making the community a better place through their musical growth.”

Karen Gorretta – Music Educator of the Year 2015

Gorretta4bioMrs. Karen Gorretta has worked in the Fairborn City School District for eight years and has been involved in music education for fifteen years. She has been instrumental in advancing the music programming in the Fairborn City School District

Mrs. Gorretta is a 1994 graduate of Northmont High School and graduated Cum Laude in 1999 from Ohio University with a Bachelor of Music degree. While at Ohio University, she started the first chapter of the ACDA (American Choral Director’s Association) and served as its Chapter President. She was a member and section leader of all choral groups offered at Ohio University and served as Undergraduate Conducting Assistant for Choral Union.

Mrs. Gorretta served as Director of Vocal Music at Sheridan High School and Sheridan Middle School from 1999-2006 and successfully started a Show Choir which competed and won numerous Superior ratings in Ohio, Florida and Illinois. She is currently the Director of Vocal Music at Fairborn High School and Baker Middle School and started the vocal pop A Cappella group “Common Ground.” She has achieved numerous Excellent and Superior ratings at OMEA District Contest and OMEA Solo and Ensemble contests. She was named “Teacher of the Month” for the month of October at Baker Middle School in 2104 and was the 2013-14 “Teacher of the Year” at Fairborn High School

Mrs. Gorretta is a member and rehearsal accompanist for the Salem Church of God Adult Choir (2013 to present) and was a member of the Dayton Philharmonic Chorus (2006-10) and was featured Soprano soloist in the DPO/DPC performances of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. She recorded Choral sessions as a Soprano for Kjos Music in 2008-09 and was the Youth Choir Director at Stillwater United Methodist Church from 2007-13.

Mrs. Gorretta has been married to her wonderful husband, John, for 15 years. John is the Director of Bands at Fairborn High School and Baker Middle School. They have two beautiful daughters who attend Northmont City Schools, Sophia (8), and Eliana (5).

Amy Whitehill – Music Educator of the Year 2014

whitehill4bioAmy Whitehill has taught in the Fairborn City Schools since 1992, where she has taught general music, choir, and is currently the Music Supervisor and Director of Orchestras. Through her dedication Ms. Whitehill has built the orchestra program in Fairborn to over 180 students.

Ms. Whitehill’s students give nearly a dozen performances each year, including school concerts as well as special performances at the FCS Hall of Honor Ceremony, FHS Baccalaureate, the Dayton Power and Light Holiday Party, Chik-fil-A in Beavercreek, and the Springfield Masonic Temple. Ms. Whitehill has also assisted with the vocal performance groups in Fairborn City Schools by serving as an accompanist.

In 2007, Ms, Whitehill was recognized as being a most influential teacher and was presented with the Howard L. Post Excellence in Education Award. Ms. Whitehill is also a talented golfer and has won the Springfield Women’s City Amateur golf tournament eight times.

In addition to her outstanding work in Fairborn City Schools, Ms. Whitehill voluntarily instructs an after-school orchestra that involves former and current students as well as students at the county career center who do not have access to an orchestra program.

Ms. Whitehill is also an active musician in the community, making her a shining example to her own students. Her community involvement has included serving as the church pianist at Trinity United Church of Christ in Fairborn for 8 years. She has also played keyboard for a Gershwin musical at Wright State University and has given two benefit concerts on piano to raise funds for a new organ at the Fairborn St. Luke Methodist church.

Ms. Whitehill is a graduate of the Ohio State University where she received a four year full tuition scholarship in piano performance and was a member of the Ohio State University Marching Band for three years.

“I want my students to love music the way I do and one of my greatest joys in teaching is having my students come to me with their iPods, on which they have downloaded different classical pieces. My hope for my all of my students is that they realize how much of an impact that each one of them has had on my life and how proud I am of them.

“Over the past 20 years, I have had many students participate in the Springfield Youth Symphony. I am so grateful to the SSO for providing this opportunity to challenge the students in the surrounding counties. It is a great honor to be chosen as the SSO’s Music Educator of the Year.

– Ms. Amy Whitehill

“She is an exceptional teacher, role model, and community member.”
– Mr. Gene Lolli, Principal, Fairborn City Schools

Jim Templeton – Music Educator of the Year 2013

JimTempletonJames Templeton has served as Instrumental Music Director for Northeastern Local Schools Kenton Ridge High School since 1999. He is a graduate of The University of Akron, and received his Master of Arts in Music Education from The Ohio State University.

At Kenton Ridge, Mr. Templeton is the head marching band director, jazz band director, and teaches a music theory class that he implemented. He also coordinates the Instrumental Music program for all of the elementary and middle schools that feed into Kenton Ridge. Mr. Templeton mentors student teachers from Wittenberg University, and has hosted District 12 Honors Band events.

Since 1999, the Kenton Ridge Band has participated in numerous regional and national events, including Walt Disney’s Main St. Parade in Orlando, two nationally-televised Outback Bowl halftime performances, and trips to California, Chicago, and Baltimore.
A 2012 appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as one of only 11 bands chosen nationwide, highlights the band’s many achievements.

When Mr. Templeton arrived in the Northeastern Local District, the program had 120 instrumental students in grades 5 through 12. He successfully built the program to over 400 students, including growing the marching band from 28 students to the 146 students who marched in New York for the Macy’s parade. Kenton Ridge band students are well represented in the Springfield Youth Symphony, and routinely occupy the principal chairs and other positions of leadership within the orchestra. Many of the band’s top students have moved on to notable college bands in the country, including The Ohio State University Marching Band and the Auburn University Band.

No stranger to awards, Mr. Templeton is a past recipient of the Clark County Excellence in Teaching Award and the Larry Zirkle Excellence in Teaching Award. He was nominated for the SSO Music Educator of the Year Award by Kenton Ridge Principal John Hill. Mr. Hill cited not only Mr. Templeton’s many achievements, but also stated that, “Jim has a special knack for sharing his own music ability with his students, because the quality of music that emerges from his students year after year keeps getting better.” Mr. Hill noted also that Mr. Templeton teaches his students to “give back” to the community whenever possible, and sets the example with the band’s involvement in numerous annual performances at community events, retirement homes, and Veterans events.

For the 2012-2013 Music Educator of the Year Award, the SSO received nominations for nine outstanding music educators in Clark and Greene counties. James Templeton emerged as the top candidate. The Springfield Symphony is pleased to present this honor to Mr. Templeton, and remains committed to supporting area music educators and their programs.

Sharon Safley – Music Educator of the Year 2012

Safely4BioSharon Safley has taught in the Springfield City Schools since 2004. She teaches general music for grades K thru 6 at Lincoln and Perrin Woods elementary schools, and also directs the 5th and 6th grade choirs. Mrs. Safley also teaches private piano lessons at Wittenberg’s Center for Musical Development, and is in charge of music for grades 1-5 at Concord United Methodist Church in Englewood.

Since the 2005-2006 season, Mrs. Safley has brought students from Lincoln, Perrin Woods, and Snyder Park Elementary schools to Springfield Symphony concerts through the SSO’s
Students at the Symphony” program. Her dedication and commitment to this program has enabled dozens of inner-city students to experience the joy and excitement of symphonic music that they otherwise may have never known.

The Education Committee of the Springfield Symphony selected Mrs. Safley as the second winner of the SSO Music Educator of the Year Award, and Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson presented the award on Saturday, March 31, 2012.

“Sharon Safley truly embodies the spirit of this award. She infuses the joy of music into everything she does and everywhere she goes. For Sharon, music education is not what she does for a living. It is a calling to a higher purpose.”

– Robyn Zimmann, SSO Director of Operations & Education

Evalind Pickering – Music Educator of the Year 2011

Pickering4BioEvalind Pickering was chosen by the SSO Education Committee as a worthy first recipient of the Music Educator of the Year Award for her selfless dedication to her students, to music, and her firm belief that the arts make a difference in young people’s lives. Mrs. Pickering has taught strings in the Clark-Shawnee district since 1997, and also teaches strings privately at Wittenberg’s Center for Musical Development. Many of her private and classroom students over the years have been top performers in the Springfield Symphony Youth Orchestra program.

In 2008 and 2010, Mrs. Pickering sought out collaboration with the SSO on a weekend string extravaganza, the “Shawnee String Fling,” which will also be continued in future years. The purpose of the event is to give the middle school and elementary string players in the Clark-Shawnee district an opportunity to work with and learn from the professional musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in a fun, purpose-filled setting, designed to enhance the students’ performance skills. The weekend culminates with a student recital that includes performances by SSO and youth orchestra string quartets. The “String Fling” is but one example of the type of extra events and activities that Mrs. Pickering creates for her students, enhancing and shaping their musical lives and participation in the arts.

The Music Educator of the Year Award was presented to Mrs. Pickering on Saturday, February 19th, 2011, at a concert that also featured the Springfield Youth Symphony performing Side by Side with the SSO during the second half. No less than 16 Clark-Shawnee string students were part of the music-making that evening, including students involved in the pre-concert music.

“Mrs. Pickering is making a huge commitment to the musical life of our community through her teaching.”
- Dr. Barb Mackey, SSO Education Committee Chair