Our January Teacher of the Month is Rene Johnson of Virginia.
Rene Johnson has been a MusicLink teacher since 2000 in Northern Virginia. She has a studio with 18 students ranging in age from 6-75. She is an active member of Northern Virginia Music Teacher's Association, co-chairs the Theory Mastery Day, accompanies her church choir and other instrumentalists, and looks forward to private lessons for herself in 2013.
"I have loved working with my MusicLink students. They and their families appreciate the opportunity to learn to play the piano when they might not have had the chance," she said.
Rene said she recently ran into the parents of a former MusicLink student at the grocery store and it was a joyful reunion. "I have provided lessons to another family for two of their children over a period of about 10 years and they often tell me how grateful they are. It makes me feel happy to participate in MusicLink and I appreciate the support from the MusicLink Foundation and our local music store."
Congratulations to Rene! Thank you for all you've done for MusicLink over the years!
MusicLink's February Teacher of the Month is Peggy Newhall, NCTM, of Annandale, Virginia.
Peggy Newhall has had an independent piano studio for more than 20 years and before that she taught in public schools. She is active in the Springfield Music Club and the Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association. In 1999, she took on her first MusicLink student. Since then she has taught nine others and is currently teaching one.
Fairfax County is a diverse district in Northern Virginia where residents who have immigrated from other countries have chosen to make their home. Many of Peggy's MusicLink students have come from these families. Some have had fascinating life stories to share.
"It has been a joy to give these students the love of music through studying piano," she said. "One of the greatest returns for me has been experiencing the gratitude and friendship of the families of my MusicLink students."
Congratulations to Peggy! Thank you for continuing to support MusicLink through your teaching efforts.
MusicLink's March Teacher of the Month is Cora Lee Khambatta of Arlington, Virginia.
Cora Lee Khambatta has been teaching music in the Arlington Public Schools and in her private piano studio for more than 40 years. Twelve years ago, she established the Spanish Chorus, which has performed throughout the community, including at the American Orff Schulwerk Professional Development Conference and the Kennedy Center National Partnerships Annual Meeting.
"I became involved with MusicLink 10 years ago with students who showed promise, but did not have the financial means to study music," Cora Lee said. "The students with whom I have worked have inspired me in so many ways."
She credits the families who have made the commitment to get their children to every lesson as being instrumental in the progress that their young musicians have made. And the musical progress of her students have been nothing less than inspirational, she said.
"What has been most inspiring is the music making of these MusicLink students. Each of these students has received superior ratings at their yearly audition with the National Piano Guild," she said, adding that they participated in the Levine Summer Music Camp last summer.
Congratulations to Cora Lee! Thank you for your decade-long dedication and service to MusicLink.
MusicLink's April Teacher of the Month is Patti Nyien of Westmont, Illinois.
Patti Nyien has taught preschool music and children's choir for 14 years. She completed Piano Pedagogy at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor under the direction of Joann Smith and graduated magnum cum laude from Belmont University with a Bachelor of Music in Education.
A member of Salt Creek Music Teachers Association since 1987 and a lifetime member of the American Choral Directors Association, Patti has a private studio in Westmont, IL. She directs a choral group called Forever Praise, which participated in the World Choir Games in July 2012 and achieved a bronze award certificate.
Patti has been involved with MusicLink for about 10 years and has taught four different MusicLink students during that time. Not only has she opened the doors of her studio to these young musicians, but she also has provided financial assistance, with a grant from Steinway, to families of budding pianists to acquire instruments.
"Being a MusicLink teacher can be challenging as I am donating time that could be more income producing. However, the satisfaction of knowing I am making a difference is well worth the sacrifice of income," Patti said. "I know the inspiration I instill in these students' lives will be with them as they go on in life. Music is a spiritual activity that can touch the soul."
Recently, one of her MusicLink students was selected by the Salt Creek Music Teachers Local Association of Illinois State Music Teachers to play on an honors recital for Achievement in Music (AIM) students. Patti reports that the student performed Burgmuller's Ballade with excellence.
"He has renewed drive and dedication to piano studies as a result of this special achievement," she said. "It made a huge impact on his life. I hope he will continue to succeed as I truly believe success breeds success."
Thank you, Patti, for being such an inspiration to us all. MusicLink is honored to honor you for your dedication to music education and your achievements. Congratulations!
Our May Teacher of the Month is Tanya Rodriguez Brooks of Panama City, Florida.
At the age of 14, Tanya Rodriguez Brooks began her teaching career in Panama City, FL, with 25 students. After receiving her Associates Degree in Music at age 19, she received teacher training in Suzuki Piano and Violin at University of New Orleans (UNO) and University of Louisville. She became state and nationally certified as a teacher of piano in 2003.
Tanya has 35 years of teaching experience, maintains a private studio of 64 students and has also taught Music History for the Education Encore program at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City. She became a member of Florida State Music Teachers Association (FSMTA) in 1991 and has served in various state and local offices since that time. Tanya currently serves as president for Northwest Florida Music Teachers Association (NFMTA) and FSMTA Vice President for Non-Competitive Events.
In 2008, Tanya was the recipient of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) and Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) Teacher Scholarship. She used it to receive training in Recreational Music Making at the national MTNA convention in Denver, Colorado.
"This was my very first national MTNA conference. It changed my life," said Tanya. "It was there at the MusicLink booth that I learned how I could help disadvantaged children in my studio. I went back to Panama City and asked the mother — very tactfully — of one of my very gifted piano students if her son was on free or reduced lunch. You see, she had been struggling to pay me. She said he was on the free lunch program. I immediately went to the MusicLink website and explained the program and signed her son up for it. That was in December 2008. Dominik is in 5th grade now and is playing at church, on TV, at fundraisers for school, etc. He is a gifted child that can improvise on anything he hears."
In its recent newsletter, MusicLink featured an article about one of Tanya's students, a brain cancer patient whose doctors credited pianos lessons for keeping her fine motor skills intact before and following surgery.
"Two weeks ago Amber had an MRI to see if the tumor is growing. It isn't! However, her mom informed me last week that she reminded the neurologist that Amber studies piano. The neurologist said that, as her teacher, I would be one of the first to notice if her fine motor skills were degrading, which would indicate the tumor was changing. So now I am going to watch her even more closely!" Tanya said.
"As her teacher, I have learned so much and have been so grateful to be able to help," said Tanya, who also teaches two other siblings through the MusicLink program. "The bible says there is more happiness in giving than in receiving. I can truly say that through MusicLink, I have gained so much happiness in being able to give back to my deserving students."
Congratulations, Tanya! Thank you for continuing to give the gift of music to MusicLink's talented students! We are truly blessed to have you as part of our amazing team of volunteer teachers.
Our June MusicLink Teacher of the Month is Chris Sharp of College Park, Maryland.
Christopher "Chris" Sharp was born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia, and started playing the drums at age seven. Chris's parents could not afford to buy a set of drums for him, so Chris made his own set out of his father's fishing buckets, duct tape, and his clothes hamper. He learned how to play the drums on his "homemade" set by listening and playing along to songs on the radio and his father's jazz records. His parents were able to purchase a drum set for him at age 15. As a drummer, Chris naturally loved the piano, and began playing it at age 17. He supported himself through college by playing the piano at his church for the youth choir.
Chris left corporate America in 2008 to pursue his lifelong dream of being a professional musician and music teacher. Because of his unique background and experience with being underprivileged, Chris deeply values the MusicLink Foundation because of its founder's vision to help disadvantaged children who desire to learn and play music.
Chris joined MusicLink as a teacher and coordinator in 2008.
"There are so many children who are blessed with a special gift and talent for music but whose parents cannot afford private lessons, instruments, and the instrument's accessories. I love the MusicLink Foundation because it exists to help these special students so they can reach their full musical potential," Chris said. "MusicLink is a selfless organization and by lending a helping hand, allows children to grow up to not only enjoy music for a lifetime, but provide enjoyment for the community around them as well. MusicLink is a true blessing to the world."
"I will always do whatever I can to help the MusicLink Foundation because the
MusicLink Foundation helps others."
Chris, thank you for helping so many deserving children nurture their gift in music. It is thanks to teachers like you who give so selflessly that MusicLink is able to make a difference in the lives of talented young students. Congratulations on your recognition as one of MusicLink's treasures.
MusicLink's July Music Teacher of the Month is Mika Inouye of Durango, Colorado.
Mika discovered MusicLink through the Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association in 2003. She was teaching a couple of scholarship students and was delighted to find a program that supported what she was already doing. She contacted Joanne Haroutounian and soon became the Arlington local coordinator.
"My commitment to MusicLink can be attributed largely to my first experience working with Joanne Haroutounian and Martha Smith. Their vision, work, and unwavering dedication was so inspiring," she said.
When Mika relocated with her family to Arizona in 2006, she was able to secure a place for all nine of her MusicLink students, thanks to the MusicLink teachers in Northern Virginia. While she lived in Tucson, she was the Arizona State Coordinator and the Southwest Regional Coordinator. In 2010, Mika moved to Durango, Colorado and is currently the Colorado Western Slope coordinator. In every place, Mika has her own MusicLink students.
One of Mika's most rewarding personal experiences happened last June when her first MusicLink student, Purev Arslanbaatar, came from Alexandria, Virginia, to the Colorado State Music Teachers annual conference to help her present a session on MusicLink. Purev was 9 years old when Mika moved from Virginia, but he continued in the MusicLink program with piano and vocal lessons. Today he is finishing his first year on scholarship as a music major at George Mason University.
"When I heard him play and then sing, I felt deep gratitude for his teachers who had given him such a priceless gift," Mika said.
Mika holds BM and MM degrees in Piano Performance and Pedagogy and is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (NCTM). She is certified teacher and teacher educator of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association and is involved in her community as president of the Four Corners Orff Chapter and secretary of the Four Corners Music Teachers Association. She has an independent piano studio, is the music specialist at Durango Early Learning Center, and director of the Inouye Institute of the Arts in Gunnison, Utah.
"The best part about MusicLink is getting to know the kids and teachers whose lives are benefitted by the program," Mika said. "I get to see how MusicLink's mission of ‘making a difference one student at a time' really happens."
Congratulations, Mika! We are so lucky to have you on board, and we are grateful you've continued to share MusicLink with deserving students wherever you go.
Pianist, Noëlle Compinsky Tinturin of Camarillo, California, has been teaching piano for over 40 years and has developed many award-winning students through the Tinturin Music Studio.
Noëlle took on her first MusicLink student, 8-year-old Alyssa Spooner in 1999.
Alyssa studied with Noëlle for 10 years, until her graduation from high school in 2009. During that time, she showed tremendous talent, drive, discipline, and work ethic, which resulted in many awards and scholarships from various organizations and competitions. She achieved superior ratings at the Advanced Level in the MTAC (Music Teachers' Association of California) Certificate of Merit program, their state evaluations, and was honored to be selected to perform several times at the MTAC State Convention. She also showed exceptional talent in the fields of science and fine art.
In her senior year, Alyssa was awarded the MusicLink Senior Award of Excellence, which recognizes a graduating high school senior who has shown outstanding achievement in musical training through the MusicLink program, and who has attained an advanced level of performance, shows commitment in lessons and will continue musical training in college.
Alyssa has now graduated from college and, while continuing to play and study the piano, she has been appointed to a scientific research position at Arizona State University while she pursues her doctorate in physics.
In 2010, Noëlle accepted a new MusicLink student, 8-year-old Aspen Claus, who is working hard toward her musical goals. In her first year of MTAC state evaluations, she received Honors and earned 100% on her written theory exam.
Noëlle Compinsky Tinturin was accepted into the MusicLink Hall of Fame in 2005, and has subsequently been honored by the MusicLink Foundation for 10 years of service as a MusicLink teacher.
"The MusicLink organization offered an opportunity for me to have the most wonderful student I could ever ask for, and help her develop into a fine young artist that I am exceptionally proud of! It was a rare opportunity for both of us, and we developed a strong and lasting bond through music and through MusicLink. I am so grateful to this great organization."
Noëlle currently teaches about 30 students at The Tinturin Music Studio in Camarillo, which offers many performance opportunities for students, including recitals and festivals, performance classes and competitions.
In addition to her teaching career, Noëlle is a performing pianist, and has recorded various CDs as well as videos which can be viewed on YouTube or at www.TinturinMusic.com
MusicLink's September Teacher of the Month is Jenean Christensen of Grantsville, Utah.
Jenean M. Christensen maintains a busy studio in Grantsville, Utah. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Utah State University, and MTNA certification. She enjoys performing and accompanying from one end of Utah to the other. She and her husband are the parents of four children, three of whom often perform with her. She has twice been part of the Temple Square Concert Series. Jenean has served a term as president of her local MTNA chapter. Her students have won various honors including placing in local and state competitions and being chosen to perform in honors recitals or participate in Masterclasses. Her greatest satisfaction, however, comes from seeing her students grow to love music, and to watch them share their talents and serve others through teaching, performing and accompanying.
Jenean first became aware of the MusicLink Foundation in 2002, and has taught several MusicLink students since. She has also been the Utah State Coordinator for MusicLink since 2002. She says, "Musical interest and ability should be nurtured no matter what the student's financial situation. The satisfaction that comes from teaching MusicLink students is a far greater reward than any monetary compensation would be."
One of Jenean's MusicLink students reached level 10 in AIM (Achievement In Music testing), and another reached level 8. One was a Music Sterling scholar her senior year in high school and received a scholarship to a state university. Two former MusicLink students are teaching now. Along the way, these students have also benefited from MusicLink's Business Partner offers.
"It is quite overwhelming to think of what would have happened had they missed out on lessons because their families were unable to afford them. Teaching MusicLink students is a great way to 'pay it forward'. I hope someday, some of my MusicLink students will become MusicLink teachers."
Congratulations, Jenean! MusicLink is so fortunate to have a dual-hatted teacher like you who not only teaches our talented students, but also helps the organization by coordinating MusicLink's efforts in Utah. Thank you for paying it forward with every lesson you give and every link you make.
MusicLink's October Teacher of the Month is Sally Ritchie of Wisconsin.
Sally Ritchie has been teaching piano since 1969 and currently teaches a studio of 80 students.
Growing up, Sally was the oldest of five children in a family that could not afford piano lessons. But her mother taught her how to read music, and with the help of some old music books, courtesy of her cousins, Sally began learning how to play the piano. In the fourth grade, she joined the school band and began her formal musical education and learned to play several other instruments.
After completing her college degree and getting married, Sally finally had her first real piano lesson with Betty Hollinger from Appleton, Wis. Until that time her music education had been all instrumental, playing in the wind symphony, concert bands and marching bands. Studying with Betty had many perks, one of them being the opportunity to study piano pedagogy privately with her husband, a music professor at Lawrence University.
"She was a wonderfully inspiring teacher. My dream had come true!" said Sally. "I could play fairly well by that time, but had a boatload of bad habits. My goal from then on was to help as many students as I could, regardless of their ability to pay."
By the time Sally discovered MusicLink at a music teachers conference, she was already offering scholarship lessons. Since then, she has been involved as a MusicLink teacher as well as a MusicLink business partner. Her company, Whirligig LLP, produces music education games and offers reduced rates to MusicLink teachers.
One of Sally's MusicLink students graduated high school this past spring and is currently pursuing a music degree in college. "If I didn't give scholarships, she wouldn't have been able to afford lessons," Sally said. "She has asked how she can ever repay me, and I have replied that all she has to do in return is to help another student who would otherwise not have the opportunity to study music."
Congratulations, Sally! Thank you for paying it forward musically each and every day, and for encouraging your talented students to do the same. You are a true inspiration for us all!
MusicLink's Teacher of the Month is Lynelle Vogel of Winona Lake, Indiana.
Lynelle has been teaching Early Childhood Music and Group Piano Classes using the Musikgarten curriculum for 8 years in her Music for Life Musikgarten Studio (Winona Lake and Nappanee, Indiana). She is currently teaching over 130 students, babies through adult piano, including 58 group piano students.
She currently teaches 21 MusicLink students.
"When I began my studio, I considered becoming a non-profit but I didn't have the time, knowledge or money to make that a reality; so I was thrilled when Musikgarten began a partnership with MusicLink Foundation a few years ago," Lynelle said. "I signed up as soon as I learned what MusicLink Foundation promoted."
She continued: "As a child, my father lost his job and he went back to college to become a teacher. It was tough for our family to make ends meet during that time, but my parents somehow made sure my brother and I continued with piano lessons. Several years ago a similar situation happened to my husband. Thanks to a grant from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra (and instrument teachers who were willing to work with us), my children were able to continue their instrumental studies. We dropped a lot of things during those two years, but we did not have to drop piano, oboe, flute and French horn. Because of my life experiences, my commitment to Christ and my belief in the power/benefits of music, I am committed to providing classes to children who cannot afford it without help. Every child should be able to have music lessons. I am thrilled to work with MusicLink Foundation and with Musikgarten, a company that supports musical training for children of all economic levels. I love my job and I love my students! I look forward to many more years of partnering with MusicLink Foundation."
Congratulations, Lynelle, and thank you for sharing your story and life experiences with us. MusicLink is truly blessed to have someone like you instructing our deserving students with so much heart and understanding!
Our December MusicLink Teacher of the Month is Sherlon Orth of Billings, MT.
Sherlon began teaching piano privately when she was 17 years old and continued teaching privately through college. She taught in public schools for several years in Denver, CO, and Las Vegas, NV, before deciding to return to school and to pursue her degree in Piano Performance.
As a child, Sherlon says she was fascinated with the piano, but that her parents were unable to afford lessons. A neighbor who could see just how much she loved the instrument gave her lessons free of charge. That had a profound effect on Sherlon and her family.
"We became a musical family who sang semi-professionally, played other instruments, and if I wasn't singing, I was accompanying," Sherlon said. "Because I had received such a gift, I felt I should pass it on to other students who were in a situation similar to mine."
Through MusicLink, Sherlon has connected with a number of music students, most of whom have had special needs.
"All have done very well — some have won state competitions," she said. "I can't think of one who hasn't continued making music an important part of his or her life."
To encourage others to consider giving lessons not only to students who seem to have potential or talent, Sherlon wanted to share the story of one particular MusicLink student, Ann:
Ann's parents were told that she would never be able to think on an abstract level, go to college, or be in mainstream classes in school. She began lessons five or six years ago with me and is now about 17 years old.
In the beginning, Ann would sit at the piano with a vacant stare and it seemed she didn't hear or understand anything I would say. But she could imitate what I did. Because she couldn't read, I began teaching her using the Suzuki Method. She struggled. On the sixth piece, it seemed she couldn't go any farther. On Saturday of that week, she spent the whole day in her room, listening to the CD and working on the piece. When she came to her lesson a few days later, she sat for a long time staring at the keys. Then suddenly, with a lot of energy and intensity, she played the whole piece fortississimo at break-neck speed without missing a note.
Ann began practicing piano at 5 a.m. every morning, then again after school, and off and on for much of the weekend. This has continued consistently up to this day. She has progressed at an above-normal rate, especially for a late beginner, due to her determination and hard work. Her grades in school have improved significantly and I personally feel there are many neural connections in her brain that are a result of her work at the piano. She now reads everything, including music, fluently. At the end of this school year, one of her special education teachers declared to all the rest, ‘Ann is going to do just fine in life. She knows how to work hard. Have you heard her play the piano?' This year she is moving into regular math classes."
Along with her school studies, Ann has progressed in her piano studies as well, and is playing Chopin waltzes in addition to other early advanced repertoire, Sherlon reports. This past summer, Ann attended a National Leadership Conference as a result of being elected President of the State Association by her peers at the state conference.
"Ann loves to play the piano. She is a piano player — that is her identity," Sherlon said. "It has made a difference not only in her life, but in who she is. I have learned much from her and feel very proud of her."
MusicLink is very proud of you, Sherlon. Congratulations and thank you for sharing Ann's inspiring story. You have a tremendous gift, and we hope you continue to cultivate these amazing young musicians for years to come.