2014 Teachers of the Month

January, 2014

Our January MusicLink Teacher of the Month is Sherry Frush of Abilene, TX.

Sherry Penkert Frush, NCTM, is a pianist, accompanist, adjudicator, clinician and music instructor. She has taught for more than 45 years and her studio, Frush Music Studio, currently comprises more than 100 students and a staff of 15 student instructors.

Sherry's students have won local, district, state, and national competitions in performance and composition, and hundreds of former students are now teaching music or are in the music profession. Many were MusicLink students. Sherry strives to give her students a life-long love and enjoyment of music rather than a few years of tedious work with no long-term enrichment or gratification.

A MusicLink Hall of Fame and Teacher of Distinction, Sherry has been a MusicLink teacher since 2000, is a Past President of Texas Music Teachers Association and 2005 TMTA Teacher of the Year. She has been a member of Music Teachers National Association since 1970 and certified by MTNA since 1975. Sherry was awarded Professional Lifetime Certification by MTNA in 1995 and has degrees in piano performance, composition, voice and all-level music-education. She has held a state position in TMTA for over 40 years, is currently the Texas Music Teachers Educational Foundation Trustee Chair and the NFMC Junior Composers Competition South Central Regional Chair. Sherry redesigned and generated all tests and ear-training audio files for the state TMTA theory testing program for three years and those files are now available online at the TMTA website. A frequent adjudicator, clinician, and accompanist, Sherry is a member of the National Guild Hall of Fame and a 2013 Music Teachers National Association Foundation Fellow.

Sherry and her husband, Joe, have been married for 41 years, and Joe is one of five honorary members of Texas MTA. They are Abilene natives and have three sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. Sherry is an ordained deacon at First Baptist Church Abilene, Texas PTA life-time member, Abilene Opera Association board member and director of the OPERAtors (students who serve the community as ushers for various events), Abilene Young Audiences artist and board member, and a sustaining member of Junior League of Abilene.

"I have always given deserving and talented students the opportunity of music study regardless of their ability to pay, so I joined MusicLink as soon as I learned about it," Sherry said. "MusicLink has allowed our studio a national connection for these dedicated students and greatly enhanced what could be offered them. It's been wonderful to see MusicLink grow and develop programs and scholarship funds that have allowed my students to attend summer music camps, honored my seniors and given my students free music and theory books over the years.

It is so rewarding to see the joy and passion in students and how much they appreciate the benefits and support from the MusicLink Foundation and MusicLink business partners. These incredibly talented students not only excel in music events, performances and competitions, but also give of their time and talents by performing and serving as ushers for community events, philharmonic orchestra fundraisers, and remain humble servants of their faith by serving in their churches. I cannot thank the MusicLink Foundation program enough for the blessings they share."

Congratulations, Sherry! MusicLink cannot thank you enough for your longtime dedication and support. We're grateful that you continue to share your talents and love of music to help the organization grow.


February, 2014

Our February MusicLink Teacher of the Month is Denise Williams of Provo, Utah.

Denise studied at the Berlin Music Conservatory and graduated in piano pedagogy from Brigham Young University. She earned a Master's degree from BYU in Humanities. She is a certified Kodaly teacher and is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (NCTM) with Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) and a member of Encore Music Teachers, Utah Music Teachers, and National Federation. Her students have participated in National Piano Guild, Royal Conservatory of Music, Encore, Federation and MTNA events.

Denise has taught piano professionally for more than 40 years in California, Berlin, Indonesia, and Utah, including BYU. But in addition, she has continually used all her training to teach children for reduced rates or for free while volunteering to lead community choirs, teach orchestra and band, accompany musical groups, play the organ and piano for church services, and teach children at school to sing, play recorders and develop general music skills. For the past ten years, Denise has been officially associated with MusicLink and appreciates all who support professional teachers' efforts to provide music instruction for children in need.

Denise is married to David and has six marvelous children and 17 exceptional grandchildren.

MusicLink thanks you for your decade of service teaching children in need. We look forward to another wonderful ten years!


March, 2014

Our March MusicLink Teacher of the Month is Cheryl Petersen Norman of Utah.

Cheryl Norman has been teaching piano since she was in high school with the encouragement of her piano teacher, Carol Buchner Rogers, in Bakersfield, CA. She has taught in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, where she currently resides and teaches in American Fork. Cheryl earned a BA at Pomona College (California) in Piano Performance, and later an MM Degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy at Brigham Young University (1994) and has been an Adjunct Professor at BYU and Utah Valley University.

"I became involved with MusicLink nine years ago when a boy of 8 wanted music lessons even though he had some learning disabilities. Today, he loves to play his songs for everyone he knows. He and several other deserving MusicLink students have grown and progressed as my piano students and love to perform," she said.

Cheryl travels regularly with her archaeologist husband, Garth Norman, to Guatemala and Mexico, and many other parts of the world. In 2011, she began giving recitals at the University Planetarium in Tapachula, Southern Mexico, after her husband gave archaeology-astronomy lectures. After the first recital, a group of teenagers surrounded the beautiful grand piano and said they wanted to learn to play the piano.

Inspired by the MusicLink program, she began an annual Humanitarian Music program. Now each August when she is in Mexico, she gives an electric keyboard to a student who wants to learn to play the piano. She has found piano teachers in the area who train teenage students, who in turn help teach younger beginning students who are recipients of electric keyboards from her Humanitarian Music program.

Currently, Cheryl is on the Board of Directors of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) representing the Southwest Division. She has been on the MTNA National Certification Commission, published AMT articles, and served as MTNA-SPAC Chairman. She was Utah MTA President in 2004-2006.

Cheryl has performed in the Western US, including the Utah Gina Bachauer Recital series, China, Italy, Guatemala, and Mexico. She will be receiving the prestigious Foundation Fellow Award from the Utah MTA and MTNA in March 2014 at the MTNA National Conference in Chicago. She and her husband have three married daughters and 18 grandchildren, who are all musical.

MusicLink thanks you for your ongoing efforts teaching at home and sharing the gift of music and the spirit of MusicLink abroad. Very best wishes for continued success!


May, 2014

Our May MusicLink Teacher of the Month is Holly Kukkonen of Iowa City, IA.

Holly Kukkonen has been teaching piano privately for over thirty years, in New York, Michigan, and Iowa. She graduated from Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY. Currently, she is teaching in Iowa City, IA. She has been active in the National Guild of Piano Teachers, the National Federation of Music Clubs, the Private Music Teachers Association, and Music Teachers National Association; she was a founding member of two local MTNA affiliates in Michigan.

"I began teaching with MusicLink early in my time in Iowa City. My first MusicLink student was so delightful to teach that when I had the opportunity to teach a family of four children with financial need, I did not hesitate to enroll them in MusicLink. It has made such a difference for this family, as I am sure it does for every MusicLink family," she said. "I am delighted to be involved with a group that helps me to do some of the most significant work of my entire career."

Holly is married to Mark Kukkonen, and has three children and one granddaughter.

Congratulations, Holly! Thank you for your unwavering support and dedication to MusicLink - and thank you for making MusicLink a meaningful part of your career.


June, 2014

Our June MusicLink Teacher of the Month is Robin Ebeyer of DeRidder, Louisiana.

Robin Ebeyer graduated from Louisiana Tech University in 1993 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Piano Performance and immediately began her teaching career. She has taught in Kentucky, Georgia, Texas, and in three cities in Louisiana for the past 21 years. Currently, Robin maintains a studio in DeRidder, LA, with 22 students, employing her daughter Katy to teach three of those students.

Robin became involved with MusicLink about four years ago through Louisiana's SHS program. SHS was a program stemming from the SOS program, which assisted victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that devastated Louisiana in 2005. SHS received its support from teachers and students around the state who conducted "Play-a-thons," raising money through private contributions. Robin's studio contributed many times, and then she discovered there were students in her area who could benefit from MusicLink.

In 2010-2012, Robin had up to five students in the MusicLink program and currently has one who has continued with piano study. During the summers, Robin also holds Piano Camp. Her student, Kaytlun Dardar, has received a scholarship to attend the camp for three years. "Kaytlun is an exceptional student who is taking a break for a couple of months to travel with country with her family, ministering to the less-fortunate through her family's music ministry," Robin said. Kaytlun will resume lessons in the Fall.

Honored to be a part of MusicLink, Robin said that she is grateful for the opportunities it provides for students. "Choosing to teach those who can't afford tuition is a joy and a privilege," she said, adding that she feels that her music and teaching is a God-given talent and He has blessed her with a love for the children who pass through her studio.

Robin is married to Jason, who is Minister of Education and Administration at First Baptist Church, DeRidder and they have three children: Katy, Andrew, and Conner.

Congratulations, Robin, and thank you for all that you do for MusicLink! We are grateful for all the joy you bring to our program, and for all the support you've given your community through the gift of music.


July, 2014

Our July MusicLink Teacher of the Month is Deborah Meier of Illinois.

Deborah Meier has maintained a piano studio in her home for more than 30 years. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education from Concordia University, Seward, Nebraska, in 1974 where she majored in music with an emphasis in organ. In 1981 she earned her Master's Degree in Elementary Education from SIU-Edwardsville, Illinois. Deb began her career teaching 3rd and 4th grades in Lutheran elementary schools, along with directing choirs and teaching classroom music. After teaching school for 9 years, she then stayed home to raise her two children. It was during this time that she pursued an interest in piano teaching.

Deb is a member of the Gateway Arch East Music Teachers Association (MTA) in Illinois and her students participate in the yearly A.I.M. Syllabus program, National Piano Guild, and Mid-America Music Association festivals. She presently teaches 34 students, some of them being taught in the piano program at Holy Cross Lutheran School in Collinsville, IL.

Deb has been involved with MusicLink for more than 15 years. She has also been serving as church organist for the past 35+ years and she accompanies the choir at Metro East Lutheran High School in Edwardsville, IL. This past January she helped organize a Clavinova Festival to raise funds for MusicLink. Her daughter, Katie Schelp, is a MusicLink teacher in Oklahoma. They both enjoy the opportunity to share the love of music with all of their students.

"MusicLink has allowed our students the opportunity to receive piano lessons at a reduced rate, provided music and also the funds to participate in piano events," Deb said. "These students work hard and appreciate the benefits and support from MusicLink."

Congratulations, Deb! How fortunate we are to have two generations from your family providing lessons and organizing events for MusicLink and sharing your joy for music with so many deserving students. Keep up the terrific work!


August, 2014

Our August MusicLink Teacher of the Month is Colleen Hunter of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Colleen Hunter, NCTM, teaches applied and class piano at Gonzaga University and maintains a private piano studio in her home in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, teaching a wide range of ages and levels from children to adults. Nationally and state certified with MTNA, she is active at the state level as an adjudicator and presenter, and serves as chair of the College Faculty Forum for Washington State MTA. At the local level, she is a past president of the Spokane Music Teachers and began a term as president in May with the North Idaho Music Teachers. Community involvement includes coordinating entertainment for Art on the Green, an annual summer arts festival in Coeur d'Alene, as well as a winter lecture series and home concerts in the area.

Colleen serves as church pianist and director of a seasonal church choir in addition to collaborative work with area musicians. She studied with Margaret Saunders Ott (Spokane, WA), Marcile Mack (Seattle Pacific University), Richard Cass (University of Missouri at Kansas City), and Bela Nagy (from Boston University and Sion, Switzerland), receiving B.A., M.M., and D.M.A. degrees. Colleen and her husband, Sam, have two children: Scott, who recently graduated from high school, and Abby, who is entering high school. Their home is filled with much music, conversation, laughter, and activity.

Colleen has instructed MusicLink students for several years and appreciates a program that provides encouragement, resources and opportunities for families that need that extra boost to keep their musical endeavors and dreams alive.

"The student in the photo has almost completed her first year of lessons and will soon start second grade," Colleen said. "She asked to play for her first grade music class at school this spring and auditioned to play on the year-end talent show. Both performances were successful and fun!"

Colleen added: "I am passionate about teaching and about teaching music and sharing the love of music. I enjoy my students very much! Each one is special and comes with creative and individual likes, dreams, and ideas. My MusicLink students are a natural part of my studio and can receive the same opportunities available to anyone else. I am grateful for a program that engages in music education for all, supporting both student and teacher, and influencing a community!"

Congratulations, Colleen! MusicLink is grateful to have someone like you who is so passionate about teaching and sharing her love of music with deserving young musicians. Keep up the inspiration!


September, 2014

MusicLink's September Teacher of the Month is Patricia Cestaro of Northport, New York.

Piano teacher and author Patricia Cestaro specializes in teaching students with learning exceptionalities. Her book, "Easy to Teach Easy To Learn," is a piano method for students who learn differently. An important goal of Patricia's is providing the opportunity for all children to experience the joy of music. As an active member in the piano teacher community on Long Island, she is frequently called upon to assist in teacher-student matches. Patricia also is a frequent speaker at local and state conferences as well as local universities. These presentations are focused on assisting teachers in learning the skills needed in teaching music to children who learn differently.

Patricia is an active MusicLink teacher who also volunteers her time to help place instruments with students who study with MusicLink teachers. Her students participate in fundraisers each year for the organization. The high school volunteers are assigned jobs that allow them to run all the concerts and fundraisers. Middle school volunteers are assigned to the high school students who take on various tasks, including registering participants, organizing performing groups, announcing the performers, completing and handing out certificates of community service, and being the event photographer or greeter.

"The fundraisers are a learning tool for the students," said Patricia. "They learn leadership skills and they also learn to be a compassionate young adult."

This past December, the volunteers were put to the test of running a fundraiser without Patricia while she was out of state with a family emergency. The students ran the entire event with two teachers and a parent present for guidance as needed and to handle the money. "The event was a huge success!" said Patricia.

Congratulations, Patricia! We are inspired by your efforts in teaching students with learning exceptionalities and helping others learn how to do the same. And we are grateful for your tireless efforts in fundraising. Thank you for all you do!


October, 2014

MusicLink's October Teacher of the Month is Debbie Ruth of Lexington, South Carolina.

"Starting from the age of 7, when I received my first piano and began music lessons in the basement of my school, music - in particular piano - has always been an important part of my life," said Debbie Ruth. "Growing up as a child, the piano was my refuge. If my mother was looking for me, that's where she would find me."

Debbie earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Pedagogy from Columbia College, Columbia, SC. She teaches private piano lessons in the Musical Arts Studios at Columbia College, Columbia, SC and at her church, Fellowship Baptist Church in

Lexington, SC, where she is pianist and children's choir director. She also maintains a private studio in her home.

She is currently President-Elect of South Carolina Music Teachers Association, and

Membership Chair of Columbia (SC) Music Teachers Association. She encourages and prepares her students to participate in audition events, and rejoices with them when they receive superior ratings and scholarships.

Since 2009, when Debbie first became involved with MusicLink, she has been committed to providing lessons under the program to at least one MusicLink student every year.

"MusicLink gives me the opportunity to offer lessons to students in a way that blesses them and me. I derive such satisfaction from ‘giving back' through reduced-cost or ‘pro-bono' lessons, and see it as a win-win situation for both of us," Debbie said.

Debbie and her husband, Greg, have five adult children and six grandchildren. Her interests include traveling and hiking with Greg, and spending time with family and friends.

Congratulations, Debbie! Your selfless contributions to music education and dedication to MusicLink and deserving young musicians is certainly a win-win!


November, 2014

MusicLink's November Teacher of the Month is Mary Tamplin of Annapolis, Maryland.

Mary Tamplin is an independent piano teacher in Annapolis, Maryland, retired from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, the Preparatory School where she taught piano, theory and vocal coaching. During her years at Peabody, she established a program for very young budding pianists called "Keyboard Explorers," chaired adult studies, founded and coordinated the Annapolis branch of the Peabody in addition to her private instruction.

Mary has been involved in MusicLink for many years as teacher and coordinator. She strongly believes that music education should be available for all students.

"Everyone deserves the right to learn," she says. "MusicLink gives all students a chance for private music study and helps to fulfill my belief."

Congratulations, Mary! Thank you for helping to make music education available to all and for providing private lessons to MusicLink's deserving students.


December, 2014

Our December MusicLink Teacher of the Month is Larry Baldwin of Lawton, Oklahoma.

Piano and voice teacher Larry Baldwin received his Bachelors of Music degree from Cameron University in 2001. He has been a member of MusicLink since 2002 and has taught six different students in the MusicLink program. "Each child deserves the best music education whether or not they can truly afford the lessons," he says.

Larry teaches private voice and piano and also has volunteered at Union Baptist Christian school teaching music theory, choir, and piano. One of his MusicLink students competed in the MTNA Senior voice competition in 2009. That student won the state and division and was an honorable mention at the national level.

Larry is a member of MTNA, OMTA, NFMC, and OFMC. He is currently the State Festival chair in Oklahoma for the NFMC - OFMC. Over the past 14 years, Larry has had numerous students compete at local and national levels in competition and place very well.

Larry is also the co-director and artistic director for the vocal camp at Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony (Opera in the Ozarks) summer program. He designed the weeklong vocal camp, now in its 10th year. This camp is designed to give students the opportunity to perform a full musical as well as a traditional style choral concert. All of this is fully staged, costumed, and choreographed in eight days making this a unique opportunity for students. Not only do the students have to learn all the lines and music, but they also have to learn stage preparation, set building, lighting, and costuming.

Larry is also a faculty member of the IPFAC piano/string camp that follows the week long vocal camp. He teaches private piano and choir at this camp.

Congratulations, Larry! Thank you for giving our deserving MusicLink students the best music education, and many thanks for your service of 12 years - and counting!