Music Educator Awards
Since our first concert for young people in 1941, the North Carolina Symphony has been committed to educating and inspiring the next generation of musicians and music lovers. Throughout the year, we work hand-in-hand with outstanding music educators who help carry out the Symphony’s programs in their schools and work every day to build their students’ musical skills and appreciation.
The North Carolina Symphony’s annual Music Educator Awards recognize outstanding teachers who make a lasting difference in the lives of students of all abilities and backgrounds; serve the community in an exemplary manner as a role model in music education; inspire students to reach high musical standards; and instill a love for music in children.
Honorees receive monetary awards that are generously supported through an anonymous annual gift.
Know a music educator in your community who should be recognized for their work? Guidelines and nominations for the 2020/21 school year will be posted in the fall. Nominated teachers will be contacted to provide supporting recommendations from students, colleagues and/or members of the community.
For more information, contact Jason Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919.789.5461.
Maxine Swalin Award for Outstanding Music Educator
The Maxine Swalin Award for Outstanding Music Educator is named for Maxine Swalin who—together with her husband Dr. Benjamin Swalin, NCS music director from 1939-1972—raised funds to establish the Symphony’s children’s concert division in 1945. Set in motion by Ms. Swalin, the Symphony’s music education program is now the most extensive of any symphony orchestra, engaging 52,000 fourth and fifth graders each year though free Education Concerts and offering opportunities at every grade level, preschool through college.
2019 Honoree: Perry Ditch
Perry Ditch is the recently retired Director of Bands at White Oak High School (WOHS) in Jacksonville, NC. Mr. Ditch graduated from East Carolina University in 1986 and taught for six years in Brevard, NC. He moved to White Oak High School in 1993, and since then the program has grown from 68 members to 185 members. The bands he has directed have received numerous superior ratings and awards. He has been a guest clinician and adjudicator in Virginia and North Carolina. Mr. Ditch is also the director of all the Academies at White Oak High School. Recently his jazz ensemble was selected to perform in the New York City Jazz Festival.
He is driven by his philosophy that “Music Sounds Like Life Feels.” The sounds that we make can move people to feel the music. It is the journey that the ear takes when listening to the music that keeps the audience captive.
Mr. Ditch also loves using technology in his rehearsals. He has given several clinics on using technology in the classroom. Methods that engage students and keep them learning about music are a key ingredient in his rehearsals.
Mr. Ditch has served as a guest clinician and adjudicator in North Carolina and Virginia. He is sought after to deliver professional development in the areas of technology, instructional strategies, developing the individual and ensemble musician, creating a culture that builds programs, and global connections.
In June of 2017, a White Oak High School band performed a concert by Skype for the Cheery Children Education Centre in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya at Mashimoni. During that session, they realized that the Centre had neither music classes nor instruments, so the Cheery Music Project was created. There are three phases to the project: provide recorders and improve Wi-Fi capabilities for the Centre so WOHS band students can teach them via Skype how to read music; use Nuvo instruments, Ptrumpets, and Pbones to establish an instrumental ensemble; and provide the Cheery students with student model instruments for them to play and form their first concert band.
Mr. Ditch completed his master’s degree from East Carolina University in 2000 and is a National Board-certified teacher. Mr. Ditch is a past president of the Eastern District of the North Carolina Bandmasters Association and a past Secretary for the North Carolina Bandmasters Association. He is a proud member of the American School Band Directors Association.
In August of 2018, Mr. Ditch joined Rotary International, an organization of community leaders that focuses on “Service above Self.” He is very active in the organization and currently working on an international grant. He is a member of Catalyst Church and is on the Serve Team focusing on the setup of the church each Sunday.
His greatest achievement is being the proud father to his son Jacob Perry Ditch.
Jackson Parkhurst Award for Special Achievement
The Jackson Parkhurst Award for Special Achievement is named for the Symphony’s former director of education in recognition of his longstanding service and commitment to young people in the state of North Carolina.
2019 Honoree: Vevlyn Lowe
Vevlyn Lowe, currently in her 24th year of teaching, is the band director at Sampson Middle School in Clinton, NC. She is a graduate of East Carolina University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in music education and certification in school administration. Mrs. Lowe received her master’s degree in music education and piano pedagogy from Florida State University. She is also certified in academically gifted education.
Mrs. Lowe is a National Board-certified teacher and served as a National Board assessor for nine years. She also reviews and rates edTPA porfolios for Pearson. She is a member of the American School Band Directors Association (ASBDA), National Association for Music Education (NAfME), North Carolina Music Educators Association (NCMEA), and Southeastern District of the North Carolina Bandmasters Association (SEDBA). She serves SEDBA as the All-District Band Auditions co-chair and mentor chair, and received their Award of Excellence in 2009.
Mrs. Lowe maintains an active band program of more than 200 students. Her bands consistently receive superior ratings at the annual North Carolina Music Performance Adjudication and several of her students participate in district- and state-level honors band programs each year. Her band program commissioned a new work, Night of the Dark Horse by composer Mike Oare, in 2016. This piece was recently added to the North Carolina Music Performance Adjudication list. She was the 2012/13 Clinton City Schools Teacher of the Year and is a two-time recipient of the Sampson Middle School Teacher of the Year award.
She is married to John Lowe, Director of Technology for Clinton City Schools. They have two sons: Carter, 18 and Jackson, 13. Mrs. Lowe’s philosophy of teaching is that hard work and perseverance can overtake and surpass innate ability almost every time.
North Carolina Symphony Musicians Award
The North Carolina Symphony Musicians Award honors emerging music educators with fewer than 10 years of teaching experience. This award is named for the musicians of the North Carolina Symphony in appreciation of their contributions to the children and communities of North Carolina, and in recognition of the fact that each one of the musicians on our stage has been influenced by excellent music teachers.
2019 Honoree: Laura Martin
Laura Martin starts her seventh year of elementary music teaching in the fall of 2019. She is currently the music teacher and choral director at Fuquay-Varina Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, where she has taught for the past six years. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in music education including discipline honors.
Ms. Martin is a product of the Wake County Public School System and credits her passion for music to her own teachers: Kathryn Caves (retired middle school band director), Robin Gorham and Matt Edwards (current middle and high school band directors), Ruth McCoy (retired high school choral director), and Stephanie Linville (current middle school band director). During her time in the Wake County Public School System she has participated in the North Carolina Symphony Education Workshop by writing lessons and teaching at two workshops. She has also been co-chair of the WCPSS All-County Elementary Honors Chorus for two years. Her ensemble chorus has been a finalist in the Mix 101.5 Christmas Choir Competition four separate years and has taken second place once and first place twice. For the past three years, her ensemble chorus has participated in the Raleigh Fine Arts Society Choral Celebration and received glowing reviews due to the hard work and dedication shown by her students. During the most recent Choral Celebration, Ms. Martin was asked to be a guest conductor for one song with over 400 children performing.
Her students love to share their joy of song locally by singing the national anthem for baseball games, singing at nearby assisted-living facilities, and performing at the local farmers’ market. Very often you can catch Ms. Martin at sporting events, performances, and recitals featuring her students. Although she teaches almost 900 children, she strives to make each child feel celebrated and unique.
She hopes to continue to inspire future generations to continue their music education and ignite their own passion for learning music. “Legacy, what is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” – Lin Manuel-Miranda, Hamilton