Presentation of the North Carolina Symphony's 2023 Music Educator Awards on the Woolner Stage in Meymandi Concert Hall, Raleigh. Left to right: Li Ying Noell, Colin Tapp, Dr. Zadda Bazzy, NC Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, NCS Music Director Carlos Miguel Prieto.

Music Educator Awards

For more than 75 years, the North Carolina Symphony has worked hand-in-hand with statewide music educators. Working together, each year we reach more than 100,000 students across North Carolina and beyond with music programming.

The North Carolina Symphony’s annual Music Educator Awards recognize outstanding teachers who make meaningful connections between students’ personal and musical lives; inspire students of all abilities and backgrounds to reach for appropriately high musical expectations and growth; serve the school community and larger community in an exemplary manner; and serve as a role model for music education. Honorees receive monetary awards that are generously funded by the Jennie H. Wallace Educator Award Fund.

The following awards are presented each year:

  • Maxine Swalin Award for Outstanding Music Educator ($1,000 Award)
  • Jackson Parkhurst Award for Special Achievement ($500 Award)
  • North Carolina Symphony Musicians Award (for teachers<10 Years’ Experience ($500 Award)

In addition to a monetary award, honorees also receive public recognition at a future NC Symphony concert, tickets to a 2024/25 Classical series concert of their choosing, a school visit from a NC Symphony musician and/or small ensemble; and complimentary registration to the 2024 NC Music Educators Association Conference.

Thank you to everyone who nominated educators for the 2024 Music Educator Awards!

Honorees will be announced in summer of 2024, and the awards will be presented next fall in Raleigh. For more information, contact

Previous Honorees: 202220212020201920182017

Learn about our 2023 Music Educator Award honorees below. Congratulations to all nominees and thank you for your commitment to music education across our state!

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.

2023 Honoree: Zadda Bazzy

Dr. Zadda Bazzy has been in education for 25 years, including 22 years as an elementary music teacher and three years as the arts curriculum specialist for the School District of Manatee County, Florida. For the past six years, she has taught general music at Queens Creek Elementary School in Swansboro, North Carolina.

Dr. Bazzy holds a bachelor’s degree in musical theatre, a master’s degree and a doctorate in music education, and a second master’s degree in educational leadership. She has maintained her certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards since 2003. In addition, she completed her post-Level III certification in the Orff-Schulwerk approach to music education.

In addition to teaching, Dr. Bazzy regularly presents professional development to her colleagues across the district and state. She enjoys writing lessons for the North Carolina Symphony’s Education Concerts, as well as the Sarasota Orchestra’s Young Person’s Concerts. She serves as a mentor teacher at her school, and she hosts music teacher interns from East Carolina University. In addition, Dr. Bazzy was a contributing author of the book The Learner-Centered Music Classroom: Models and Possibilities, published in 2019.

In 2010, Dr. Bazzy was recognized with the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Teaching Assistant when she taught undergraduate music education majors at the University of South Florida. Dr. Bazzy was selected as Teacher of the Year for the School District of Manatee County in 2013 and for Onslow County Schools in 2020.

Dr. Bazzy enjoys life on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast where she resides with her husband and four-year-old daughter.

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.

2023 Honoree: Li Ying Noell

Li Ying Noell hails from Penang, Malaysia and has been a music educator in North Carolina for over twenty-seven years. For over twenty years, she has served at her current school, Rashkis Elementary in Chapel Hill. Mrs. Noell received a bachelor’s degree in piano performance and mass communications from St. Andrews University and a master’s degree in music education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Mrs. Noell is a National Board-Certified Teacher and holds a Level III Orff Schulwerk Certification from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is a past president of the Central Carolina Chapter of the American Orff Schulwerk Association and has presented her work in neighboring districts. She has also served as a mentor teacher and a cooperating teacher to novice music educators and student teachers.

Mrs. Noell’s music class is an opportunity for her students to make music together “out of the box.” She encourages opportunities for self-expression, risk-taking, and original compositions in her classes. She is devoted to ensuring effective music education for all students, empowering her students to continue on their lifelong journey of making meaningful music independently.

When she is not in the classroom, Mrs. Noell serves as a pianist at Christ the King Community Church in Durham, maintains a piano studio, knits, and experiments with new recipes.

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.

2023 Honoree: Colin Tapp

Colin Tapp has been the band director at Brogden Middle School (BMS) in Durham since 2020. Before coming to Durham, he was a band director in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and overseas in Qatar. He earned a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in instrumental conducting from the University of Arkansas.

In his three years at BMS, Mr. Tapp has increased the enrollment in the band program from 32 to over 170. After a half-decade-long hiatus, the band program has begun to receive consistent Excellent/Superior ratings from the North Carolina Bandmasters Association (NCBA), in both the Music Performance Assessment and the Solo and Ensemble Contest, as well as from music festivals around North Carolina.

Mr. Tapp has overseen the creation of the BMS Jazz Band, BMS Pep Band, and The Brogden MS Band Boosters—which has received over $5000 in grants and provides more than 70 students each year with instruments. At BMS he has served as Fine Arts Department Head and Mentor Teacher and was selected as the 2021/22 Teacher of the Year. At Durham Public Schools, he has served as a Middle School Band Director Team Lead and as a member of the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council.

Mr. Tapp is an active member of the NCBA and the North Carolina Music Educators Association. He is a member of the Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity.

Mr. Tapp lives in Creedmoor, North Carolina, with his wife Rachel. When not teaching, he enjoys gardening, kayaking, and hiking.

2023 Finalists

Kristen Graham, Swansboro High School, Onslow County

Karen Matthews, Dixon Middle School, Onslow County

Rody Huertas, Frank Porter Graham Elementary School, Orange County

Lauren Hollers, Willow Springs Elementary School, Wake County