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.

Since 2003, the North Carolina Symphony’s annual Music Educator Awards have recognized 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: 2023202220212020201920182017

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.

2024 Honoree: Nancy Kerner-Durling
Governor Morehead School for the Blind, Raleigh

An advocate and leader for accessible and inclusive music education, Nancy Kerner-Durling is the Music Director at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she directs the Concert Choir and Jazz Band and teaches General Music, Braille Music, and Assistive Technology Tools. She served as an elementary school music specialist for twenty years before transitioning to special education. Ms. Kerner-Durling has been the recipient of several grants, has presented at the Florida Music Educators Association conference, and has been highlighted in North Carolina’s HomeBase newsletter for utilizing technology to level the playing field in music education for students with disabilities. She also serves as a resource for braille music education and braille music transcription.

Ms. Kerner-Durling is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda music honor society, Kappa Delta Pi education honor society, and Phi Eta Sigma freshman honor society, and served on the National Officers Council of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity. She is a National Board Certified Teacher in Early and Middle Childhood Music and serves as an assessor for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Stetson University, a master’s degree in music education from East Carolina University, and a master’s degree in Blindness and Visual Handicaps and Orientation and Mobility from North Carolina Central University. She is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist. She has a passion for equity and inclusion in music and education for persons with visual impairments.

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.

2024 Honoree: Adam Stewart
Cane Creek Middle School, Buncombe County

Adam Stewart has been the director of bands at Cane Creek Middle School in Fletcher, NC since 2022. He began his professional teaching career at Pisgah High School in 2011, where he oversaw the marching band, concert band, jazz band, percussion ensemble, and winter guard. In 2016 he moved to Waynesville Middle School, overseeing the concert band, jazz band, woodwind ensemble, and percussion ensemble as well as assisting with the visual coordination of the Tuscola Marching Mountaineers.

Mr. Stewart is a native of Rockwell, NC and received his bachelor’s degree in music education from Western Carolina University (WCU) in 2011. While attending WCU he studied drill writing under Bob Buckner and trombone performance under Dr. Dan Cherry, and held various leadership roles within the award-winning Pride of the Mountains Marching Band. In 2019, he became a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence and Young Adulthood Music Education; he consistently hosts student teachers preparing to enter the field of music education.

Mr. Stewart’s bands have consistently received accolades in both musical and visual performance, with students participating in honors bands at the district, region, state, and national levels. In 2024, his band was invited to participate in the New York Invitational Music Festival at Carnegie Hall in 2025. Currently, Mr. Stewart hosts the Western District Solo and Ensemble Music Performance Adjudication (MPA) event for all bands in the Western District of the state and was recently elected as the Western Region Jazz Chair in North Carolina. He is an active member of the North Carolina Bandmasters Association and National Band Association, and an alumnus of Phi Mu Alpha Music Fraternity. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, fishing, and spending time with his wife, Miranda, his son, Dakota, and his dog, River.

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.

2024 Honoree: Anna Wade
Philo-Hill Magnet Academy, Forsyth County

Anna Wade is the Chorus Teacher at Philo-Hill Magnet Academy (soon to be renamed Konnoak Middle School) with Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools. She was awarded the North Carolina Governor’s Educator Discovery award in October 2023 and a Winston Salem Foundation Grant in January 2024. Outside of school, she assists with The Winston Salem Choral Academy, a treble-voices performing choir, teaches beginning choir lessons at Community Music School of UNC School of the Arts (UNCSA), and sings in the choir at Centenary United Methodist Church. In June 2023, she moved to Winston-Salem from Lincoln, Nebraska, where she grew up and found her passion for music through musical theatre, marching band, and swing choir. She went to college at Wichita State University (WSU) in Kansas and cherished her time as a music education major studying voice under Dr. Pina Mozzani. There, she sang in choral ensembles, performed in operas, played flute in symphonic band, and participated in an opera and Italian language study abroad program in Lucca, Italy. Anna was WSU’s 2021 Presser Scholar for leadership in her major of study and an active member of the Beta Chi Chapter of Gamma Phi Beta.

Ms. Wade is the former Vice-President of the Kansas Collegiate Chapter of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and remains active in both the North Carolina NAfME and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) state chapters. She is working towards a master’s degree in special music education and OAKE Kodaly Certification through Wichita State University and will graduate in December 2024.

2024 Finalists

Laura Black, Rocky Point Elementary School, Pender County

Chris Brown, Lake Norman High School, Iredell County

Janae Copeland, Meadowlark Elementary School, Forsyth County

Katelyn Copeland, Perquimans County Middle School, Perquimans County

Linda Haggard, Smoky Mountain High School, Jackson County

Robert Summerell, Freedom High School, Burke County