Each year, Buffalo State faculty and students collaborate with dozens of dedicated and talented music educators from around western New York. We choose to recognize a few colleagues each year who have made outstanding contributions to their students, their institution, and the field of music education.
Winners were recognized at the Buffalo State Philharmonia Orchestra concert on Tuesday, May 2, at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall.
Virginia Hendra is a general music and chorus teacher at Meadow Elementary School in the North Tonawanda City School District. She has been teaching in North Tonawanda for nine years. She is a graduate of Mercyhurst University and State University of New York at Buffalo, receiving both bachelor's and master's degrees in music education.
Virginia has served as the president of the New York Chapter of the Gordon Institute of Music Learning, and is currently serving on the executive board as the Past President. She also is the Vice-President of Classroom Music for the Niagara County Music Educators Association. She has presented lessons and at the ECMEA/NCMEA Classroom Music Festival and for the New York Chapter of the Gordon Institute of Music Learning.
She lives in Hamburg with her husband, Travis, and dog, Oliver.
A native of Eden, NY, and two-time Grammy-nominated music educator, Amy J. Steiner attended SUNY Fredonia School of Music earning a bachelor of music education degree and a master's in music with an emphasis in conducting. Amy studied under conductors Dr. Russell Mikkelson, Dr. Richard Larson, and Dr. Paula Holcomb. On her bassoon, Ms. Steiner has performed with the Erie Philharmonic, Erie Chamber Players, Cheektowaga Symphony, Erie County Wind Ensemble, Amherst Chamber Ensembles, and various other groups throughout Western New York.
Ms. Steiner's career as a Band Director started in the fall of 1996, in the City of Buffalo. Throughout her career, Amy earned Teacher of the Year in 2007, was recognized as a pilot program for VH-1 Save the Music, instituted a district-wide Music Camp that serves over 400 students, conducted the All City Band, and currently runs the Instrumental Music Program at Hutchinson Central Technical High School. Ms. Steiner also initiated several community projects including "Arts Day", “Summer Music Camp”, a community outreach program for Buffalo Niagara Concert Band members and Buffalo Public School students, and coordinated the "Extreme Makeover" Home Edition Food Drive Challenge, where she and her team broke the national volume record of food raised. Ms. Steiner has made her appearance as guest conductor in schools and the ECMEA festival. She also was co-founder and manager of "Southtowns Pride", an elite travel boys travel baseball team. Amy's many achievements do not go un-noticed. In 2006 and 2007 she was recognized by "Who's Who Among American Teachers" in 2010, she received a Forty Under 40 Award from Business First, and in 2015, Amy was placed as a quarter-finalist for the Grammy’s Music Educator Award.
Amy's conducting career started in 2000 with the Sikora Post Band in Tonawanda, NY. 2003 saw Amy become co-founder and conductor of the Niagara Frontier Concert Band in the city of Buffalo. Under her direction, the new ensemble secured first runner-up at the New York State Legion Convention in 2004. In 2008, Ms. Steiner sought to expand the NFCB, and started collaborations with another local community band. A remarkable joint concert of the two groups solidified the union and in 2009, the Buffalo Niagara Concert Band was formed, where Amy currently is co-founder, music director and conductor. Under her baton, the Buffalo Niagara Concert Band has performed in venues across Western New York, Lake George, and was chosen to perform at the Association of Concert Bands National convention in Pennsylvania.
In her free time, Amy enjoys being a mom of her three children, Gavin Liam, London Gabrielle, and Lucas Kennan. Amy, Joel and her children live in North Buffalo, NY where she also enjoys gardening, cooking, camping, and reading.
Jennifer Mernitz is in her fourteenth year of teaching at public schools. She has taught music at the elementary, middle school and high school levels. After ten years in a previous school system, Mrs. Mernitz is enjoying her fourth year of teaching in the Grand Island Central School District. Presently, she is incredibly privileged to be the director of both the Concert Choir and Choir at Grand Island High School, as well as three non-academic choirs (Dominant Force, Madrigal Singers, and Women of Note). Her teaching day also includes Voice Lessons for all choral department students and AP Music Theory. She enjoys the challenges and rewards of passing on her passion for singing to talented young men and women.
Mrs. Mernitz has her Bachelor's Degree in music performance (vocal) from Baldwin-Wallace College, her Master's Degree in music performance (vocal) from Boston University, and her NYS Teacher Certification from SUNY at Buffalo (UB). During these many varied and wonderful learning years, music gave her the opportunity to travel and perform in many exciting places such as: Washington DC, Boston, NYC, Cleveland, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, Wales, England, and Scotland. She has performed many different styles of music from folk songs to opera and enjoys the unique challenges that each has to offer.
Mrs. Mernitz is a member of NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association), ECMEA (Erie County Music Educators Association), NAfME (The National Association for Music Education), ACDA (American Choral Directors Association), as well as the Mu Phi Epsilon Music Honor Society. She actively performs in the Western New York area and currently holds the position of soprano soloist/section leader at the UU Church of Buffalo. She resides in Williamsville with her husband Ken, and their sons, Jack and David.
Nora Murnane-Robertson received her Bachelor of Music Education degree from The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. She graduated with honors and a Master’s of Education degree from Nazareth College in Rochester, New York
Nora has taught string orchestra at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She has taught in the Baldwinsville, Victor and West Seneca School Districts. She is currently the Director of Orchestras at West Seneca West Senior High School, where she also serves as the Coordinator for Music Education. Under Nora’s leadership, the Orchestra and String Ensemble at West Senior have participated at NYSSMA festival evaluations and received “Gold” and Level 6 “Gold with Distinction” ratings. Nora also conducts a summer orchestra program in West Seneca that affords all past and present members of the string department an opportunity to perform during the summer months. In addition to her teaching activities at West Senior, Nora maintains an active private violin/viola studio and performs regularly with her string quartet.
Throughout the past 28 years as a music educator, Nora has served as a guest conductor for All-County and Area All-State Orchestras. She has chaired several Erie County and NYSSMA solo festivals and recently served as the NYSSMA All-State Orchestra Chairperson. In 2007, Nora was a recipient of the BPO/ECMEA award for Excellence in Music Education. She is the Elementary Orchestra Director for the Houghton String Festival, held each spring at Houghton College. Nora is a NYSSMA All-State String Adjudicator. She is a member of the Erie County Music Educators Association, New York State School Music Association, the National Association for Music Education and the American String Teachers Association. Nora resides in Hamburg, NY with her husband, Mike, and their five children.
Carol Horrigan, a Silver Creek native, received her Bachelors of Music Education and her Masters of Science in Curriculum and Instruction from SUNY at Fredonia. She began teaching general music in Grand Island in 1986. During her 30 years in Grand Island she has taught grades K-5. She currently teaches grades 2-5. Besides general music classes she directs the 3rd grade chorus, a 4th and 5th grade Boys Chorus, a 4th and 5th grade Girls chorus and a 5th grade Select Chorus and teaches private piano. She has also served as a Technology Instructional Facilitator in Grand Island and has accompanied many choral groups and musicals. Carol has mentored many student teachers from Buffalo State, SUNY Fredonia, and Houghton during her tenure.
She has been the guest conductor for the Erie County Elementary All County Chorus and has received the Grand Island’s PTA Lifetime membership award, Grand Island’s Educator of the Year Award (2007), and the Western New York Educational Service Council Excellence in Teaching Award (2011).
Jill Neuhaus, a Grand Island native, earned her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA where she sang with the esteemed Duquesne University Chamber Singers under the direction of Dr. Brady Allred. Mrs. Neuhaus received her Master’s Degree in Music Education from The University at Buffalo and began her teaching career in the West Seneca School District, where she taught for 3 years. Mrs. Neuhaus is currently the Choral Director at Kenmore East HS in Tonawanda and has been teaching there for 11 years.
While in the KenTon District, Mrs. Neuhaus has played a key role in developing the Music Theory 1 and Music Theory 2 Curriculum, specifically designed for the emerging Music student to better prepare them for college and a music career. Mrs. Neuhaus is often invited to teach Staff Development courses to her fellow Music Educators on Common Core and Literacy Techniques in the Music Classroom. Her choirs repeatedly earn Gold and Gold with Distinction Ratings at NYSSMA Major Choral Evaluations and have won numerous Gold and First Place ratings at Festivals and Invitationals across the country. Most recently, the Kenmore East choirs were invited to return to Walt Disney World’s Candlelight Processional this coming December.
Mrs. Neuhaus was the guest conductor for the Niagara County Senior High Chorus in 2014 and has enjoyed adjudicating at various music festivals in the WNY Area. She is best known locally as a Soprano soloist and has performed with such groups as The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, Buffalo Choral Arts Society, Ars Nova and Buffalo Chamber Players, to name a few. Mrs. Neuhaus has three beautiful and talented children: Claire, 6, and 3 year old twins Luke & Lily.
David G. Curtis is currently the Director of Choral Activities Grades 6-12 at Niagara Wheatfield Central School District, is an Artistic Staff member of the Buffalo Niagara Youth Chorus, Organist at the Oakfield United Methodist Church, and is the former director of the Niagara County Community College Choir. Mr. Curtis is a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, receiving the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Music Education. He frequently conducts and accompanies All-County and Honors Choirs throughout New York State and has presented numerous workshops in Music Education and Choral Conducting to Music Educators. His choirs have earned numerous "Gold and Gold with Distinction" Awards at N.Y.S.S.M.A. Major Organization Evaluation Festivals, and numerous "First Place" Awards at National Choral Competitions.
The Niagara Wheatfield Choirs, under his direction, have performed for the "N.Y.S.S.M.A. Winter Conference", "National Rural Educators Conference", "A.C.D.A." Choral Workshops, E.C.M.E.A. Conference Day, Ithaca College Composers Festival, and has served as a model choir for practicum students from the University at Buffalo, Buffalo State College, and Houghton College, and was the featured choir at Carnegie Hall for the National Youth Concert Series in March of 2009, and 2011.
Veronica Shanchuk, a Buffalo native, received her Bachelors in Music Education from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, began teaching vocal and general music in the Buffalo Pubic Schools and has continued there for the past 14 years. During that time she earned her Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from D’Youville College in Buffalo. Veronica has mentored new and veteran music teachers from several Buffalo Public Schools as a co-facilitator and coach within the Buffalo Arts Teachers Collaborative. She has also been the guest conductor for the Junior High North Chorus (2014) and Elementary Blue Chorus (2015) as part of the Erie County Music Educators Association Choral Festivals.
In addition, she has enjoyed being a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus for five seasons and is currently singing with the Harmonia Chamber Singers, and the Buffalo Master Chorale. Most recently, Veronica performed at Carnegie Hall with the Harmonia Chamber Singers as part of the Distinguished Concerts International’s A capella Next concert series. Veronica also serves as Vice-Chair and Marketing Committee Chair on the Board of Directors for the Harmonia Chamber Singers.
Stephen Shewan has composed music for numerous media, including orchestra, string quartet, chamber ensembles, symphonic band, solo voice, choir and piano. His music has been performed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the US Army Strings, the Eastman Wind Ensemble, the Moores School Symphony Orchestra, the Vrije Univeriteit Amsterdam Choir and numerous choirs, bands, chamber ensembles and soloists across the United States and Europe. Shewan's music can be heard on Music of Stephen Shewan, Albany Records (TROY149) Parables of God and Man Albany Records (TROY362) and The Road Less Traveled Albany Records (TROY783). Albany Records will release Stephen Shewan Orchestral and Instumental Music (TROY 1569) in June or July of 2015. Shewan's music has been broadcast on over 200 radio stations in America on NPR's Performance Today and on Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin.
Stephen Shewan teaches music and directs the bands at Williamsville East High School near Buffalo, New York. He taught instrumental music at Odessa-Montour High School from 1983-1992. He is a graduate of Roberts Wesleyan College and Ithaca College, and received his DMA from the Eastman School of Music where his primary teacher was Samuel Adler. He is an active guest conductor, pianist, and clinician. Shewan lives with his beautiful wife, Ruthie, his dog Jubal and his cat Precious.
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