CHELTENHAM -- It was the 7th Annual PYO Music Institute Ovation Award Presentation and, in this most unusual year where the COVID-19 Pandemic prevented the typical presentation at the Kimmel Center, this year’s recipient, Susan Ohrt, was surprised at the front door of her home.
Chris Rinaldi, President of Jacobs Music Company, and Bill Johnson, General Manager of WRTI 90.1, were both wearing face masks when they went to the porch of this year’s recipient in Elkins Park with the surprise of a lifetime. The award that recognizes inspiration and outstanding leadership in music education has been honoring excellence in music instruction since its inaugural year in 2014. It honors music teachers in the Delaware Valley who not only successfully teach music to their students, but also instill confidence in them. It is presented by PYO Music Institute, formerly Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, with partners Jacobs Music Company, J.W. Pepper and WRTI-90.1.The nominees were reviewed by a panel of judges including Debra Lew Harder, mid-day classical host and Saturday morning host of Classical Coffeehouse on WRTI 90.1, Christine Witkowski, non-profit consultant, and Dennis Creedon, former Assistant Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia.
Ohrt was one of 10 finalists who were recognized. The virtual recognition took place during “An Evening of Harmony,” the PYO Music Institute’s virtual 80th Anniversary Celebration that took place on Friday, June 19, 2020. In the Ovation Award video presentation, produced by J.W. Pepper and hosted by WRTI’s on-air host Kevin Gordon, all 10 finalists were honored with the announcement of Ohrt being the recipient and her “Publishers Clearing House”-style presentation included. There were over 70 nominations this year with Ohrt receiving an unprecedented 37 nominations.
Ohrt has taught music for 33 years at Myers Elementary School in Cheltenham and is the choir director of the children’s and adult community choirs. She officially retired in June.
When receiving her award, Ohrt said, “Retiring from teaching music during the time of COVID-19 has been very quiet. The Ovation Award adds the most beautiful and unexpected flower to the bouquet of my career. It is a tribute that I will remember for my lifetime.”
The list of the admirable 2020 musician/teacher finalists includes:
-- Benjamin Blazer (Upper Dublin, PA resident)
Benjamin teaches at Central High School in Philadelphia and serves as the school-based teacher leader for the arts, orchestra director and co-producer/musical director of the school’s musical theater program. A performer as well, he was nominated by Calistha Gunawan.
-- Gloria DePasquale (Narberth, PA resident)
Gloria is a cellist in the Philadelphia Orchestra. In addition, she is the Founder and Director of Prysm Strings, a program of the PYO Music Institute. She was nominated by two students, Gevon Goddard and Sarah Martin.
-- Brian Ewing (Ridley Park, PA resident)
Brian is the band director and music teacher at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. Nominated by flute student Ruby Ecker-Wylie, Brian has conducted the All-City Middle School Band, the Philadelphia All-City High School Band, and was recently named Director of the Temple University Night Owl Campus Community Band.
-- Kimberly Fisher (Marple Newtown, PA resident)
Kimberly is Principal Chair of the Second Violins in the Philadelphia Orchestra. Nominated by violinist Angelina Phillips, Kimberly co-founded the Philadelphia International Music Festival, a summer music program in residence at Bryn Mawr College, which encourages and inspires musicians of all levels from around the world.
-- Elizabeth Kaderabek (Bala Cynwyd, PA resident)
Elizabeth is a private music teacher nominated by one of her students, Chloe Hyun. Elizabeth is a First Violinist with the Pennsylvania Ballet and Opera Philadelphia, as well as the Assistant Principal Second Violinist with the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra.
-- Leah Kim (Malvern, PA resident)
Leah is the Head of Music at Villa Maria Academy High School and Director of the Pennsylvania Youth Orchestra. She received four nominations from students Marianna Hoehl, Samantha Lee, Millena Chirillo, and one parent, Mildred Slifer.
-- Anne Sullivan (Coburn, PA, near State College, resident)
Anne is an internationally known harpist who has been teaching for many years. Nominated by students Lily Suh and Katarina Swann, Anne has appeared on four chamber music recordings, released two solo CDs and has published music and instructional books for harpists.
-- Nina Wilkinson (Lansdowne, PA resident, grew up in West Philadelphia)
After serving the School District of Philadelphia for 38 years, Nina retired this year as an instrumental string teacher. She is also lead instructor at the Temple University String Project program. She continues to perform throughout the region. Nominated by Cyrano J. Rosentrater, Nina has won several awards from prestigious organizations including the Ford Foundation, Philadelphia Foundation, and the Board of Education and Fine Arts.
-- Amy Yang (Center City Philadelphia resident)
Amy is a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music. Nominated by piano student Immanuel Mykta-Chomsky, she is a member of the Chamber Music Faculty at Curtis Institute of Music, and piano faculty member of Curtis Summerfest’s Young Artist Summer Program and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and Haverford College.
This year’s recipient, Susan Ohrt, grew up in Glenside and attended Cheltenham schools. While attending Westminster Choir College, she was a member of the prestigious Westminster Choir under the direction of Joseph Flummerfelt. With Westminster choirs, she performed at Carnegie Hall, The Academy of Music and The Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds both in Charleston, South Carolina and Spoleto, Italy. After graduating summa cum laude from Westminster, she was hired to teach general music at Myers Elementary in Cheltenham School District. In addition to teaching music classes to kindergarten through fourth grade students for 33 years, she founded three extracurricular singing ensembles. Chamber Singers and Concert Choir were for third and fourth grade singers and The Community Choir was open to any parent, teacher, or community member. Dave Posmontier and Chris Edelstein arranged and composed many beautiful songs for the choirs and Dave Posmontier also curated a band of professional musicians to join the choirs for their spring concerts. Every child at Myers had a chance to perform for their families at the end of the school year in grade level performances. Every child had a chance to shine. Myers graduates have gone on to become music majors, lead their own ensembles, write and create music, and travel around the world as musical ambassadors. Many students have said that the musical foundation at Myers changed their lives.
The renowned PYO Music Institute (formerly known as Philadelphia Youth Orchestra organization), just completing its 80th season, is one of the nation’s oldest and most respected community music education and youth orchestra performance programs. Training tomorrow’s leaders, PYO Music Institute provides talented young musicians from across the tri-state area with exceptional musical training. Students go on to excel in many diverse fields, and it is with pride to note that many members of the prestigious Philadelphia Orchestra are alumni. For more information, please visitwww.pyomusic.org.