Outstanding Emerging Choral Director Award

The Outstanding Emerging Choral Director Award is given to a member who has 10 years or fewer choral directing experience, is a current ACDA/WA-ACDA member, participates in ACDA/WAACDA activities, maintains high performance and literature standards, and promotes choral music in his/her community.

2016 – Kasey Eck

This year’s award recipient is Kasey Eck, Washington ACDA Outstanding Emerging Choral Director Award. For the school year 2016‐2017 Kasey will be in her third year as full‐time Director of Choral and Vocal Activities at Steilacoom High School. Her previous position, which she held for one year, was at Cashmere High School.

Kasey is a graduate of Western Washington University where she studied conducting with Tim Fitzpatrick and Leslie Guelker‐Cone. She is tirelessly energetic while teaching yet treats her singers with high respect and caring. She has extremely high standards musically and personally for her students. She has an unusual knowledge of vocal fundamentals and technique especially for someone at this stage in her career. Her choirs have a core sound that is mature, powerful yet flexible, and clean with great sense of pitch and intonation. She has a knowledge of cadential dramatic timing and subtle phrasing that is quite incredible. The result of this combination is a classroom atmosphere completely devoid of stress, and the singers’ focus and discipline is among the best that I have ever observed in my career. There is an intangible quality of artistry and expressiveness that is mature beyond the singers’ ages. She uses only the highest quality literature covering many stylistic periods and genres.

Active in ACDA and WMEA, Kasey attended the ACDA National Conference in 2015 in Salt Lake City as well as the Northwest Division Conference in Seattle in 2016. I first met Kasey at the ACDA Summer Institute in 2014. I introduced her to as many colleagues as possible. She impressed everyone who met her with her courtesy and grace. She is blessed with humility but also a gentle confidence that is infectious. She creates a choral culture in her room where students feel safe, are kind and welcoming. They are hard‐working and focused.

For two years the Steilacoom singers have dominated the WMEA Mountain Region, winning eight solo and ensemble categories in 2015 and seven in 2016. This kind of success is rarely achieved by a single school in the Mountain Region contest given the high level of performance throughout the region. After winning at the regional level both years, the Chamber Choir finished in second place at the WIAA‐WMEA State Ensemble Contest in the Mixed Large Ensemble category in 2015, and had only one step left to climb and they did it, becoming State Champions in 2016! For two years running all three of Steilacoom’s entries in the Mountain Region Large Group Choral Contest received Superior (I) ratings from all adjudicators (no minuses). No other school in the region can match this stellar achievement.

Congratulations to Kasey Eck!

2015 – Jason Saunders

This year’s award recipient is Jason Michael Saunders, who is the choral director at Graham-Kapowsin High School where his teaching schedule includes directing the Treble Choir, Concert Choir and Vocal Ensemble. Jason is a northwest native, receiving the Bachelor of Music Education degree from Pacific Lutheran University in 2011, working with conductors Richard Nance and Brian Galante and composer Gregory Youtz. Most recently, he received the Master of Music in Choral Music from the University of Southern California where he also served as a co-conductor of the Apollo Men’s Chorus in addition to studying composition with Morten Lauridsen and Jeffrey Parola.

As an active composer, Jason has received commissions and awards and his music has been performed by a variety of choral ensembles across the United States and in Europe. He was selected as a finalist in the Young New Yorkers Chorus 10th Annual Competition for Young Composers, for which he was commissioned to write a new choral work premiered in 2014 and in 2012, he placed second in the national choral composition competition of the American Prize in the student division. He has had the honor of conducting the premiere performances of many of his works. His music is currently available through Walton Music, Santa Barbara Music Publishing and Colla Voce Music.

Jason is very active in ACDA, attending state, division, and national conferences and serving as a student conductor at both the Washington ACDA Summer Institute and the NWACDA conference student conducting masterclasses. He will begin serving on the Washington ACDA board representing Youth and Student Activities.

Congratulations to Jason!

2014 – Courtney Rowley-Pelavin

Courtney’s letter of introduction was prepared by Aimee Mell.

The 2015 recipient of the Emerging Choral Director Award is Courtney Rowley Pelavin from Ballard High School.

Courtney Rowley Pelavin is in her seventh year as Director of Choirs at Ballard High School, where she directs the Concert Choir, Treble Choir, Vocal Jazz, Women’s Chamber Choir, and Men’s Ensemble.

Courtney is originally from Michigan. She earned a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance and Choral Music Education from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from Michigan State University.

Under her direction, the Ballard choirs have grown from 36 students to over 120 members strong, and have consistently received Superior ratings at both regional and national choral festivals.

In 2013 the BHS Men’s Quartet won 1st place in their category at the WMEA State Solo Ensemble pelavin-mitchell-2014Contest. In 2012 Ms. Pelavin was honored by the 5th 23Avenue Musical Theatre Awards with nominations for Best Musical Direction and Best Chorus in the state of Washington and in 2010 she received the Ballard High School Outstanding Educator Award. In the spring of 2014 her Concert Choir performed at the ACDA NW regional conference. She serves as president for the Elliot Bay district of WMEA.

Ms. Pelavin is also a tireless advocate for choral music in Seattle Public Schools. She was instrumental in developing proposals leading to district grants to fund faculty in middle schools without choral programs, essentially creating new programs to bridge the gap between elementary schools and high schools.

At Ballard HS she hosts a spring festival of elementary and middle schools in her region which had 600 participants this spring. As a fellow teacher at the middle school level states, “Courtney’s success at Ballard has had an impact on choral music in our NW Seattle region.

As a colleague she has visited my classroom and worked with my students. She has invited us to use BHS as a concert venue for our emerging programs and brought her students to perform alongside ours, creating in our students a desire to continue singing and in middle and high school.

2013 – Justin Raffa

This year’s “Outstanding Emerging Director Award” went to Justin Raffa of Kennewick, Washington.

Justin Raffa moved to the Tri-Cities in 2008 to become the Artistic Director of Mid-Columbia Mastersingers. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Westminster Choir College and a Master’s Degree from University of Arizona. In addition to his work with the Mastersingers, he is a member of Male Ensemble Northwest and Chor Anno, and is fresh off of his first summer at the Oregon Bach Festival.

Justin’s colleague in the Tri-Cities area, Reg Unterseher, sums up the prevailing view about Justin: “He is a dynamic leader, an excellent conductor and teacher, and a significant presence in our community.”

Justin began his professional career as a high school choir and drama teacher in Bisbee, AZ, in addition to directing the Bisbee Community Chorus and serving on the board of the Bisbee Arts Commission.

While in Arizona, Justin received Outstanding Graduate Student Leadership Awards from both the Graduate & Professional Student Council and the Center for Student Involvement & Leadership, in addition to being nominated for the 2008 Arizona Governor’s Arts Award. Justin was an active member of the Arizona Music Educators Association and served on the Arizona Choral Directors Association state board as Repertoire & Standards Chair for Community Choirs. Justin served as Minister of Music at area churches and taught elementary school choral music in private schools.

2012 – Megan Lizama

Megan Lizama was awarded the “Outstanding Young Choral Director’s Award.” Megan has been the choir teacher at Mount Vernon High School since 2005. Under her direction, the program has grown to include eight ensembles, involving more than 250 students. Prior to joining the staff at MVHS, she taught K-8 general and vocal music in Michigan for three years.

A native of Washington, Ms. Lizama developed a passion for choral music while singing in children’s choirs, including teh Spokane Area Children’s Chorus, Seattle Girl’s Choir and Vocalpoint! Seattle. She attended the University of Michigan, where she earned a Bachelor of Music Degree in Voice Performance.

Those who have had the pleasure of seeing Megan teach, hearing her choirs perform, and enjoying her warm personality and delightfully unique sense of style and humor, know that Megan, with her standard of excellence and passion for the choral art, sets the bar for all music teachers in Wahtcom and Skagit counties. Her artistry and influence extend well beyond the boundaries of her own classroom and community.

2011 – Justin Wisness

This year’s winner of the association’s Outstanding Emerging Choral Director Award went to Justin Wisness.

Justin teaches at Rogers High School in Puyallup. He taught previously at Squalicum High School in Bellingham. Justin graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor of Music Education degree in 2003.

2010 – Amy Fuller

Amy Fuller from Sumner was named the “Outstanding Young Choral Director.” This award, too, was a first time award as the WA ACDA board looked to find ways to recognize superior work by its members. In the short time she has taught choral music Amy has demonstrated outstanding skills and developed choirs with marvelous tone. She brings “unending” energy to her work and connects beautifully with her students.

Amy’s nominating letter from Stacy Winn included the following:
“Amy is somone who goes above and beyond in her work with her students and in service to the profession. …it is clear immediately that she cares deeply for her students and about music. She brings unending energy and creativity to her teaching and connects with students on a personal level with ease. She is…a diligent student of the craft. ”

Stacy went on to say, “Amy is a practicing musician, singing with Choral Union and performing at private events around Puget Sound. She constantly seeks opportunities to learn and grow. She brings unparalleled creativity and energy to her teaching. Amy Fuller is truly an Outstanding Young Choral Director.”