Over the last decade, the CMA Foundation has been committed to investing in quality music education throughout the country. As our work has progressed, we’ve learned a great deal about the challenges facing those responsible for equipping our students with a well-rounded education – our music teachers. Often these incredible human beings are not celebrated and are frequently overlooked for the work they do in the classroom and beyond. We felt we needed to change this.

In 2016 the CMA Foundation launched our very own program aimed at celebrating, honoring and investing in quality teaching. Music Teachers of Excellence is the CMA Foundation’s commitment to the music teachers exemplifying excellence in the field. These change agents go above and beyond their role and responsibilities in the classroom and are vital to their students and communities.

We understand music teachers are challenged by lack of financial resources both in and outside of the classroom.  We also know teachers do this work because they value shaping our next generation through music. When establishing Music Teachers of Excellence, the CMA Foundation felt strongly that a monetary award should accompany the honor thus giving us the opportunity to invest both in the teacher and in the classroom.

To date, the CMA Foundation has honored 80 music teachers and given $425,000 to support these recipients.

  • In 2016 our Music Teachers of Excellence recipients (50) received $2,000 stipend to support any needs they have.
  • In 2017 our Music Teachers of Excellence recipients (31) received $5,000 ($2,500 to support their classroom needs; $2,500 un-restricted stipend)
  • In 2018 our Music Teachers of Excellence recipients (34) received $5,000 ($2,500 to support their classroom needs; $2,500 un-restricted stipend)

Country superstar, Dierks Bentley will host the fourth annual CMA Foundation Music Teachers of Excellence awards, where we will celebrate and honor 30 music teachers throughout Tennessee and U.S., for their commitment to shaping the next generation through music. These change agents go above and beyond their role and responsibilities in the classroom and are vital to their students and communities.

The invite-only event will take place on Tuesday, April 30.




Previous Recipients

Mark Hale, Mt. View Elementary School
Metro Nashville Public Schools

Being selected as a Music Teacher of Excellence is a great honor. This program has allowed me to purchase audio gear, mic cables, and more. But the best purchase was a class set of ukuleles and a class set of mini keyboards. Our students now have the unique opportunity to learn how to hold and play these instruments in large group settings of almost 50 students at one time!! These instruments have had a HUGE impact in growing their love for music. I am constantly seeing students come out of their “shell” when they play them. Students take such pride and ownership by sharing their musical minds with their classmates. They are finding and developing their creativity everyday. Great things are happening here and I say THANK YOU CMA!


Christina E. Tierney, Roselawn Condon Elementary School
Cincinnati Public Schools

Thank you so much for generous gifts to our school.  This has enabled our inner-city students to perform higher levels of music and grow their level of interest and depth of knowledge.  As a  Title I School, our students do not get enough opportunities to shine and feel proud of themselves and connect to our greater neighborhood and community.  In turn, you have helped Roselawn Condon's school climate and culture.  Words alone are not enough, but thank you!


*Indicates 2x winner
**Indicates 3x winner


Kate Affanie
Pam Andrews
Ronda Armstrong*


Jennifer Barnes**
Lisa Benton
Emily Biederstadt
Rita Black**
Christopher Blackmon**
M. Jennifer Burton


Jacob Campos
Michael Currie


Darnella Davidson
Joel L. Denton


Benjamin Easley*


John Feltt
Kim Folsom*
Lisa Forbis*
Elizabeth Fortune
Glenn Fugett
Mandy Funderbunk


Laura Gabriel
Brian Gallagher
Janelle Ganske
Matt Gerry


Mark Hale*
Katie Harrah*
Kathy Hart*
Daniel Hayes*
John David Hazlett
Kathy Hull*
Melissa Husebo



Trey Jacobs**
Kevin Jankowski
Julie Jolly*


Lisa Kemp*
Steven King



Angela Mangum
Laura McAfee
Melissa McClaran*
Andrew McGuire
Kimberly McLemore
Anna Maria Miller**
Eleni Miller


Franklin Norris*


Colin O’Dwyer


Jennifer Partridge*
Sean Patrick
Rebecca Pearson
Dr. JD Phillips
Catherine Pratt



Lauren Ramey
Holly Rang
Richard Ripani
Ramon Rivera
Tracy Roberts
Roberta Rodgers


Alaina Schwartz**
Todd Shipley
Nita Smith
Marilyn Smith
Alexander Snyder
Don Stinson


Matthew Taylor*
Christina E. Tierney
Barry Trobaugh




Alice Asako Walle
Michael Walton
Susan Waters*
Paul Waters**
Karen Waters
Kristina Waugh
Richae Williams
Franklin Willis*
Chad Witemeyer*
John Womack*
Joshua Wright



Alexis Yatuzis-Derryberry


Franklin Zimmerer
Ben Zolkower

Thank A Teacher

Join the CMA Foundation and help us reflect on the countless reasons why our music teachers deserve to hear they are appreciated. The CMA Foundation will honor 30 music teachers in 2019 for their commitment in shaping our next generation through music. These esteemed teachers are assets in their community and equipping our students with the tools necessary for success. A simple “thank you” can be music to the ears, especially for educators who often work with limited resources to make a huge impact in their classrooms.Recipients will receive your letter of appreciation during the event on April 30.


Application Details


Music teachers who have been teaching for 4+ years are eligible to apply for the 2019 Music Teachers of Excellence award. A total of ten (10) teachers from Metro Nashville Public Schools, ten (10) from the State of Tennessee, and ten (10) from across the country will receive the recognition.

Selection Criteria

Exemplary teaching

  • Primary learning objectives are clear and relate to standards
  • Teacher sets clear and rigorous expectations for all students
  • Musical concepts and performance practices are successfully identified and appropriate for the age level of the class or ensemble.
  • Teacher demonstrates a high level of musical knowledge and musicianship
  • All interactions are positive and encouraging

Student Learning and Engagement

  • Students are responsive and engaged
  • Teacher demonstrates exemplary classroom management
  • Student learning is assessed and feedback is provided

Positive Contribution to School and Community culture

  • A positive and respectful culture in the classroom is evident
  • The teacher and music program affect the entire school culture
  • The teacher is a strong and active advocate for music education in their school and community
  • The teacher serves as a consistent and positive role model for the community

Continued Professional and Personal Growth

  • Participation in professional development opportunities
  • Implementation of professional growth
  • Leading local, state, or national professional development



We're calling on ALL extraordinary, inspirational music teachers for this year’s Music Teachers of Excellence.

We are not just looking for any music teacher – we are looking for the one that goes above and beyond for their students; the one that sees and works beyond barriers; the one advocating for music education at every opportunity; the one that inspires students to achieve their greatest potential. Does that sound like a someone you know? Are you that teacher? Apply now!

The application for the 2019 class is now closed. Judging will take place from January 11 – February 22, 2019 with recipients revealed in early March.

Application Tips:

  1. The instructional video is key to demonstrating teaching excellence. The video is weighted most heavily in the scoring rubric
  2. Be sure to include lesson objectives that link to standards in the video
  3. In narrative responses, be specific with concrete examples
  4. Ask a friend/colleague to review your application before submission for clarity and readability


Step 1 > CMA Foundation staff will review the applications for due diligence. Only those applications that are completed will be passed along to the judging panel.

Step 2 > A national panel of music education experts will screen applications. No judge may review an application of someone they know personally or professionally. Judges will forfeit their role if they know more than 3 applicants in any given section (MNPS, Tennessee or Nationwide).

Step 3 > The judging panel will review each application for completeness and adherence to selection criteria. Recommended finalists will be sent to the CMA Foundation for final review.


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