ACF is currently reviewing its youth programs to determine the vital ways we can lift up our youth and build intergenerational programming in different communities. Our hope is that young creators consider starting composer clubs via our NextNotes Lab Toolkit resource until we can once again offer meaningful mentorship opportunities for the next generation of creators. If you are a high school age creator, please contact us about other programs that may be right for you.


NextNotes was a national program designed to nurture the next generation of creative voices in music inclusive of all styles. The talented young artists convened as a cohort and received mentorship, scholarship funds, and recognition through a national awards ceremony.

NextNotes rewards and celebrates

Creativity | Originality | Skill | Potential
Risk-taking | Bravery | Passion

The following outstanding 2020 NextNotes winners were selected for their skill, originality, potential, and strong creative voices:



The NextNotes High School Music Creator Awards were generously supported by The Augustine Foundation, the Rosemary and David Good Family Foundation, The Thelma Hunter Fund, the Dr. Fred Noah Gordon Charitable Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation, and other generous individuals.

Program Partners

ACF is currently reviewing its youth programs to determine the vital ways we can lift up our youth and build intergenerational programming in different communities. If you are a high school age creator, please contact us about other programs that may be right for you.

View past guidelines here: 2020 NextNotes Guidelines.

Frequently Asked Questions


NextNotes® is a music creator award program for high school students. Applications are accepted via an online submission process and judged by professional musicians. Six entrants will be selected to receive the top prize, up to thirty applicants will be chosen as an Honorable Mention, and all eligible applicants will receive a free one-year student membership to the American Composers Forum and a free one-year subscription to Noteflight Premium. For full details and application information, Guidelines can be found at


Anyone in 9th-12th grade (aged 14-18) who creates music of any style is eligible.


Two creators may submit a piece together, but groups larger than two are not eligible to apply. In the case of a pair submitting together, both entrants must meet eligibility requirements.


If your partner created the words and did not help create the music, only you are eligible to apply. If your partner created the words and also helped craft how the singer or rapper should perform those words, then you are both eligible to apply, as long as you both meet all other eligibility requirements.


Yes. You and your co-creator will split the scholarship funds ($500 each) and the bring-it-home funds ($250 each). You will both get to travel to Minneapolis-St. Paul and participate in all NextNotes activities, and all other aspects of the award still apply to each individual.


No. Each applicant may only apply one time with only one piece. If you created your piece with a partner, you and your partner may NOT apply again as individuals.


Only completed pieces are eligible for consideration. Consider submitting an alternative completed piece. If you submit a movement/s of a larger piece, only that submitted movement will be considered.


All styles of music are eligible. Your submission may be for any voices, instruments and/or electronics. The total number of performers may not exceed eight.


All styles of music are eligible. If you’re a rapper, the beats or music you rap over must be created by you or created by a partner with whom you are applying. If you are using beats or a track that someone else created, your piece is not eligible for NextNotes.


All styles of music are eligible. There is no limit to how many layers your electronic piece can have, but remember, the piece must be able to be controlled by a maximum of eight performers.


Improvisation is welcome! If you created a piece that others are asked to improvise on, please provide the instructions they were given or a score to show your creative input on the piece.


Copyright is very complex. If you did not create a text or a piece of music (even just a short excerpt), you need to make sure it is legal for you to use it. That means you need to have permission from the author, composer or publisher to use the work. Some things are so old that they are in the “public domain” and don’t have copyright restrictions, but some old texts are still under copyright because they’ve been translated more recently – like some translations of the bible. Here’s a resource with some more information about copyright law:

It’s important that if you are thinking about using a text, you do some research and find out if it is legal for you to use it! If it’s in a book, look up the publisher and contact them to get permission. If you found the text online, it may take some research.


ACF is currently reviewing its youth programs to determine the vital ways we can lift up our youth and build intergenerational programming in different communities. If you are a high school age creator, please contact us about other programs that may be right for you.


Your recording doesn’t have to be high-tech or professional. You can use a smart phone to record the performance or send a MIDI realization that has been converted to an acceptable audio format (see above). Your piece will not be judged on the quality of the recording itself.


A panel of five professional musicians with diverse musical backgrounds will review all submissions through a multi-round review process. Pieces will be evaluated according to four broad criteria: Originality, Creative Potential, Overall Musical Effect, Technique, and Impact on the artist and their work if selected for NextNotes.


No. It is free to apply.


The six NextNotes Creators will receive: mentorship from professional mentors and musicians over a two-day workshop, flights to/from the workshop, room/board during the workshop, a public concert of the winning works, a scholarship of $1,000 to be used for music creation studies, a recording of the culminating concert, and Finale® music notation software. They will be eligible to nominate a music educator to receive a one-year SmartMusic Educator Subscription, and be eligible to receive up to $500 in “bring it home” funds to share their accomplishment with their hometown.

Up to thirty applicants will be chosen as an Honorable Mention and will receive written feedback on their piece from the panel of judges.

All applicants who submit all required materials and are considered eligible applicants will receive a free one-year American Composers Forum student membership and a free one-year subscription to Noteflight Premium.



The mentors are professionals who are chosen for their high skill level as creators and strength as educators. Past NextNotes Mentors have been Marcos Balter, Carol Barnett, Mary Ellen Childs, Joshua Clausen, PaviElle French, Joseph Horton, and Libby Larsen.


If you are chosen as one of the six NextNotes Creators, we will ask you what your vision is for your piece – our goal is to help that vision come to life at the final concert. Did you create it for other musicians to play? If so, we’ll hire professionals to perform your piece. Did you create it to perform it yourself? If so, you will!


The purpose of NextNotes is to: encourage and recognize the creativity of high school music creators (students grades 9-12); award outstanding talent with mentorship and a performance of their music by professional musicians and scholarship funds; and raise awareness of the American Composers Forum.


If you’ve read the Guidelines and the FAQ (found at and still have questions, you may contact to learn more.


2019 Winners

Olivia Bennett (Nixa, MO)
Tyson David (Raleigh, NC)
Janelle Finton (Wheeling, IL)
Maya Miro Johnson (Salt Lake City, UT)
Jane Meenaghan (Los Angeles, CA)
Chaoran Zhang (Interlochen, MI)
Photo Highlights

Learn more about the 2019 winners here, and get to know the teachers that shaped who they are here.

2018 Winners

Isaac Applebaum (MD)
Elise Arancio (GA)
Benjamin Ballmer (IL)
Michael Gaspari (NJ)
Nimah Nayel (MD)
Esther Ollivier (CA)
Isaac Santos (FL)
Photo Highlights






Stephanie Chow (IL)
Alistair Coleman (MD)
Nathaniel Heyder Headshot
Nathaniel Heyder (VA)
Natsumi Osborn (TX)
Sammy Sussman (NY)
Evan Tiapula (CA)


Michael Cabrera
Ángel Jochi (Josh) Hernandez-Camen (PA)
Lucy McKnight
Molly Monahan (MI)
J.P. Redmond (NY)
Karalyn Schubring (AZ)



Aiyana Braun (PA)
Evan Caplinger (CA)
Quinn Mason (TX)
April Lasken (IL)
Katya Richardson (CA)
Hill Cairns (MN)


Anderson Alden (private instructor), teacher of Lucy McKnight

“Anderson helps me work through my ideas and understand different ways to expand and develop them. He exposes me to great music, using other compositions as examples for notation, musical development, and sounds. When we discuss the music I’m working on, his advice is objective and freeing yet also pushes me to be clear and precise in my thoughts and intentions. Most importantly, he reminds me that I am not alone in my composer craziness.” -Lucy (2016)

Jasmine Barnes (Head of Music Composition Studies and Jazz Singers, Booker T. Washington HSPVA), teacher of Gene Angelo Nucal

“Ms. Barnes has been such a big inspiration for me as a musician and composer. She’s mentored and encouraged me to embrace my writing, no matter how simple or even outlandish it may seem. She’s helped me refine my composition style and has been a constant fountain of support for me, not only in the music world but also in the real world. She’s constantly looking for ways and opportunities that can help me succeed and grow and connecting me with other composers and professional musicians to prepare me for my future in music. Most importantly, she’s taught me that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from, how old you are, the color of your skin, what you believe, what you identify as, or even what others say about you: “You can be whatever you want to be with hard work, perseverance, and a serious music playlist.” Apart from being my teacher, she’s also been a great friend. Not only does she connect with people through her music but also through her inclusive and bubbly personality. I love being your student and friend Ms. Barnes; I can’t wait to see what the future holds for both of us!” -Gene Angelo Nucal (2020)

Thomas Bergeron (Director of Chamber Music and Orchestra, Deerfield Academy), teacher of Helen Feng

“Since I began my studies at Deerfield Academy three years ago, Mr. Bergeron has been incredibly supportive of my growth as a musician, scholar, and person. Not only did I learn a lot from his AP Music Theory and Advanced Composition and Analysis courses, I also enjoy having riveting conversations with him outside of the classroom. During after school co-curricular time, for instance, he would often introduce to me artists and concepts I have not previously heard of, broadening my horizons and encouraging me to become an open-minded musician who swims across boundaries with curiosity, empathy, and respect. Whenever I encounter challenges in generating or developing ideas, he would encourage me to trust my ideas and to see art-making through a process-oriented lens. A wonderful trumpeter and conductor himself, he has given me lots of tips regarding brass composition, orchestral writing, and repertoire to listen to. I am beyond grateful for all the inspiration and kindness he has extended to me. Thank you, Mr. Bergeron!” -Helen Feng (2020)

Luke Carlson (private instructor), teacher of Ángel Jochi (Josh) Hernandez-Camen

“Dr. Luke Carlson gives really solid ideas and advice which I don’t always follow but I do realize how just thinking about what he says has enabled me to write more powerful music than I would have otherwise. I am truly thankful that he has been my teacher for the past three years.” -Josh (2016)




Sue Colgan-Borror (Orchestra Director at the Fox Lane High School), teacher of Sammy Sussman

“Mrs. Borror has been instrumental to my growth as a composer. About two months into my freshman year I shared with her my first-ever composition and she was willing to rehearse it with my school’s advanced orchestra and then present it on our winter concert. She encouraged me to arrange a couple of pieces for the orchestra every year. As a long time member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, she recommended pieces and recordings that she had performed based on what I was currently composing or currently interested in. Having grown up without any exposure to classical music, this became my basis of my exposure to classical music. She even invited me to conduct the freshman orchestra (and run the rehearsals) because she sensed my developing interest in conducting and my impatience at having to wait to conduct until I entered college.” -Sammy (2017)

Derek David (Instructor at New England Conservatory of Music), teacher of Evan Tiapula

“Dr. David has and continues to provide me with the tools required to bring honest music to fruition and for that I am extremely grateful. He is a good friend and guides my thinking and actions with ease and “tough-love.” He is a selfless and thoughtful human being and an incomparable musician. Thank you, Derek!” -Evan (2017)




Lawrence Dillon (Professor of Composition at University of NC School of the Arts), teacher of Tyson Davis

“Over the last four years, Lawerence Dillon has been an amazing teacher and influence in my life. He has always been a very encouraging voice for me to peruse new ideas and thinking outside of the box. I will always be grateful for these last four years with him and hate to see them go.” -Tyson (2019)


Andrew Eason-McGill (Orchestra Director at Auburndale Senior High School), teacher of Michael Cabrera

“Mr. Eason helped me grow as a composer by allowing me to arrange the Beatle’s “Fool on the Hill” for the school’s orchestra concert, and often looked over pieces I composed for string intsruments.” -Michael (2016)

Matilda Ertz (Piano Instructor, YPAS and U of L School of Music), teacher of KiMani Bridges

“Dr. Ertz and the graduate students at the University of Louisville: Joshua Baerwald, Derek Carter, Johannes Visser, and Issac Barzso have helped me see my potential as a composer and supported me on my journey. I will always be grateful for the experiences and opportunities they have brought to me. Thank you all!!!!” -KiMani Bridges (2020)

Carrie Eyler, (Choir Director, Richard Montgomery High School), teacher of Nimah Nayel

Ryan Francis (Composer), teacher of Rohan Srinivasan

“Dr. Ryan Francis has been an extremely positive influence on my music since I was a freshman. I was not actively looking for lessons then, and if he hadn’t offered to teach me I probably wouldn’t be thinking of composition as a career rather than a hobby. I appreciate that Ryan doesn’t try to force me in any stylistic direction; instead, he calls my attention to underdeveloped aspects of my music that are important to consider no matter the style. These include harmonic (in)consistency, utilizing each instrument’s unique timbre, and general orchestration tips. He is always open to having interesting conversations, even if it’s about something that seems only vaguely related to music at first. I could write more, but I’ll sum it up with one word: thanks!” -Rohan Srinivasan (2020)

Gary Geiger (Artistic Director, Evanston Children’s Choir), teacher of Benjamin Ballmer

“I’ve been taking piano lessons with Gary Geiger since 5th grade, and he is without a doubt one of the kindest and most supportive artistic mentors someone could ask for. Throughout the years, his careful attention to my playing and meticulous and organized teaching methods helped perfect my technique and smooth out any struggles I had in playing. Outside of the classical piano I was being taught, I would bring in compositions I was working on and he would give me advice and help me refine the notation to be more easily playable. He’s provided me with opportunities in the world at large as well, letting me work with his choir and others as a guest composing workshop leader. But most of all, his lessons and studio have felt like a second home for me, always there when I need it.” -Benjamin (2018)

Kevin James (Education Director, American Composers Orchestra), teacher of Charlotte Weinstein

Kevin James is such an amazing instructor. He is one of the most generous teachers I’ve ever had, both with his time and advice. He always tries to push me further with my ideas and my inspiration, and I feel that he cares a lot about everyone he teaches as both composers and human beings. He has brought me from knowing almost nothing to knowing what I don’t know. Considering how little experience I had when I first entered his composition program, I really appreciated that he was never patronizing, and that no question was too dumb for him.” -Charlotte Weinstein (2020)

Henry Kappler (Director of Bands at Buffalo Grove High School), teacher of Janelle Finton

“Mr. Kappler became the director of bands at Buffalo Grove High School when I was a sophomore. He has challenged our band to new heights, and has opened up so many possibilities for students to grow musically and non-musically. He established new groups like competitive marching band and jazz combo, and with them, opportunities for student leadership. At the 2019 ILMEA All-State conference, our Jazz Ensemble performed my transcription of John Clayton’s big band arrangement of Nature Boy. Mr. Kappler constantly gives students opportunities to compose and arrange for ensembles and this has been a huge blessing to me to be able to grow as a composer and have opportunities to hear my music come to life. I am so thankful for the amount of time and effort Mr. Kappler puts into our band program; he inspires us to strive for what we never thought was possible, and teaches us to be proud of what we do. The opportunities he has given me have shaped me into the musician I am today, and I am so grateful that I got to have him as my high school band director.” -Janelle (2019)

Daniel Knaggs (Director of Music at St. Martha Catholic Church, teacher of Natsumi Osborn

“Mr. Knaggs is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever known. His music is not only well-crafted but strongly communicates with his audiences in a way that I strive to achieve one day. Under him, my writing has grown stronger- I’ve learned to write with so much more intention and clarity. He has given me invaluable guidance in everything I do! However, his influence goes beyond the score. I could always go to Mr. Knaggs to talk about quwstions, doubts, intrigues about music… just about anything. It is all of this that makes him such an incredible mentor! Music has turned into something so meaningful to me, and I can never thank him enough for everything he’s done to help me get where I am now. He is nothing short of admirable. I am grateful to have the opportunity to study with him!” -Natsumi (2017)

Ian Krouse (Professor, composition at UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music), teacher of Jane Meenaghan

“Dr. Krouse is the most dedicated and inspiring teacher I could ever ask for, and it goes without saying that I am beyond grateful for him and everything he does. Over the past year and a half, he has nurtured my musical development with love and integrity, training me not just in how to write music, but how to think about it. He has taught me to keep an open mind to all styles of music, but to recognize and stay true to the essential qualities that make my music “mine.” As a result, he has pushed me to write music I did not know I was capable of and has instilled fundamental skills in me that I know will enable me to enjoy music for the rest of my life. Thank you, Dr. Krouse!” -Jane (2019)


Thomas Liddle (Choral Director at Takoma Park Middle School), teacher of Alistair Coleman

“Mr. Liddle was my middle school chorus teacher, who encouraged me in 6th grade to write a piece for my middle school’s choir. He provided me the tools and the support to take a risk and compose a short piece for mixed choir and piano. To write something new and have it performed by the choir for our parents and community was an experience that helped ignite my passion for composing.” -Alistair (2017)



Devin Maxwell (composer, percussionist, educator), teacher of Maya Miro Johnson

“Before I met Devin, I saw no place in classical music for myself.  It had always been presented to me as something beautiful but cold and distant, innately groomed in natural prodigies (of which I was clearly not one) who reveal their abilities before the age of 10.  Until then, I had dreamt of a life moving and communicating, and had been attempting to realize these passions in dance and creative writing; however, I had been discouraged by injuries and feelings of stagnation.  Hearing Devin speak about the actuality of composing was a revelation.  I was fascinated by something I did not recognize: struggle, questioning, active engagement, creativity, failure, performance, expression, intellect, messiness, color, chaos, control, message, meaning… so much more than simple replication or inexplicable genius.  Something in me fell into place and I realized that the way I thought about sound and the culture of its creation had been so wrong for so long.  For some strange reason, Devin noticed this and encouraged me to explore all the corners and nooks and crannies of my mind that were suddenly illuminated.  Under his mentorship, I progressed rapidly from barely reading bass clef to creating a piece on commission for one of the top-tier American orchestras and being accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music.  But material success aside, I truly owe everything to Devin for helping me discover who I am and for dedicating countless hours to nurturing that.  I hope that my work on the podium and the page will reflect the gratitude I will always have for his guidance.” -Maya (2019)


Kimberly McCord (Music Education professor at Illinois State University), teacher of Stephanie Chow

“Since meeting her in fourth grade, Dr. Kim McCord has always been one of my greatest supporters in music. From nurturing my interest in jazz to opening up opportunities to share my music with others (without her effusive encouragement, I was too timid to submit my first pieces anywhere let along Downbeat or ACF), she has been vital to my growth as a musician and I certainly would not be here without her. Dr. McCord’s passion for granting everyone the benefit of music shines through in her many projects from forming music ensembles for people with disabilities to leading her self-titled “Granny band” of middle-aged-and-older music novices! Her kind spirit and inclusive philosophy to music inspired me to try and become not only a more honest musician, but a person who can inspire similar kindness in others.” -Stephanie (2017)”

Dr. Richard Prior, (Conductor, Emory Youth Symphony Orchestra), teacher of Elise Arancio

“Over the six years I have spent with Dr. Prior as his private composition student and the three years as a member of the youth orchestra that he conducts, he has been instrumental in my growth as a composer and musician. His passion for music is infectious, and his dedication and benevolence has made him a role model for not only myself but countless others. His devotion to education manifests itself in his tireless efforts to bring out the best in each and every student and provide them with the skills they need to reach their full potential. From thoughtful advice and constructive criticism to good-natured jokes and encouragement, he has been an incredible mentor for me from the very beginning, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without his guidance and support. I am truly blessed to have had someone like him in my life to help me realize and pursue my passion for creating music.” -Elise (2018)


Jonathan (Daniel) Puckett, (Jazz Band Director, Eastern Middle School), teacher of Isaac Applebaum

“When I joined Eastern Middle School’s Jazz Band as a 7th-grader, I had no idea what jazz was and had no way of knowing that this decision would change my life. Meeting every Monday before school, Jazz Band brought me into contact with Mr. Jonathan Puckett, the school Band Director and one of the most outstanding teachers I’ve ever met. Mr. Puckett sparked my love of jazz and its aural tradition by playing and talking about his favorite records. Some, like Sonny Rollins’ “Saxophone Colossus”, are still among the ones I love the most. He taught me to play jazz piano by meeting me before rehearsals and writing out voicings for each chord, then explaining how jazz standards’ harmonic and melodic ideas worked together with the help of his tenor saxophone. He also encouraged me to write my first jazz compositions, helped me refine my work, and even had the band perform and record several of my pieces. Most importantly, Mr. Puckett always took the time to show his students he cared about them and believed they could succeed, helping us to eventually achieve the potential he saw in us before we recognized it ourselves. Without his inspiration, commitment, talent for education, and genuine humanity, I would never have become the musician, composer, or person I am today.” -Isaac (2018)

Randall Reid, (Band Director, South Broward High School), teacher of Isaac Santos

“Mr. Randall Reid, band director at South Broward High School, has played a vital role in my progression as a musician and composer. He has been there to guide me through my application process of colleges and to the Next Note High School Awards. I really appreciate the work he’s done along with the assistant band director Mr. Esquilin has left a lasting impact in my life.” -Isaac (2018)


Lee Secard (Chair of Colburn Jazz Workshop), teacher of Jasper Talwani

“Lee Secard has fostered and mentored me over the course of my four years studying with him. The environment he created at the Colburn Jazz Workshop inspired me to arrange jazz and start composing again after a multi-year hiatus. He has provided a space to polish my work, rehearse it, and perform it, and he has done so for countless talented peers at Colburn. Without him, I would not be the musician I am today.” -Jasper Talwani (2020)

Carlyle Sharpe (Professor of Music/Composition and Theory at Drury University), teacher of Olivia Bennett

“Dr. Carlyle Sharpe is a brilliant composer, instructor, musician, and mentor. During the years that I have worked with him, I have received many opportunities and awards that I would have never had without his encouragement and advice. Dr. Sharpe has exposed me to music of the 20th and 21st century and has helped me develop my artistic abilities as well as my compositional palette. I am very blessed and thankful for such a wonderful teacher!” -Olivia (2019)


Gary Shields, teacher of Esther Ollivier

“Gary Shields is the most meaningful and dedicated teacher a student could ever hope to have. He has been so incredibly helpful from the start, many years ago, when he offered to give me composition lessons after I showed interest. And since then, he’s been passionately working with me through the processes of each piece I write. Gary has taught me to always work hard to take each piece to a whole new level and to give strong intent and meaning to my works. He’s shown me how to “steal” effectively from some of my favorite composers and apply what I’ve learned to my own pieces. Gary’s love for music has definitely rubbed off onto me and I cannot thank him enough for everything he has done for me.” -Esther (2018)


Matt Van Brink (Composition Faculty at Concordia Conservatory), teacher of J.P. Redmond

“Dr. Matt Van Brink is an outstanding teacher, and he has molded me as a composer since the beginning when I was 10. Also, Matt introduced me to the wonderful world of music theory and exposed me to great repertoire of the past and present, which has profoundly impacted my development. He has a clever wit, and he knows both to to challenge and encourage me at the same time. I am very grateful to Matt for being an exceptional, understanding, challenging, and fun teacher.” -J.P. (2016)


Cynthia Van Maanen (Instructor of Music Composition and Music Theory at Interlochen Arts Academy), teacher of Molly Monahan

“Dr. Van Maanen taught me not only how to compose, but also how to be a composer. If I hadn’t studied with Dr. Van Maanen (or DVM, as I call her), I wouldn’t know the repertoire I know, or understand development like I do now, or know how to write an email to a professor, or how to conduct a rehearsal, or how to act professionally during interviews. Also, DVM has gone the extra mile to be there for me as a person. She’s always been there for me, answering my late night texts of future questioning and taking me off campus on particularly bad days (boarding school life can be tough sometimes) and not only does she do all of this for me, but also for the other thirteen composition majors in my studio. She has helped me and countless others more and I can ever know, and there’s nobody I can think of that would be more fit for this award.” -Molly (2016)

Cynthia Van Maanen (Instructor of Music Composition and Music Theory at Interlochen Arts Academy), teacher of Nathaniel Heyder

“I have had the privilege of working with her for the past 3 years and I owe much of my success as a composer to the insight she has shared with me over this time period. While studying with her, I have learned to trust her judgement and the advice she gives me and the result is always a favorable outcome, Dr. Van Maanen has a way of teaching that I feel is essential for all young composers to be exposed to. She remains insistent on my understanding of certain fundamentals of composition while at the same time offers a lot of freedom when it comes to the projects, pieces and styles that I choose to explore. During my time as her student, I have been exposed to many opportunities and experiences in the field of composition thanks to her teaching and guidance.” -Nathaniel (2017)


Cynthia Van Maanen (Instructor of Music Composition and Music Theory, Interlochen Arts Academy), teacher of Chaoran Zhang


Brian Williams, (Choral Director, Robbinsville High School), teacher of Michael Gaspari

“The teacher I have chosen to be honored with the NextNotes teacher award is Mr. Brian Williams, Choral Director of Robbinsville High School in NJ. Mr. Williams and I have had a relationship that began during his first year of teaching music when he became the choral director for Pond Road Middle school in our town. I was in 7th grade at the time. I have been involved with Mr. Williams since then as an accompanist to the choir, choir member, and participant in various productions. Our relationship continued in my freshman year of high school, when Mr. Williams, as I like to say, followed me to Robbinsville High School. That year he was appointed the choral director for the high school and became more and more a mentor to me. Our relationship has now spanned six years. Mr. Williams provided me, as young musician, opportunity after opportunity to do things that could utilize my skills as an artist and performer. As a teacher he saw my dedication to composing and performing music. He made it possible for me to use my abilities at my high school and helped me to form a confidence and identity there that formed the person I am today. I will always remember and cherish Mr. Williams guidance both academically, and socially, through those six formative years.” -Michael (2018)


Tomoko Yonemaru (Instructor at East Valley Yamaha Music School), teacher of Karalyn Schubring

“Tomoko Tonemaru was my composition teacher from when I was nine years old until I was fifteen. Tomoka is an incredible pianist, improvisor, and well-rounded musician, and she introduced me to several styles of music I was unfamiliar with, opening up a whole new world of musical possibilities for me. I give her the credit for establishing a strong compositional backbone in me, which has allowed me to explore several other genres of music. I am forever indebted to her for all of the long hours she spent with me, patiently helping and guiding me to become the music that I am today.” -Karalyn (2016)



  • Dr. Daniel Deutsch – Composer, Chair of NAfME’s Council for Music Composition; Composition/Improvisation Chair of New York State School Music Association
  • Dr. Michele Kaschub – Professor of Music and Coordinator of Music Teacher Education & Graduate Studies, University of Southern Maine; Past President, Maine Music Educators Association.
  • Jeffrey S. Kimpton – President, Interlochen Center for the Arts
  • Dr. Libby Larsen – Composer and composition teacher
  • Dr. Tom Lopez – Director of Contemporary Music Division, Associate Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts, Chair of the Technology in Music and Related Arts, Oberlin; Director, Computer Music Program, The Walden School Young Musicians Program
  • Sky Macklay – Composer and composition teacher, The Walden School Young Musicians Program and the Brooklyn College Preparatory Center for the Performing Arts
  • Dr. David Myers – Professor and Director, University of Minnesota School of Music
  • Dr. Lewis Nielson – Director, Oberlin High School Composition Workshop; Professor of Composition, Composition Department Chair, Oberlin
  • Dr. Daniel Ott – Composer, Composition Program Director, New York Summer Music Festival; Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition, Fordham University; Faculty, Juilliard School
  • Dr. Janice Smith – Associate Professor of Music Education, Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College C.U.N.Y.
  • Dr. Janika Vandervelde – Composer and composition teacher, Perpich Center for Arts Education; Hamline University