The American Composers Forum, in partnership with MakeMusic®, is proud to acknowledge the influential teachers of the 2019 NextNotes® High School Composition Awards winners. NextNotes is a national program designed to nurture the next generation of creative voices in music composition regardless of musical style. The following winners were selected for their compositional skills and strong creative voices: Olivia Bennett (Nixa, MO), Tyson Davis (Raleigh, NC), Janelle Finton (Wheeling, IL), Maya Miro Johnson (Salt Lake City, UT), Charlie Meenaghan (Los Angeles, CA), and Chaoran Zhang (Interlochen, MI). Read more about each winner here. Each of these composers have teachers in their lives—educators who help them craft their voices and grow as young artists and citizens. The following teachers were thoughtfully selected for their dedication to the NextNotes winners:

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

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

Ian Krouse (Professor, composition at UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music), teacher of Charlie 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! -Charlie

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

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

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

ACF and MakeMusic will honor all of these significant educators by awarding them a subscription to SmartMusic®, an interactive music software program for use in their classrooms. SmartMusic provides guided practice, assessment and documentation, and an extensive repertoire library to bolster student learning. The 2018 NextNotes winners will also receive Finale® notation software as a part of their larger award package.

The NextNotes winners will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota in June for mentorship with leading professional composers Carol Barnett, Joshua Clausen, and PaviElle French, as well as rehearsals and performance of their winning works by professional musicians.The culminating NextNotes Showcase Concert will take place on June 22nd at 7:30pm at the Southern Theater (1420 S Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55454.) The showcase is free and open to the public.

ACF and MakeMusic are thankful to these exceptional educators and look forward to helping more of their students thrive due to their dedication and inspiration.

For more information, please visit,, Facebook, Twitter, or email Laura Krider, Director of Education and Community Partnerships, at