At Encore Tours, we are committed to supporting music education and believe it’s important to give back to our musical communities year-round. We always appreciate music educators, but this past year has been particularly challenging as educators have had to deal with numerous unprecedented challenges and completely adapt their lesson plans. So, during this teacher appreciation week, let us shout it loud and clear—THANK YOU! Your tireless work to educate, engage, and encourage your students inspires us. We know that your work doesn’t end when the school bell sounds, and this year, that has been more evident than ever.

To celebrate, we’re introducing a new contest

There are so many great music teachers out there, and they all deserve respect and recognition. Simply add a comment to this post, or tag @EncoreTours on Instagram or Twitter, and describe a teacher who you believe has gone above and beyond for their students. We will randomly select one teacher to win a free virtual travel experience for their classroom and, because we love teachers supporting teachers, any educators who nominate their colleagues are also eligible to win this prize.

Do you know a teacher that has gone the extra mile for their students? Perhaps you know a teacher who has volunteered in new ways. Maybe you know a teacher that has done something creative or innovative in the virtual learning space. Is there a teacher that seems to always have a positive attitude; regardless of the hurdles they are facing? If you do, please leave their name in the comment section below!

Win a Virtual Tour of St. Stephen’s Cathedral!

Located in the heart of Vienna, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and one of the city’s most recognized landmarks. Constructed in 1137 above the ruins of two earlier churches, this beautiful cathedral hosts hundreds of performances year-round. St. Stephen’s has borne witness to many important events in Austrian history, and your classroom can learn all about it with a free virtual tour! One lucky winner will have the opportunity to join the Encore team and our local Austrian partners for a free virtual tour of St. Stephen’s, culminating in a special presentation on the rooftop of the cathedral.

Not interested in touring St. Stephen’s? Don’t worry, there are plenty of other options! One of our exceptional tour managers can Zoom into your classroom and share some international culture with your students. Choose a virtual tour, history lesson, or even a painting tutorial. Maybe you’re looking for something new and unique, such as a cooking or dance lesson. We’re sure the 45-minute session will open your students’ eyes to another culture and provide a memorable experience for everybody!

Here are a few of the amazing teachers our staff members wanted to highlight, but we hope you know how much we value all educators!

Brother Joshua Di Mauro, OSF – Chorus Director at Saint Anthony’s High School

Brother Joshua Di Mauro, OSF is in his 40th year as the Chorus Director at Saint Anthony’s High School directing the principal SATB 600 members as well as the select Gregorian Honors Schola comprised of 70 singers. He also serves as the Assistant Principal-Dean of Student Activities, and the Prefect of Discipline for Freshmen. 

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Choral Staff engaged the students in historical, architectural, religious, and musical projects to continue to promote both the study of Gregorian Chant and Sacred Choral Music. As the spring continued, the students began submitting recordings of themselves singing well-known chants including Adoro Te Devote, Conditor Alme Siderum, Attende Domine, Salve Regina, Ave Maris Stella and Veni Creator Spiritus. While the decision to cancel the planned Choral Pilgrimage to Sicily and Southern Italy scheduled for February 2021 was extremely difficult, Brother Joshua has helped recruit over 190 participants to sign up for their Concert Tour to Northern Italy planned for February 2022.

In September 2021, Saint Anthony’s opened full-time, five days a week. To prepare for Chorus, risers were set in the Auditorium with social distancing markers for the student singers. iPads were distributed to all students thus eliminating the contact with shared folders, octavos and hymn sheets. At Christmas, each of the four voice parts were recorded during class and a mix was created by our masterful sound and videography crews that included all 600 voices of the Chorus. Some students even participated on Zoom!

This Spring, they again recorded all four voice parts during class but were also able to organize a live in-person socially distanced concert for our Seniors and two guests in the Auditorium. It was a rewarding moment for the Class of 2021 to experience one final concert with their parents before their graduation in June. Together with Mr. Christopher Farrell, the Assistant Director of the Chorus and Concert Tour Manager, and Mr. James Tucker, the Choral Accompanist, they are excited about a return to travel!

Suzanne Woodruff – Performing Arts Department Chair and Choral Conductor at Woodward Academy

A member of the Encore Tours Ambassadors (ETA), Suzanne Woodruff is in her twenty-sixth year at Woodward Academy where she teaches choral music, directing the Middle School Treble Choir & Ensemble and the Upper School Choraliers & Jazz Choir.  She is a certified music educator in Orff and Kodaly methods, and has led seven performance tours to Europe with her High School singers involving over 280 singers.  In addition, she has led many domestic trips to competitions with her Middle School singers to places such as Orlando, Myrtle Beach, and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Teaching since the start of the pandemic has been a challenge, but Suzanne has risen to the challenge.  When educators were thrust into a world of online learning with no preparation, Suzanne quickly adapted and learned how to connect with her singers via Zoom.  While nothing compares to an in-person choir rehearsal (especially since you cannot actually sing together or hear each other on zoom), she utilized various online resources including FlipGridSightReadingFactoryMusicTheory, and others that allowed her to reach students and hear recordings of them singing.  Though some of the students chose to return to campus last August, many chose to remain remote.  Teachers were able to teach a group in person while other students watched from their laptops or iPads at home. They were able to create virtual choirs by combining individual videos and also learning to sing spread ten feet apart wearing masks with half of the choir’s faces appearing on the zoom screen. 

The highlight of the year was performing outside in a socially distanced venue for the schools annual Experience the Arts Day.  Many of the remote students even came to campus that day, and everybody was able to enjoy the opportunity to finally be together again.

Brian Dokko – Director of Choral Activities at Long Beach Polytechnic High School

Since 2003, Brian Dokko has been the Director of Choral Activities at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, California. Currently directing and supervising a department of seven vocal ensembles at Long Beach Poly, Mr. Dokko’s ensembles are regular participants of regional festivals and competitions, as well as international choral performance tours. This cusic director extraordinaire is constantly innovating to go above and beyond for his students. Most recently, he produced a phenomenal virtual concert, made a professional-level recording of his choir as an alternative to virtual performing, and managed to recruit over 100 students to his 2022 trip over the past three months. Another member of our ETA program, Brian continues to mentor other music directors and show them the power of performance travel.

J.D. Frizzell – Director of Fine Arts and Vocal Music at Briarcrest Christian Academy

J.D. Frizzell is an award-winning music educator, composer and conductor and the Director of Fine Arts and Vocal Music at Briarcrest Christian Academy in Eads, TN. He also serves as an advocate and school liaison for all of the outstanding visual, musical and dramatic arts at Briarcrest.  As the Director of Vocal Music, he teaches the Honors Chamber Choir, Concert Choir, and OneVoice. During the pandemic, Mr. Frizzell quickly pivoted to creating virtual choir videos with his students and created a how-to guide to help other choral directors with virtual projects. In addition, he also created a series of interactive online choir lessons leveled for elementary through college students specifically structured for those teaching in hybrid and online class formats.

Phil Aguglia – Band Director at Kenmore East High School

As the Band Director for Kenmore East High School in Tonawanda, New York, Phil Aguglia directs high school wind ensemble, concert band, jazz ensembles, jazz combos, chamber music ensembles, and the pep band. His passion and work ethic are unparalleled, working long hours at school while also serving as the owner and craftsman of PaGu Batons, which are the preferred batons of many of the world’s most prestigious conductors. In addition to his tireless work as a director, Phil also serves as a board trustee Music is Art, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating opportunities to fuel the unifying power of music in western New York.

Happy posting, and to all the music educators out there, thanks so much for everything that you do!

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