Teacher of the Year 2023-2024

2024 Teacher of the Year Nominees
Each year MSBOA recognizes a Teacher of the Year for Band and a Teacher of the Year for Orchestra. The
process begins in the Spring with each of the MSBOA Districts nominating a candidate in each classification.
The Executive Board reviews all of the candidates and selects up to three in each area to submit to the entire
active membership. In this posting you will find statements about each candidate.

MSBOA congratulates each of these fine instrumental music educators for their nomination to this honor. 

Band Nominees

Kristin Blanchard


Kristin Blanchard grew up in Grand Blanc, MI and received her undergraduate  degree in Music Education from Western Michigan University in 1996. She holds a  Master’s Degree (2004) in Conducting & Education from The American Band College in Ashland, Oregon. She is in her 28th year of teaching band.  

Ms. Blanchard began her teaching career in Edwardsburg, MI (1996) where she  taught 5th Grade General Music, as well as Middle School & High School Band. After 2 years, Ms. Blanchard moved to the Detroit area to teach in Milford (Huron Valley Schools). She has been at Muir Middle School in Huron Valley Schools for the past 26 years. Her duties include 6th, 7th and 8th grade bands, and an 8th Grade Curricular Jazz Band, as well as an adaptive music class. Approximately 30% of the students at Muir are in band. Her students consistently participate in Solo & Ensemble festivals and have great success. The Muir Jazz Band performs at school events, as well as many community outreach events each spring. As a music educator, Ms. Blanchard puts an emphasis on having real world connections by inviting many guest conductors and composers to work with her students. She has had Tyler S. Grant and Brian Balmages as guest composers, twice. She commissioned a piece by Tyler S. Grant in 2018 (River Poem) and collaborated to fund the piece Ash & Stone, and then Mr. Grant came to Milford to conduct these works. She also participated in funding the piece (not) Alone, by Randall Standridge, in 2022. This year, she is commissioning a piece by Randall Standridge and he will be in Milford in March of 2024 for the March Musical Madness concert, to conduct the world premiere of this piece. Ms. Blanchard is looking ahead and has already contracted/commissioned Carol Brittin Chambers to compose a piece for Muir Middle School for the 2025-26 school year.

As the current conductor for the Civic Youth Ensemble Concert Band, Ms. Blanchard has been affiliated with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra since June of 2022. She was a conductor at the DSO Honor Band Day in 2023, and is a sought after guest conductor and clinician for school groups and Honors Bands. Ms. Blanchard inducted into the American School Band Director Association in 2007. 

Ms. Blanchard’s primary instruments are the flute and piccolo and she has been a member of the FCB for 18 years. She also performs with the Southeastern Michigan Wind Ensemble and has been a part of that ensemble since 2019. Ms. Blanchard has a small private lesson studio and enjoys teaching privately. Ms. Blanchard is active in MSBOA as an adjudicator Solo & Ensemble Festivals, as well as similar festivals throughout the state. Ms. Blanchard has held the office of VP of B&O, and she was active on the FIC Director Development Days committees. Her most impactful contribution is being the founder and chairperson for the District IV MSBOA Middle School Honors Band, which is in its 18th year. This festival has recently expanded to include two honor bands, allowing more students to participate. This year District IV is commissioning a piece for both groups from Michigan composer, Andrew David Perkins.  

It was an honor for Ms. Blanchard to receive the Middle School Teacher of the Year award by Huron Valley Schools in 2014-15, and was then nominated for Oakland County Teacher of the Year that same year. She was recently named Band Director of the Year in 2023 for the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association in District IV. Ms. Blanchard is a Grammy Nominated Music Educator and is in Who’s Who Among American Teachers.

Ken Moore

Dr. Kenneth Moore retired in 2023 as the Director of Bands at Dexter High School. He chaired an active music department, conducted three concert ensembles and the Dreadnaught Marching Band, and taught beginning woodwind classes. Prior to his appointment in Dexter, he held similar positions in Dundee, Michigan, and Grant Park, Illinois.

Mr. Moore has been strongly committed to serving the music education profession throughout his career. He held office on the MSBOA District 12 Executive Board for twelve years (president, past-president, vice president of band and orchestra, and secretary), has served on the MSBOA Festival Improvements Committee, and has regularly hosted MSBOA district and state festivals. Mr. Moore has mentored nearly one hundred pre-service music educators in cooperation with the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

During his time in the classroom he received the MSBOA District 12 Band Director of the Year, the Michigan ASBDA Award of Excellence, Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, the Eastern Michigan University Band Alumni Award, and the Dexter Most Influential Teacher Award. His professional memberships include MSBOA and the National Association for Music Education.

Throughout his thirty-two-year career in K-12 education, Dr. Moore's educational practice was student-centered, guided by the principles of musical excellence, service, and mutual teacher-student trust. During his tenure in Dexter, the high school band program maintained an enrollment of over 180 students out of a total school enrollment of 1150, and about one third of all high school students participated in band, orchestra, or choir. His concert and marching bands consistently received superior ratings; in his twenty-five years in Dexter, every performance under his direction received a first-division rating at the MSBOA district band and orchestra festival. The award-winning Dexter High School Symphonic Band was invited to perform at a wide variety of venues, including the Michigan Music Conference and the Western Michigan University Conference on Wind and Percussion Music. Additionally, Dexter High School annually entered 130 wind and percussion events in the MSBOA district solo and ensemble festival, and Dexter band students were regularly selected for all-state band, university honors groups, Detroit Civic, and other audition-only ensembles.

Mr. Moore holds a DMA in music education from Boston University, and an MA (trumpet performance) and BME from Eastern Michigan University. His research has been published in the Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, the Journal of Band Research, and the Michigan Music Educator. He is also an active adjudicator and clinician and speaks regularly to pre-service teachers. His most influential mentors include Dr. Max Plank and Professor Russ Reed. He lives with Robin, his wife of thirty-two years, in Livonia, Michigan.


Albie Todd

Allman Avon Todd IV earned his Bachelor of Music Education degree from Michigan State University in 2005, and in 2011, his Master of Music in Conducting from the American Band College of Sam Houston State University in Ashland, Oregon.  Mr. Todd is in his 19th year of teaching, and has been the Director of Bands at Big Rapids Middle School in Big Rapids, Michigan since 2009.  In the summer of 2013, Mr. Todd became a faculty member at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, first serving as the Bernstein Band director for 7th and 8th grade students, and currently as the director of the Symphony Band.  In 2017, Mr. Todd’s Eighth Grade Band was selected to perform at the Michigan Music Conference, one of only two middle school groups chosen that year.  His work on more effective middle school band warm ups is published in Bandworld Magazine, and is a top hit in an online search. 

Mr. Todd has planned many trips, both in-state and outside of Michigan, for his concert and jazz bands.  Musicians under the instruction of Mr. Todd consistently earn superior ratings as well as great praise in their accomplishments.  Beginning in 2017, on behalf of Big Rapids Public Schools, Mr. Todd has applied for the “Best Communities in Music Education” distinction from the NAMM foundation.  Big Rapids has received the national recognition each year since then.  In 2023, Mr. Todd was chosen as “Teacher of the Year” by his colleagues in MSBOA District 1.

Mr. Todd is a member of the American School Band Director’s Association (ASBDA), and he is an active adjudicator for the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA).  Mr. Todd has served MSBOA District 1 as the Vice President of Band and Orchestra, and as the Festival Improvements Committee (FIC) district representative.  Currently, Mr. Todd serves the MSBOA as State Chairperson of the FIC, a position he has held since 2019.  Mr. Todd enjoys arranging music for bands, and has arranged half-time shows for both the MSU Spartan Marching Band and the University of Virginia Cavalier Marching Band.  A trumpet player, Mr. Todd performs in the premier Big Rapids community chamber brass ensemble, Con Brio Voce, as well as in the Big Rapids area brass quintet.  On the weekends, he enjoys cooking and posting those results on Facebook.

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Jessica Fiedorowicz

Jessica Fiedorowicz has been the Director of Orchestras at South Haven Public Schools for 23 years.  During her tenure in South Haven, participation in the orchestra program has almost quadrupled and reaches a diverse population of students. She teaches all string students in grades 5 - 12 and at the High School level offers String Orchestra, Full Orchestra, and Chamber Orchestra.  Jessica also plays violin annually in the spring musical and acts as the string coach for the student members of the pit orchestra. Jessica has hosted the MSBOA Mid-Level String Clinic as well, which allows middle school students the opportunity to meet others their age who are involved in orchestra and to work with excellent clinicians.

Collaboration within the music department is key for a strong program across the district. With that in mind, Mrs. Fiedorowicz has served as the SHPS Music Department Chair since 2007 and, in 2017, accepted the additional position of Team Based Teacher Leader for Fine and Applied Arts for the school district.  Her mission for her work with other faculty members and district administration is to ensure access to the arts for all students.  Part of this has been the inception and participation in NAfME’s Tri-M Music Honor Society.  This has inspired students to increase participation in Solo and Ensemble, audition for and participate in honors groups, and to consider pursuing careers in music.

Beyond the school district, Jessica is finishing the 2nd year of a 3 year term serving as the North Central Representative on the National Tri-M Council for NAfME.   Jessica also has a long association with Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, starting there as a counselor in 2000.  Currently, she is looking forward to her 10th summer on the conducting faculty. In the midst of all of this, she and her husband, Michael, have 2 daughters, ages 18 and 15, who are both members of her orchestra and aspire to careers in the arts.


Carol Johnson

Carol Johnson is Director of Orchestras at Jenison Junior High School, and has been teaching young string players in Michigan for the last 23 years. During her 21 year tenure in Jenison, the JPS Orchestra Program has doubled in size, and now includes almost 600 string players. Carol earned her Bachelors of Music (2000) and Masters of Music (2005) degrees from Michigan State University. She has been recognized for her large group string teaching methods at the elementary and junior high levels, and all three of her Junior High Orchestras consistently receive first division ratings at MSBOA Festivals. Her students perform at many community events, including an annual performance in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Symphony Holiday Pops Concert. Over the last two decades, Carol has helped mentor 24 student teachers from various colleges and universities, and her program is a frequent destination for visiting teachers and pre-intern teachers.

Carol is highly sought-after as a conductor, clinician, and coach at numerous schools, camps, and clinics around Michigan. She has spent many years serving as director of orchestras at MSBOA String Clinics, MASTA String Camps, and St. Cecelia Music Center’s Sinfonia Youth Orchestra. Carol is a frequent presenter at the Michigan Music Conference, and her 8th Grade Orchestra was the only middle school orchestra selected to perform at the conference in 2010. As a guest teacher, she has presented to string students at Michigan State University and Grand Valley State University. Carol has served on the Executive Board of MSBOA District 10 as President, Past President, Chair of Middle School Honors Orchestra, and Chair of Medals and Plaques. Carol was selected as District Ten’s MSBOA Orchestra Teacher of the Year in 2010, 2014, and 2019. Carol was also selected as one of the three finalists for MSBOA’s State Teacher of the Year in 2014 and 2019, and one of three finalists for MASTA’s State Teacher of the Year in 2018. 

In addition to teaching, Carol spends a great deal of time performing, composing, and arranging. As a violinist, she has performed with the MSU Symphony Orchestra, the Jackson Symphony Orchestra, the West Shore Symphony Orchestra, and for the last nineteen years with the Signature String Quartet. Carol has always had a passion for creating music for her students to perform, and has also published educational works for young string orchestras through Alfred / Belwin Publications. 


Justin Valla

Justin Valla grew up in Madison, Connecticut and started playing the bass in 2nd grade.  He fell in love with music and the bass right away and played in as many ensembles as he could; including groups at Yale University’s Neighborhood Music School.  There, he discovered symphony orchestra, jazz, blues, rock, and other alternative styles of music.  In high school, Justin regularly performed with the Southern Connecticut Regional Orchestra, the Connecticut All-State Orchestra, and he sat principal bass of the All-New England Orchestra.

Justin came to Michigan State University in the fall of 1995.   He played in the Symphony Orchestra  under  Leon  Gregorian,  and  in  the  Wind Symphony  under  John  Whitwell.       After student-teaching in Okemos with Marilyn Kesler, he graduated in 2000 with bachelor’s degrees in double bass performance and music education.

He  began  his  teaching  career  in January of 2001 in the Lansing School District teaching beginning and middle school strings.  In 2005, he became the director of orchestras for the Marshall Public School District where he taught the entire program 5th-12th grade, and the Marshall Middle School Jazz Band which was invited to perform for collegiate jazz ensembles at jazz invitational nights hosted by Albion College.   He later earned his masters in music education from MSU after he left Marshall and began teaching in St. Johns in 2010. He spent nine years teaching strings and symphony orchestras, and conducting pit orchestras for musicals in St. Johns before coming to Okemos in the summer of 2018.

Since becoming director of the Okemos High School Orchestras, Justin sends an average of 85 events to district Solo & Ensemble, and 50 events to State Solo & Ensemble.  He has students perform with the Michigan All-State Orchestra, has had students perform for the MSBOA Concerto Competition, and has earned top ratings for every ensemble at MSBOA District Festival.  At the 2019 MMC, Justin presented on how to introduce the blues, jazz, and improvisation to students with the help of a student demonstration group.  This year, Justin brought the Okemos Philharmonic Orchestra to the 2023 MMC where they performed an eclectic program consisting of Blue Ronda A La Turk, Voices Shouting Out, and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, among others.

Over the course of his career, Justin has had students perform at the Lansing Capitol, Disney World, Hawaii, and multiple venues in New York City. Throughout his teaching, he remains dedicated to teaching all students to be thoughtful and productive people as well as high-achieving musicians.  He does this by fostering what he calls an “orchestra family” where students know they are safe and cared for every day.  He makes it a point to introduce his students to many styles of music and musicians.  His groups perform classic repertoire as well as pieces by new, local, and diverse composers.  This leads to his groups learning elements of improvisation, jazz, rock, and fiddle music along with orchestral classics by well-known composers.   Justin seeks to give back to music education by training multiple intern teachers, being a clinician, arranging music for ensembles, and by hosting Festival and District and State Solo & Ensemble for MSBOA multiple times.  He has also had students participate in MSBOA adjudicator training workshops.  This year, Justin became a co-conductor with the Mid-Michigan Youth Symphony allowing him to work with students around the greater Lansing area.

Justin  has  performed  with  the  Lansing  Symphony,  the  West  Shore  Symphony,  various community orchestras, and in many pit orchestras for local theaters.  He also plays every Sunday for a local church in Lansing.    Currently, Justin lives in East Lansing with his wife, Samara, who is a choir teacher in Haslett. Together, they have three daughters; Myah, Julia, and Lara.  Outside of school, Justin enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, cooking, arranging music, and performing for his neighbors with his dad-band.

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