Teachers, students and benefactors honored at BPO’s annual Celebration of Music Education

BUFFALO, NY — Saturday, May 14 will mark the annual Celebration of Music Education at Kleinhans Music Hall, presented by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. A reception and awards ceremony open to honorees, music educators, administrators and supporters of music education will be catered by Oliver’s and take place at 6:30 p.m. At the beginning of the 8 p.m. concert, honorees will be recognized before the BPO audience.

The BPO’s Leadership in Music Education goes to NOCO Energy Corp. and the Donald and Barbara Newman Foundation. NOCO is a third-generation family-owned and locally-operated company, with over 80 years of experience in the energy business. Jim Newman, President of NOCO, has been attending the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra since he was a young man. He has continued to be a dedicated BPO enthusiast and has served as a past Chairman of the Board.  The Donald F. and Barbara L. Newman Foundation was set up to ensure the family tradition of giving back to the Western New York charitable community.  Its ongoing support has allowed the BPO to advance its educational mission.

Three educators were selected to receive the BPO and Erie County Music Educators’ Association award for excellence in music education: Eric Blodgett of Lake Shore Schools in Angola; and Christopher Gawlak and Douglas Shaw of the Clarence Central School District.

Blodgett has taught in the Lake Shore District for 21 years. He serves as music department chairman and has directed the Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Musical Pit, Pep and Marching Bands, and instrumental lessons. In 2011, he received the Lake Shore Board of Education Outstanding Service Award. In 2013, he was recognized as one of the top 25 teachers in Western New York by Business First. He has served as ECMEA Librarian, Chairperson for ECMEA and NYSSMA events and groups, has hosted All County performances at Lake Shore, is a former member of the Maelstrom Percussion Ensemble, and ran a successful private percussion studio for over 20 years.

Gawlak has taught in the Clarence Central School District for 25 years. He is presently the director of the Clarence Middle School Seventh and Eighth Grade Symphonic Band and CMS Jazz Ensemble. In addition, Gawlak teaches instrumental brass lessons and has previously directed the Sixth and Seventh Grade Bands and Marching Band. Prior to teaching in Clarence, he was a member of the music faculty in the Williamsville and Frontier School Districts. Gawlak has presented clinics for Erie County Music Educators Association and NYSSMA and has served as conference coordinator for ECMEA. He has conducted All County and Area All State Bands in Erie, Genesee, Monroe and Wyoming Counties. He resides in the Village of Hamburg.

Shaw is a native of Western New York, and is currently in his 26th year of teaching, the last 19 as the Director of the Clarence High School Symphony, Concert and Chamber Orchestras. He is the cellist in the Oakgrove Quartet, and has performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic, Western New York Chamber Orchestra, Amherst and Cheektowaga Symphonies. He has been Chairman of Erie County High School Orchestra for many years, and has conducted the Niagara County Junior High, Erie County Elementary and Junior High Orchestras and Cheektowaga Symphony. He also served as manager and librarian for the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra and house manager for the Buffalo Philharmonic. He lives in Williamsville.

The BPO and the Niagara County Music Educators Association are recognizing Linda Werder. Werder is the choral director at Niagara Falls High School. She has taught elementary, middle and high school levels in the Niagara Falls School District for 32 years. The NFHS Concert Choir has performed with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Grammy award winning band Foreigner, as well as collaborating with Wilson High School, North Tonawanda High, Sweet Home High and Harmonia A Capella for performances. She has conducted All County Choirs and chaired Area All State Choirs. At the end of the school year, she is retiring to circumnavigate the eastern United States on her boat with her husband and her dog.

The Friends of the BPO will present their three scholarship winners at this event. The scholarships are awarded annually to graduating high school seniors who intend to further their careers in music.

James Featherstone of Amherst Central High School is the $3000 scholarship winner. Piano is his primary instrument, but he is also an alto saxophonist and tenor. While in grades nine and ten, he won the Tri-State Award of Excellence, earning the highest grades which entitled him to solo piano performances in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. Since 2012, he’s consistently won Gold Medals in the Jacobs School of Music Piano Academy, Toronto and Stamford Kiwanis, and Burlington Rotary Music Festivals as well as earning the championship in the Heddy Killian Competition. He is one of the youngest to earn the Associate Diploma- Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto. He is the piano student of Mary Handley, for whom he has served for two years as teaching assistant in piano, theory, and music history. His career goal is to continue teaching students the art of music. He will enter college this fall as a piano performance major at Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.

Madeline Ferguson of Williamsville East High School is the $2000 scholarship winner. She began her clarinet studies in fourth grade, began participating in Erie County Music Educators Festivals in sixth grade and in New York State School Music Association Area All- State Festivals in seventh grade. She earned First Clarinet in NYSMA’s All-State Band in grade 11 and First Clarinet in NYSSMA’s All-State Orchestra in her senior year. She attended Eastman School of Music’s Music Horizons in the summer of 2014, and the New York State Orchestral Studies in the summer of 2015. In 2013, she began playing in the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra, and she became their Principal Clarinet the following year.She is an AP Scholar with Distinction and received the 2015 Swarthmore College Book Award. Aside from music, she is a Shir Shalom Religious Teacher Assistant and participates in Tzedek Corps, Unity in Diversity, and Rochez Irish Dance. Madeline is the clarinet student of Robert Lehner and intends to major in Clarinet Performance and Music Education at Eastman School of Music.

Sarah Troeller of Clarence High School is the $1000 scholarship winner. Her cello studies began during fourth grade. Her playing flourished and she progressed to perform in Erie County Music Educators’ Orchestra Festivals and New York State School Music Association Area All-State String Orchestras and Area All-State Symphony Orchestras. In 2015, she was an alternate to All-State Symphony Orchestra. Performing in the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra is another opportunity she enjoys. She plays in the Clarence High Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra and has performed in the Pit Orchestra and sung in Treble Chorus. She studies cello with BPO Principal Cellist Roman Mekinulov and intends to major in music education at The Ohio State University in the fall.


As Buffalo’s cultural ambassador, the Grammy Award-winning Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the leadership of music director JoAnn Falletta presents more than 100 concerts each year. Since 1940, the orchestra’s home has been Kleinhans Music Hall, a National Historic Landmark with a reputation as one of the finest concert halls in the United States. During the tenure of JoAnn Falletta, the BPO has rekindled its history of radio broadcasts and recordings, including the release of 36 new recordings on the Naxos and Beau Fleuve labels. For more information about the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, visit www.bpo.org.

For Immediate Release
Contact:Kate Jenkins
Communications Coordinator
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra


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