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Four Area Music Educators Chosen by RPO Musicians for 22nd Annual Award

Rochester, NY – Four music teachers from the Rochester area have been chosen as this year’s recipients of the 22nd annual RPO Musicians’ Awards for Outstanding Music Educators.  Honored for their contributions to their students, schools, and communities, the winners will be recognized on Thursday, April 15 at the RPO’s “Misha Dichter Plays Rachmaninoff” concert, designated as “Music Educators Night at the RPO.”  The 2010 award winners are:

• Mary Jane Davidson, Choral (Greece Odyssey Academy, Greece, NY)
• Cheryl Mancini Drake, Instrumental Music – Band (Canandaigua Middle School, Canandaigua, NY)
• Jane Morale, Instrumental Music – Strings (Spry Middle School, Webster, NY)
• Melissa Reed, Classroom Specialist (Village Elementary, Hilton, NY)

“Music Educators Night gives the musicians of the RPO a chance to celebrate the power and importance of  music education in our lives, and to recognize those music teachers who have made a difference in the lives of their communities,” said RPO violinist Margaret Leenhouts, Chair of the 2010 Music Educators Award  Committee. 

Founded in 1988, the RPO Musicians’ Awards work to strengthen the relationship between area music educators and the musicians of the RPO.  The awards commend those teachers who have shown both educational and musical excellence, and recognize the positive influence they have on the musicians and audiences of the future.  Administrators, educators, parents, and students submit nominations that are then reviewed by a committee comprised of RPO musicians and community educators.  Part of the award includes a visit from RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman to each winner’s class.  For more information, or to download photos of winners, visit:

West Irondequoit resident Mary Jane Davidson (Choral Music) has taught music since 1975, including private piano, concert band, marching band, elementary and middle school choir, general music, theory, and Orff-Schulwerk.  She spent her early years teaching in Buffalo, N.Y, and then in Hilton, and at the Hochstein School.  This June, she concludes her 31 years in the Greece Central School District.  She has directed high school musicals, teaching students through song, dance, dialogue, and behind-the-scenes productions.  Ms. Davidson received her bachelor’s degree in music education from Hope College in Michigan, and her MFA from SUNY Buffalo.  She is a member of several local and professional music education organizations, ushers at Geva Theatre, and is an active supporter of the arts in Rochester. 

Cheryl Mancini Drake (Instrumental Music – Band) lives in Farmington and currently teaches instrumental music at Canandaigua Middle School.  She received her bachelor of music education degree from SUNY Fredonia in 1978, and later earned her master of music education from Ithaca College.  Mrs. Drake began her instrumental music teaching career in Clyde-Savannah Central School in 1978, and taught for two years in the Lyons School District.  She also has served as chairperson for “Chasin’ the Blues I, II and III,” charity events featuring high school students performing in a coffee house setting to raise money for organizations in need.  More than $15,000 was raised under her leadership.

Jane Morale (Instrumental Music – Strings) is the orchestra director and string instrument instructor at Webster Spry Middle School. A Macedon resident, she is a member of the American String Teachers Association and of the Music Educators National Conference. She currently serves on the Monroe County School Music Association Executive Board as Elementary All-County Orchestra Coordinator.  In 2006, she presented a workshop at the NYSSMA conference titled “Fiddles on Fire: Tips for Fiddling in a School String Program.”  Ms. Morale has supervised numerous student teachers from Nazareth College and SUNY Fredonia, and received the 2009 Nazareth College Music Educator’s Service Award. She holds a bachelor of music degree from the Crane School of Music, and plays violin in the Penfield Symphony Orchestra, the Greater Rochester Women’s Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Con Brio Strings Chamber Ensemble.

Melissa Reed (Classroom Music Specialist) received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Nazareth College. This Rochester resident currently is a music educator and music therapist for the Hilton Central School District, and a music education lecturer at Nazareth College.  Melissa has worked extensively with students with special needs, and is a sought-after clinician. She recently has presented for conferences of the National American Orff-Schulwerk Association, New Jersey Music Educators, New York State School Music Association, New York State Early Childhood Music, MENC Eastern Division, and the Northern Lights and Long Island American Orff-Schulwerk Association chapters.  Ms. Reed’s article, “Everyone Succeeds: Meeting the Needs of All Students in the Music Room” recently was published in the Collegiate MENC online journal. A member of the NYSSMA Classroom Music Committee for six years, Melissa is currently serving as its Chairperson and is a member of the Executive Board of the NYS School Music Association.

Tickets for the Thursday, April 15 concert are available at, through the Box Office (108 East Avenue), by phone (585) 454-2100, or at any Wegmans location.  RPO Box Office hours are 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Saturday (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm).  A convenience fee may apply.