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DeKalb Music Boosters honor educators, award scholarships

The DeKalb Music Boosters presented Judy O’Connor (left) with the Maestro Award and Ann Montzka Smelser with the Muse Award at the Hats, Horses and Harmony event. The Maestro Award recognizes a retired music instructor and the Muse Award recognizes a community member who have contributed to the musical growth and success of students in the district.
The DeKalb Music Boosters presented Judy O’Connor (left) with the Maestro Award and Ann Montzka Smelser with the Muse Award at the Hats, Horses and Harmony event. The Maestro Award recognizes a retired music instructor and the Muse Award recognizes a community member who have contributed to the musical growth and success of students in the district.

The DeKalb Music Boosters have awarded scholarships to six graduating seniors from DeKalb High School.

Tyler Sessler was awarded a $500 scholarship intended for students pursuing a career in music performance or music education. Sessler plans to pursue music education. Five students received $250 awards for students who were active in music in high school but plan to major in another field: Emma Carpenter, Daniel DeLap, Abigail Diehl, Marcella Garcia and Olivia Klonoski. The boosters also awarded multiple smaller scholarships to younger students attending summer music camps.

The scholarships are one of many ways the boosters support the DeKalb music programs. They were funded in part by the recent Hats, Horses and Harmony event, according to event chair Valerie Vance.

The event  raised money for the music programs and was also an opportunity to honor local community members and educators who have helped the district provide music education to DeKalb students.

The boosters presented the Muse Award, which honors a local community member who has been an advocate for music programs in the district, to Ann Montzka Smelser, a music teacher in the community for more than 30 years. She has performed with many ensembles, including as concertmaster of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and she is the director of the Community School of the Arts Suzuki Strings program and has supported area students through their growth as emerging musicians. DeKalb High School band director Steve Lundin presented her with the award.

Travis Erikson, director of choirs at DeKalb High School, presented the Maestro Award to retired teacher Judy O’Connor. She is the first recipient of the award, which recognizes a retired music educator who has made a significant impact and helped to develop and foster the growth of music programs within the DeKalb middle or high schools. O’Connor not only taught music at the elementary, middle and high school levels, but she established the DHS Madrigal Singers and the DHS Jazz Choir, which has evolved into three a cappella groups.

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