Music teachers make a tremendous impact on the lives of their students and, for the fifth year, the PYO Music Institute and several partners search for an outstanding and inspirational teacher to honor with the PYO Ovation Award. Nominators who are current or former students and of any age, submit a 250-word statement about “the music teacher who changed my life.” The PYO Ovation Award is sponsored by Jacobs Music Company, J.W. Pepper and WRTI-90.1 FM.

Nominations open on February 19, 2018 with the deadline being March 30, 2018. Nominees should have imparted musical skills and knowledge, but also helped build students’ character, self-confidence, and capabilities that have impacted overall development and achievements. To nominate a music teacher for the PYO Ovation Award, statements should be submitted online at Nominees from prior years are still eligible and nominators are welcomed and strongly encouraged to nominate them again. A blue-ribbon panel of representatives from major music organizations and music departments of area universities will choose ten finalists and the award winner. All finalists are awarded prizes with the grand prize winner also receiving a $1,000 honorarium. Additionally, the nominator of the grand prize winner will receive a $250 gift card. The winning presentation will take place on Sunday, June 10, 3 p.m. prior to the PYO Music Institute performance in Verizon Hall of the Kimmel Center of Performing Arts.

Louis Scaglione, president and music director of PYO, is very proud of this award. He said, It seems remarkable that we are entering our fifth year of presenting the Ovation Award. Over time, we have read about hundreds of very impressive music teachers. As a music education institution, we at PYO Music Institute witness the positive impact teachers have on their students every day. They share their passion for music and inspire students to strive to do their best. We are so pleased to have this opportunity to recognize music educators who rarely get the attention they deserve.”

Each of the honorees from the past four years is unique in their own way. The first recipient of the Ovation Award, who was honored in June 2014, is Bill Cain, a music teacher and Band Director at Wissahickon Middle School in the Wissahickon School District. When he received this award he said, “This is the best recognition for an educator that anyone could ever have! Thank you for reminding all music teachers that we are not alone in this battle for music to survive and how important it is for music to stay on the daily schedule in our schools. Schools must teach the whole child and exercise both sides of the brain.” His nominator was Michael Brookshire, who knew Bill for 30 years. Bill taught him when he was the percussion instructor for Upper Moreland High School Band.

The second recipient was 83yearold saxophonist, teacher and mentor Tony Williams. His nominator was Mark Mitchell. In his essay, Mitchell explained that Williams not only introduced him to new techniques of playing saxophone, live performances in front of an audience, and jazz music at the Mount Airy Cultural Center that Williams founded, but he also “inspired me to see the importance and desire to give back through volunteerism, he showed me examples of leadership, and he always stated that he uses music as the vehicle to unlock a young person’s potential.” When Williams was presented the award, he beamed. He later said, “Of all the honors I have received, this captures me the most. I am so amazed to be the one chosen among so many outstanding people standing around me.”

The third year we recognized cello teacher Jennifer Jie Jin who is the Director of the Honor String Ensemble at Archbishop John Carroll High School, Co-Director of Chamber Strings Summer Music Festival, Vivace Music Competition and Vivace Orchestra. Jin’s nominator was Jessica Zhang, a private cello student who plays cello in the Philadelphia Young Artists Orchestra. She not only enhanced her cello skills under the guidance of Jin, she also learned to perform in front of an audience. She said, Mrs. Jin is a super teacher. My cello skill improved quickly under her mentorship and I was so proud to perform (annually) for a group of seniors. They all looked at me with love, like looking at their grandchild. I suddenly understood why we were here to play.” Jin was honored to be a finalist and totally surprised to receive the grand prize honor. She said, “This honor is a tribute to all music educators who work tirelessly and passionately each and every day. I know that music is more than an interest or hobby. It has a significant impact on all of life as it builds self-esteem, cultural awareness and the desire to achieve.”

Last year, music teacher Dimitri Kauriga, of Southampton, PA received the honor. He taught more than 30 years at Philadelphia High School for Girls as well as being a private teacher. Directly after receiving the honor, Kauriga said, “It’s fantastic to be recognized, but being a part of music is the most beautiful part. When you’re in the process of educating and you later realize the difference you make in someone’s life, it is very meaningful”. Kauriga’s nominator, Elisabeth D’Alessandro met Kauriga while he taught her music in high school. D’Alessandro writes in her winning essay that Kauriga instilled a love of music in her so strong that she decided to pursue her current profession as a music teacher at The Philadelphia High School for Girls. D’Alessandro writes, “Mr. Kauriga was a model of commitment and dedication. He got to school early, stayed late, and rarely took a break. He embodied the work ethic which he demanded of his students. He inspired generations of students to achieve above and beyond what we thought we could. His faith in our ability gave use the confidence we needed to excel.”

The PYO organization is one of the nation’s oldest and most highly respected youth orchestral and collegepreparatory music education institutions for gifted and talented students. Three renowned music organizations with historic ties to the Philadelphia community are partnering with PYO as sponsors of The Ovation Award: Jacobs Music, one of the nation’s most respected piano merchants and the Tri-state region’s exclusive representative for new and authentically restored Steinway & Sons pianos, representing Yamaha and many other fine pianos as well, J.W. Pepper, one of the leading sheet music merchants in the world and WRTI, broadcaster of the region’s most comprehensive classical and jazz radio programming.   

Chris Rinaldi, President of Jacobs Music Company and member of the PYO Board of Trustees, is happy to continue Jacobs support of the PYO Ovation Award. He said, “The tremendous life-changing impact of a music education on every facet of a student’s development has long been documented. We are very pleased to have this opportunity to show our appreciation for the invaluable contributions of the many outstanding music teachers who make this possible.  Jacobs Music has been honored to support the PYO Ovation Award since its inception; as a new PYO board member, it is especially meaningful to me this year.”

For more information and to access the Ovation Award application, visit, or email questions to the PYO Music Institute at


About Jacobs Music Company: Jacobs Music Company is the area’s exclusive representative for new and authentically restored Steinway & Sons, and Steinway designed Boston and Essex pianos. Jacobs also represents many other highly respected new and used piano manufacturers from around the world, including Yamaha, Disklavier, Clavinova, and Roland, all at great values.  Jacobs Music Company has seven showrooms, including its flagship Steinway Selection Center at 1718 Chestnut Street in center city Philadelphia, as well as Ephrata, West Chester and Willow Grove, PA and Cherry Hill and Lawrenceville, NJ.

About J.W. Pepper: J.W. Pepper®, based in Exton, PA, is the leading retailer of sheet music in the world. In business for over 140 years, they have 12 store locations and two distribution centers across the country.  Customer care is at the heart of their services for school music programs, private studios and all levels of performing musicians. For more information, visit

About WRTI: WRTI is a member-supported, public radio station that broadcasts the very best classical music and jazz recordings, and produces innovative, entertaining, and informative content. The station has 14 frequencies, extends west to Harrisburg and north to Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, and reaches as far south as Dover, DE and to the South Jersey shore area.