Two of Washington State’s top music educators are faculty members at Central Washington University. The Washington Music Educators Association (WMEA)has named music professor Jeffrey Snedeker the Collegiate Music Educator of the Year.
The WMEA Elementary Music Educator of the Year award went to Leslie Schneider, who teaches full time at Valley View Elementary School, in Ellensburg, while also serving as an instructor of elementary methods, a required class for all music education majors, in the CWU Department of Music.
WMEA is divided into twenty-two regions across Washington. Every two years, each regional president nominates candidates for four music educator awards, at the collegiate, high school, middle school, and elementary levels. A WMEA selection committee picks the award winners.
Snedeker’s commitment to excellence and his passion for a wide and diverse range of musical styles make him a compelling spokesman for music education, according to Dan Wing, WMEA president elect.
“Jeff is a spokesperson for music through his action; he models the engagement and excellence we all strive for,” said Wing. “With tremendous pressure on education budgets, it’s more important than ever to have people like Jeff advocating for music and its value in education.”
Said Snedeker, “I’m flattered and humbled by this award—it’s a complete surprise. When I got the news, my first thought was ‘Not bad for a performance major!’”
At CWU, Snedeker teaches horn, music history, brass literature, and pedagogy. Averaging from fourteen to sixteen students per year, Snedeker has the largest horn studio in the Pacific Northwest. His Horn Ensemble has earned invitations to a range of regional conferences, including WMEA, the Northwest Horn Society, and five times to international symposia of the International Horn Society. He was selected CWU’s Faculty Member of the Year in 2006.
“I emphasize breadth so that students have as many choices as possible when they graduate—they can go in the direction they choose,” said Snedeker, who pointed out that his former students include teachers, composers, and freelance performers. “I want students to be passionate about any kind of music and to feel free to stretch themselves in a safe environment here at Central.”
Of her award, which she called the top honor of her career “by far,” Schneider also admitted to being “shocked.”
“My mom and dad are really proud of me right now,” she added, with a laugh. “There are so many really good teachers out there that I was surprised I was even under consideration.”
Schneider, who has worked in the Ellensburg School District for twenty-two years, received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from Central. She was named Ellensburg’s Teacher of the Year in 2006.
“Because I only have thirty-five minutes twice a week with them, I try to make sure that every minute counts with my kids,” Schneider said of her teaching methods. “But I also want to keep it as fun as possible. Music should be fun.”
Schneider’s combined fourth- and fifth-grade choir has been featured at the WMEA Yakima Conference and the National Association for Music Education’s (NAfME) World’s Largest Concert three times, including this year.
“We’re excited to be included in that again,” Schneider acknowledged. “It involves schools from all across the United States and, this year, they’re even going international. It’s a pretty big deal to be chosen.”
Schneider’s students are among the fifty-two groups selected for this year’s concert. Schneider also works with Educational Service District (ESD) 105, as a trainer for the state’s music Classroom-Based Performance Assessments, and she has donated her music composition unit lessons to ESD 105 for its training sessions.
CWU’s Department of Music is the largest and most diverse music program in the Northwest, with twenty-eight large and small vocal and instrumental ensembles and twenty-four studios or study areas in the Jerilyn S. McIntyre Music Building.
Acknowledged as the Northwest’s premier collegiate music performance facility, it also is home to the WMEA Hall of Fame. CWU is well represented as eight members of the university’s current and former faculty—Patricia Bourne, A. Bert Christianson, Larry Gookin, Peter Gries, Wayne Hertz, John Moawad, Robert Panerio Sr., and Ray Wheeler—and numerous alumni have already been inducted into it.