Phish Fans Celebrate Innovative Music Education

The Mockingbird Foundation has announced the inaugural recipients of the DeLucia Award for Innovation in Music Education, which recognizes individuals who have created and implemented innovative methods for the effective development of musical abilities, that make efficient use of available resources, that are replicable in other settings, and that are likely to inspire others to seek, provide, and support music education. Up to five DeLucia Award recipients are to be named each year, one of whom may be noted for special distinction by means of a monetary Prize in the amount of $1,000.

The 2006 DeLucia Prize is awarded to Dr. Will Schmid, former president of the Music Educator’s National Council (MENC) and Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who created the World Music Drumming Curriculum for K-12 students. The program was launched in five Milwaukee middle schools in 1996, is now utilized in thousands of schools across North America, and has shown outstanding success at engaging students in hand-drumming traditions (particularly those of West Africa and the Caribbean) combined with singing, moving, and playing other instruments.

The Foundation also named three other winners of the 2006 DeLucia Award:

  • Bob Turbanic, a teacher at Wheeling Park High School in Wheeling, WV, created the Bluegrass Music Club ten years ago as part of the International Bluegrass Music Association‘s Bluegrass in Schools effort. Turbanic’s creation teaches any interested student at Wheeling Park to play bluegrass music and then takes them to perform at bluegrass festivals and institutions nationwide. The program utilizes the enthusiasm of its own students to inspire other youth to perform bluegrass, and is widely recognized by both educators and musicians for its resounding success, including
    having spurred similar programs in at least thirty states.
  • Christoph Geiseler leveraged his Bachelor’s thesis at Princeton to expand a participatory student group for jam-fans (Modern Improvisational Music Appreciation) into MIMA Music, an organization with a mission “to inspire students of all ages with a lifelong appreciation for music making.” The expanded organization employs the skills and manpower of Princeton students within the multi-faceted SpinJazz program. That program provides free after-school music lessons for 8-12 year old inner-city children who don’t have music education during school hours; gives motivational performances to high school and college students; hosts group jam sessions, drum sessions, and performances for all ages (including adults) at any location; and rewards its college volunteers with summer teaching fellowships abroad.
  • Robert Skamai, band director at Lenape Elementary School, Pittsburgh, PA, teaches students
    rhythms and notes first, without written music
    , much like a child learns to speak by first imitating sounds made by those around them. Skamai thereby inverts conventional processes in music education, which emphasize technical monotony as a route to soulful understanding. His approach instead leverages both conventional processes of acculturation and the natural proclivities of students, to generate a more thorough and widespread appreciation among students for the educational process in which they are engaged.

The Foundation welcomes nominations for future awards, and invites interest in participation on the DeLucia Awards Committee, which will select recipients for future years. The Awards will typically be announced in March, to mark both Music in our Schools Month and the anniversary of the Foundation

(begun in March 1996 and legally incorporated in March of 1997). The Mockingbird Foundation is the leading provider of historical information about the band Phish and its music. Since its inception in 1996, the Foundation has been operated entirely by volunteer fans of the band, without any salaries or paid staff. It fundraises for music education for children by celebrating the music of Phish through books, innovative recordings, creative donation premiums, and special events for the Phish fan community. Funds are distributed through a two-tiered application process that has provided over 150 grants, in 36 states, totaling over $500,000.

The second edition of The Phish Companion (the Foundation’s 928-page authoritative encyclopedia) is available from major book outlets nationwide. Its double-disc tribute album Sharin’ in the Groove is available in CD format through Amazon,, and Homegrown Music Network, as well as in digital format from iTunes, MSN Music, Rhapsody, Napster, BuyMusic, MusicMatch, Sony Connect, MusicIsHere, Liquid Digital Media, PassAlong, MusicNet, Puretracks, MusicNow, and LoudEye! For more information about Mockingbird, or to make a donation, please visit

Phish was a rock band that started in 1983 and grew to become one of the highest-grossing concert acts before its farewell show August 15, 2004. For more information about Phish, please visit the official and the fan-managed