The Mockingbird Foundation is proud to announce the winners of the 2015 DeLucia Awards, recognizing innovators in music education, including the recipient of this year’s $1,000 DeLucia Prize:

  • David Birrow (2015 DeLucia Prize Winner) teaches at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis, MN. In addition to his percussion teaching, he recently got a book published called The Bucket Book, “designed to help teachers and students discover the joy of creating music and the fun of using homemade or found instruments to do so.” (One of the best things about the book is that you need zero experience at all. Anyone can use it!) Birrow is also extremely tech savvy, continually using apps and taking advantage of technology to adapt and connect with all of his students. He created a teaching curriculum for his younger percussion students that is like playing a video game: You play a drum rudiment at a certain speed, and you level up and gain points.
  • Brian McGonagle is the band director at Methuen High School in Methuen, MA, and the director of Dirty Hands, Ink, an ensemble performing music using all “non-instruments” (plastic buckets, metal trash cans, push brooms, etc.) The group adopted its name from the title of a piece written by Brian, performed solely with newspapers. Initially performing in groove-based percussion music, the group has evolved over the years to include more traditional percussion instruments as well as wind instruments. Performances have become more elaborate, going from simple lighting patterns to full-on productions with light, choreography, and video clips played between segments of the program. It is a performance that is highly anticipated among the community every year.
  • Elizabeth Winslow is the band director at Hiawatha College Prep in Minneapolis, MN. Within the course of a school year, Liz worked tirelessly to start a band program at a school where almost 100% of the students are on free/reduced lunch through fundraising, a community instrument drive, and creative problem solving. She set up the program so that all of the 80 students were on school-owned instruments. Most schools serving similar demographics have cut band programs, but Winslow convinced her principal that it was necessary and she’s bringing music to kids who need it the most. Her efforts have brought much needed attention to music education in the Minneapolis area.
  • Jason Rodgers is the director of bands and choirs at Valor Middle School in Woodburn, OR. He wrote an original beginning band method book that presents an innovative approach to beginning band instruction. The printing of this text reduces costs over commercially available texts in a high poverty district.
  • Tom Liddle is the General/Vocal Music Teacher at Takoma Park Middle School in Takoma Park, MD. Upon arriving, he resurrected a vocal program that had been shuttered years earlier due to low enrollment. He designed his own curriculum to teach students how to create and perform music informally in a rock band-type setting. Students use critical listening skills and collaboration to learn how to play piano, guitar, drums, and bass in small groups that are student-led, fostering musical independence, cultural relevance, and creativity in innovative, modern, and engaging methods. He also created a set of method books for teaching each instrument in this type of setting in order to share this new learning model with other teachers and schools.

The DeLucia Awards and DeLucia Prize, created in 2004 with a renewed focus earlier this year, are named for Mockingbird founder Craig DeLucia and acknowledge outstanding contributions of a creative nature. Winners have demonstrated a passion for music through the use of unconventional genres, methods, instruments, environments, and/or other aspects of music education; and have accomplished something which effectively developed musical abilities, made efficient use of available resources, could be replicated in other settings, and might inspire others to seek, provide, and/or support music education.

The Foundation board is extremely grateful to the volunteers who lent their time, interest, and expertise to serve as the committee reviewing nominees and selecting this year’s winners:

  • David Ahrens – Director of Bands at Bear River High School in Grass Valley, CA
  • John Butte – Vocal General Music and Chorus Director at Gorman Crossing Elementary School in Laurel, MD
  • Ben Denne – Director of Orchestras at Ellicott Mills Middle School in Ellicott City, MD
  • Andrew Hitz – Instructor of Music at George Mason University and Gettysburg College
  • Matt Sexauer – Director of Bands at Chelmsford High School in Chelmsford, MA

The Mockingbird Foundation is the leading provider of historical information about Phish and its music, having cultivated intellectual property through since 1994 and published two editions of the popular trade paperback books The Phish Companion: A Guide to the Band and Their Music. Proceeds from Foundation projects support music education for children. Thanks to its all-volunteer structure, the Foundation is able to disburse more than 98% of the funds raised to important and innovative programs serving diverse populations. Organized by Phish fans in 1996, and formally incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 1997, the Foundation has since then distributed $836,593.40 through 272 grants in 45 states.

Phish is a rock band that started in 1983 and grew to become one of the highest-grossing live acts in the nation. The band will perform a summer tour beginning late July, and donates a portion of proceeds from LivePhish downloads to the Mockingbird Foundation. For more information about Phish, please visit and