The Mockingbird Foundation is proud to announce the winners of the 2017 DeLucia Awards for music educators, including the recipient of this year’s $1,000 DeLucia Prize. Each of these award winners has demonstrated a passion for music education such as by teaching in an exceptional, innovative, or unique manner; impacting their communities in a substantial way; and/or using unconventional techniques, discourse, or concepts in their roles as music educators:

  • Brian Lotze (Music Teacher at John Adams High School in Ozone Park, New York) – DeLucia Prize Winner
    Brian spearheaded the collection of over 200 used instruments through various donors which enabled the band program at JAHS to restart after a more than 25-year absence. The band program now consists of a beginner band with 50 students and an advanced band with 30 students. Brian has also developed curriculum for a “Hip-Hop Therapy” class, a course which investigates the history of New York City hip-hop and challenges under-credited and over-aged students to compose their own raps.
  • Peter Thompson (Band Director at Ames Middle School in Ames, Iowa)
    With back-to-back rehearsals in a space far above intended capacity, combined with an insanely short three-minute passing period, Peter has developed a fully automated sequence that includes a fun “space-launch” countdown to signify when all students must be in their seats, conducts a basic warm-up sequence done with rock accompaniment, and has some of his students film breathing exercises in advance to lead their own band through before rehearsal. All of this enables him to tend to broken instruments, missing music, and everything else a music teacher must deal with while teaching responsibility and efficiency in the midst of what would usually be total chaos.
  • Margaret Green (Vocal Music Director at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics in Vancouver, Washington)
    Margaret strives to meet her students where they are in their development as vocalists by making use of teaching to all learning styles through a variety of genres of vocal music. She utilizes technology, integrates musical learning with other subjects, and features thematic concert programs that allow students the opportunity to not only learn and perform their music, but present their music with understanding and depth. This includes a concept she developed called the Vocal Informance which is a “deep dive” on some aspect of their current vocal studies and features students giving a lecture/demo interwoven with performances.
  • Ruben Newell (Instrumental Music Teacher at Denison High School in Denison, Iowa)
    Ruben wanted to strengthen the relationship between his school and its community in rural Iowa (over 40% Hispanic or Latino) and allow students to connect to their own cultures in ways that traditional jazz band and marching band couldn’t. So he lobbied his administration to allow him to start the first school Mariachi band in the state of Iowa. His program now features three Mariachi bands and the music instrumental music department has swelled to almost 200 students. All three Mariachi bands regularly perform throughout the community.
  • Katie Ebert (Director of Bands at Cuthbertson Middle School in Waxhaw, North Carolina)
    Katie has taken a program of less than 100 and grown it to over 350 students enrolled in band class. She created an innovative mentoring project which features students at the high school (where she is also Assistant Director of Bands) returning to the middle school to regularly teach lessons to their younger colleagues. This mentoring project has improved the quality of both programs from top to bottom. She is also an advocate for the integration of technology into music education and gives daily assignments to all her students through SmartMusic, for which each of her students is given their own paid subscription through her band booster organization.

The DeLucia Awards and DeLucia Prize, created in 2004 with a revised focus earlier this year, are named for Mockingbird founder Craig DeLucia and acknowledge outstanding contributions of a creative nature.  The Foundation announces these awards both to celebrate the accomplishments of the winners, and in hope that the awards might inspire others to seek, provide, and support music education, particularly bold and ambitious efforts in the face of uphill hurdles.

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 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