Dallas Symphony Orchestra Announces 2023 Music Teacher of the Year Award Winners Shelley Couch and John Thomas

Annual Award Recognizes Elementary Music Teachers in DISD
Shelley Couch from Central Elementary and John Thomas from Seagoville North Elementary to each receive $500 Cash Award,
Underwritten by Rita Sue & Alan Gold

Dallas, TX (April 6, 2023) – The Dallas Symphony Orchestra announces the winners of its annual Music Teacher of the Year Award. Shelley Couch of Central Elementary and John Thomas of Seagoville North Elementary were chosen from nominees across the Dallas Independent School District.

The Music Teacher of the Year Award coincides with Music in Our Schools Month, a nation-wide campaign focused on the importance of high-quality music education in public schools.

“The DSO is delighted to see the high-quality music education happening across the district,” said DSO Director of Education, Jennifer Guzmán. “We have watched as music educators throughout the district continue to go above and beyond for their students, providing incredible learning opportunities despite the challenges. We are excited to honor these two outstanding teachers at our Texas Instruments Classical Series concert on April 21, and we applaud their achievements.”

Shelley Couch currently serves as music educator for Central Elementary School in Seagoville, Texas. Mrs. Couch received her Bachelor of Music Education from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas. With her mother being an educator, she grew up seeing the impact teaching had on students’ lives and their educational journey. She continued that same journey by learning music at an early age and being involved in both school and church choirs. As a result, she wanted to instill that in her students. Being raised in the piney woods of East Texas in the big football town of Longview, she expanded her love for music both in the choral program and as a part of the Longview Lobo Marching Band. In 1997, she moved to Dallas to start her teaching career. She considers it a privilege to have served 24 years as a music teacher on the same campus which has given her the unique opportunity to know generational families and how she can best connect with them at school and in the community.

Ms. Couch considers her greatest achievement being a part of a child’s educational journey and making connections through music. Sometimes a smile and a song can go a long way. Students in turn have taught her the importance of having fun, that relationships matter, and when given the opportunity they will reach further than we could ever imagine. Sharing with students the ballet, opera, and symphony only validates that facts can be forgotten but feelings and experiences last forever.

John Thomas has been a Texas music educator for 39 years. He came to Texas in 1982 after graduating with a B.S. in Music from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. Mr. Thomas has taught with Birdville, Grand Prairie, Garland, Richardson, Rockwall and Dallas districts. His experience includes 29 years as head or assistant band director, eight years teaching elementary and four years teaching private low brass lessons. He taught private low brass for the Sunnyvale ISD and West Mesquite High School after he retired in 2015. In the fall of 2019, Mr. Thomas returned to the classroom with Dallas ISD as a retire/rehire teacher at Seagoville North Elementary School where he teaches elementary music to kindergarten through fifth grade students. What he enjoys most about his role as a music educator is teaching his students that music is a language that is communicated by writing, reading, singing, moving and playing instruments.

Family is very important to Mr. Thomas. He and his wife, Judi, have been married for 33 years. He is still a busy Dad with three young adult children who make him proud every day: Dante, 25; Claire, 21; and James, 20.

Nominations were submitted to the DSO with an application and follow-up in-person observations. Shelley Couch and John Thomas were selected from a group of five finalists. The other three finalists were:

• Enrique Andino, School for the Talented and Gifted in Pleasant Grove
• Stacy Redding, Bethune Elementary
• Michelle Vallejo, Mata Elementary

The finalists and winners were chosen by the DSO’s Education Committee, which is comprised of members of the education department, the Dallas Symphony Association’s Board of Governors, DSO League members, DSO musicians as well as members of the community at large.

Shelley Couch and John Thomas will be presented with an award and recognized on April 21 at a DSO concert at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. They will also each receive a $500 cash award, underwritten by Rita Sue and Alan Gold.

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, under the leadership of Music Director Fabio Luisi, presents more than 150 orchestra concerts at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, one of the world’s top-rated concert halls. As the largest performing arts organization in the Southwest, the DSO is committed to inspiring the broadest possible audience with distinctive classical programs, inventive pops concerts and innovative multi-media presentations. As part of its commitment to the community, the orchestra reaches more than 243,000 adults and children annually through performances, educational programs and community outreach initiatives. The orchestra offers more than 200 outdoor chamber concerts in neighborhoods throughout Dallas each year, as well as continuing online music lessons to more than 700 students as part of its Young Strings and Young Musicians programs.

The Dallas Symphony has used digital and broadcast media to share music beyond its geographic boundaries and has become a leader among American orchestras in digital distribution. In 2021, the DSO presented a three-concert broadcast series with Bloomberg Media, reaching over 5 million viewers globally. In October 2021, PBS stations across the country began airing One Symphony, Two Orchestras, a program that documented the historic May 2021 performance of Mahler’s First Symphony, a Luisi-led collaboration between the DSO and musicians from The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. That program was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award in May 2022. The DSO also captures and streams concert performances for distribution online through its Next Stage Digital Concert Series, Presented by PNC
Bank. Programs are available on the DSO’s website at watch.dallassymphony.org.

The DSO has a tradition dating back to 1900 and is a cornerstone of the unique, 118-acre Arts District in Downtown Dallas that is home to multiple performing arts venues, museums and parks – the largest district of its kind in the nation. The DSO is supported, in part, by funds from the Office of Arts & Culture, City of Dallas.

Media Contacts
Denise McGovern, d.mcgovern@dalsym.com, 214.871.4024