Music Teacher of the Year

Join us in celebrating Music In Our Schools Month by showing appreciation for the music educators across DFW who make a difference every day! In recognition of the fact that elementary music teachers make an important and positive difference in young people’s lives, the Dallas Symphony will be honoring Dallas ISD teachers and the impactful work they do by presenting a Music Teacher of the Year Award.

Click here to make a nomination or submit an application.

Meet our 2024 Music Teacher of the Year

Chris Drews has been a music educator since 2009 and has developed a unique method of teaching that emphasizes student music making. He teaches General Music, Mariachi, Modern Band, and World Drumming to PreK through fifth grade students at Stemmons Elementary. Mr. Drews has presented professional development for teachers in Dallas ISD, Texas Region 10 and at the Modern Band National Summit in Fort Collins, CO.

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Teacher Highlights

Want to recognize a special North Texas teacher? Click here to tell us why you love your teacher!

Robert Gonzales

Robert Gonzalez

Young Musicians teacher
Young Strings teacher & alumnus

I’ve been working for Young Musicians since the summer of 2019, and I’ve also been teaching for Young Strings since December 2020. I love the openness to learn as well as the great enthusiasm that comes alongside that. I love how both programs have created such a wonderful community of musicmaking. I feel great satisfaction in seeing the students at the beginning of their musical education, and guiding them like I was guided by great teachers at their age. The serious study of music empowers the individual to reach their intellectual and artistic potential through the means of playing an instrument. The analytical skills and pattern recognition required to study music is a wonderful brain exercise. The critical thinking, creativity and hard work that is required to play music shapes the individual for the better, and is a greatly positive force. It continues to be an honor for me to teach with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Sho-Mei Pelletier

Sho-Mei Pelletier

Young Strings teacher
Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Associate Principal Second Violin

My experience with music education started at an early age. My father, a music education PhD., wrote his doctoral dissertation about orchestra beginner classes in the inner-city area of Phoenix, Arizona, during the 1960s. He had one wealthy public school orchestra, and one underfunded public school orchestra, often combining them and creating an “all district” orchestra that rehearsed after school and performed frequently in the community. This program leveled the playing field for all students, while centering teamwork and collaboration. I have been working with this groundbreaking, nationally recognized Young Strings scholarship program through the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for 30 years. I was married to the Young Strings founder, Dwight Shambley, and have been involved with the program since its inception in 1992. While Dwight was the only African-American DSO member, I was the first Hispanic and Asian DSO member of the violin section. The Young Strings program teaches and guides its scholars to learn, pursue and obtain the principles and skills required to complete their education. It gives these outstanding and dedicated students opportunities to pursue careers in classical music and music education on a professional level. Over the past 30 years, 100% of Young Strings students have graduated from high school. All of the teachers and instructors in Young Strings are either members of the DSO or are outstanding music educators in our school systems. Witnessing the growth of the phenomenally talented and committed students drives me to continue teaching. With their chosen instrument, they go from beginner to advanced levels of proficiency that rivals their peers that may be from more financially or socially privileged environments. Placing underrepresented or lower income household students on the same playing field as others provides a greater level of diversity and unity that only music can give! If a Young Strings senior chooses to graduate and pursue a career in law or engineering, for example, they can still put the discipline and nurturing of their Young Strings experience to great use. With us, they learned how to perform under pressure, to pursue their dreams with determination and commitment and to achieve the stamina required to reach their goals at the university level and beyond. Each student is held to a higher responsibility and must perform at adjudicated juries and recitals, keep their school grades up and are given opportunities to perform in their communities as well as competitions. Music education provides our communities with a safe, growing environment that involves singing, rhythm, dancing, composition, ear training, conducting and playing instruments, allowing everyone to feel uplifted, motivated and inspired. The DSO is to be applauded for its dedication to education, both individually, and as a team-sport, for the present, and for the future. The future of classical music is now, in programs like Young Strings and Kim Noltemy Young Musicians.

Carlos Vargas

Carlos Vargas

Young Strings teacher & alumnus

I have been working for the Young Strings program since 2016, but my journey began as a Young Strings student myself. The program allows underrepresented kids, such as myself, to find a supportive community as well as mentors that offer love and encouragement. This upcoming fall will be my sixth year of teaching. I love that our program allows me to have an individual connection with students, and allows each student to have a unique learning experience. I attribute my drive as an educator to watching my students grow into passionate and dedicated cellists. It warms my heart to hear them make beautiful music and see them have so much interest in and love for the cello. Music education is vital to our community because it allows kids to find their own voice. Young Strings allows kids to learn confidence, time management and allows them to all kinds of world experiences. After all, music is an international language.