Celebrating Excellence in Music Education

Yamaha launched the "40 Under 40" music education advocacy program to celebrate and recognize outstanding music educators who are making a difference by growing and strengthening their music programs. Their students range from transitional kindergarteners to college undergrads at public, private and charter schools, as well as private music students. Their programs are small and large, brand new and with storied histories.  

In the fall of 2020, we asked for nominations of music educators under the age of 40 who showcased the following characteristics: action (anticipate what needs to be done and proactively take the necessary steps that lead to a stronger music program), courage (propose and implement new or bold ideas), creativity (show innovation and imagination in achieving plans and objectives) and growth (establish, grow or improve music education in their schools and communities). 

We received hundreds of nominations from students, parents, other teachers and administrators, local instrument dealers and mentors.

The selected "40 Under 40" educators below have gone above and beyond to elevate music and music-making in their students’ lives — like Jason Sleppy, who secured the use of Lucas Oil Stadium during the pandemic so his students could have an end-of-year performance; Willie Garfield, who started his music education career as a teenager; Jennifer Antonetti, who created an app to help music educators keep track of inventory, student information and more; Eric Jimenez, who launched a podcast about urban music education; and Michael Gamon, who created a role-playing game complete with set pieces and a website to engage his violin students. 

We are inspired and in awe of this inaugural class of “40 Under 40” educators.

** NOTE: We will start accepting nominations for the 2022 "40 Under 40" program in October 2021. Sign up for the Yamaha Educator Newsletter to stay informed. 

Christine Adelmann

Christine Adelmann

Band Director
Gompers Junior High School
Joliet, Illinois

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Javier Alcántara-Rojas

Javier Alcántara-Rojas

Director of GREAT Academy,
Director of Instrumental Music
Granite Hills High School
Apple Valley, California

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Jennifer Antonetti

Jennifer Antonetti

Instrumental Music Teacher
Topeka High School,
Robinson Middle School,
Meadows Elementary School
Topeka, Kansas

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David Bechard

David Bechard

Director of Instrumental Music
Wahlert Catholic High School
Dubuque, Iowa

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Jenn Bock

Jenn Bock

Assistant Band Director,
Marching Band Director
Highland High School
Gilbert, Arizona

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Erin Busch

Erin Busch

Executive Director
Young Women Composers
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Jacob Campos

Jacob Campos

Director of Bands
Franklin High School
Franklin, Tennessee

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Kevin Cooley

Kevin Cooley

High School Band, AP Music Theory and Digital Audio Production Instructor
Platteville High School
Platteville, Wisconsin

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Megan Cooney

Megan Cooney

Director of Athletic Bands,
Associate Director of Bands
St. Ambrose University
Davenport, Iowa

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Lydia Cox

Lydia Cox

Chorus and Digital Music Teacher
Crosby Middle School
Louisville, Kentucky

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Tiffany Cox

Tiffany Cox

Director of Bands
Lake Worth Community High School
Lake Worth Beach, Florida

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Christopher DiMassimo

Christopher DiMassimo

Assistant Director of Bands, Guitar Teacher
Rachel Carson Middle School
Herndon, Virginia

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Carmen Fields

Carmen Fields

Choir and General Music Teacher
Edgewood Middle School
Trenton, Ohio

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Michael Gamon

Michael Gamon

Fine and Performing Arts Chair,
Center for Creative Arts Director
Harrisburg Academy
Wormleysburg, Pennsylvania

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Willie Garfield

Willie Garfield

CEO
Garfield Institute of Music
Memphis, Tennessee

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Andrew Gibb-Clark

Andrew Gibb-Clark

Director of Choral Activities,
Fine Arts Department Chair
Highland High School
Highland, Illinois

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David Irish

David Irish

Director of Orchestras,
Associate Director of Concert Bands
Palo Verde High School
Las Vegas, Nevada

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Eric Jimenez

Eric Jimenez

Assistant Director of Bands
Prairie View A&M University
Prairie View, Texas

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Chris Kaflik

Chris Kaflik

Director of Bands
Brownsburg High School
Brownsburg, Indiana

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Jarrett Lipman

Jarrett Lipman

Director of Bands
Claudia Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson
High School
San Antonio, Texas

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Matthew Martindale

Matthew Martindale

Director of Bands
Shelby County High School and
Columbiana Middle School
Columbiana, Alabama

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David Matchim

David Matchim

Director of Bands
Centennial High School
Ellicott City, Maryland

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Matthew Moore

Matthew Moore

Associate Band Director,
Director of Percussion
V.R. Eaton High School
Haslet, Texas

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Steve Moreland

Steve Moreland

Director of Fine Arts
St. Michael's Catholic Academy
Austin, Texas

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Phil Nagy

Phil Nagy

Music Teacher
McVey Innovative Learning Center
(Part of Hilliard City Schools)
Hilliard, Ohio

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Becky Paschke

Becky Paschke

Instrumental Music Director
D'Evelyn Junior/Senior High School
Denver, Colorado

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Megan Sahely

Megan Sahely

Director of Orchestras
Leon High School and Raa Middle School
Tallahassee, Florida

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Doug Schaffer

Doug Schaffer

Director of Bands
Mark Twain Junior/Senior High School
Center, Missouri

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Jason Sleppy

Jason Sleppy

Band Director, Mason Middle School
Marching Band Director, Mason High School
Mason, Ohio

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Willie Snipes Jr.

Willie Snipes Jr.

Director of College Bands
Miles College
Fairfield, Alabama

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Don Stinson

Don Stinson

Director of Bands
Joliet Central High School
Joliet, Illinois

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Tyler Swick

Tyler Swick

Elementary Music Educator
Robert and Sandy Ellis Elementary School
Henderson, Nevada

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Brian Teed

Brian Teed

Director of Percussion,
Associate Director of Bands
Wakeland High School
Frisco, Texas

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Celina Velez

Celina Velez

Music Director
Cayuga Elementary School
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Giselle Vento Banda

Giselle Vento Banda

Pre-K-5th Music Specialist
Parkdale Elementary School
Waco, Texas

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Vincent Vicchiariello

Vincent Vicchiariello

Director of Bands
Nutley High School
Nutley, New Jersey

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E.J. Villanueva

E.J. Villanueva

TK-4th General Music,
5th-6th Instrumental Music Teacher
Orange Grove Elementary School
Anaheim, California

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Tim Walck

Tim Walck

Director of Music, Yearbook Advisor
Austin Area School District
Austin, Pennsylvania

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Aaron Zeilinger

Aaron Zeilinger

Director of Instrumental Music
Orange Lutheran High School
Orange, California

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Cory Zilisch

Cory Zilisch

Director of Orchestras
Westport Middle School
Louisville, Kentucky

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