Friday, February 09, 2001

3 N. Ky. music teachers honored

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Campbell County Middle School music teacher Todd Whitford cuts an imposing figure in his usual black clothing.

        But he's really not as stern as his wardrobe suggests. It's not unusual for the 46-year-old Alexandria man to sprint across a parking lot and give a bear hug or hearty handshake to a parent or band member he's spotted. He remembers the names and instruments of nearly every band member he has taught, years after they've graduated.

[photo] Ted Williams, band director at Campbell County High School, directs the school's symphonic band. Mr. Williams is known for devoting nights and weekends to help students.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        Mr. Whitford is one of three Northern Kentucky teachers honored by a teachers group and competing for the title of best music teacher in Kentucky. Today, the Kentucky Music Educators Association will select the best elementary, middle, high school and college music teachers at a music educators conference in Louisville.

        Campbell County had three nominees, including Mr. Whitford, named best out of 114 music teachers in eight counties in Northern Kentucky.

        “It's probably unique, and it speaks very highly of Campbell County Schools,” said Phyllis Vincent, the immediate past president of the Kentucky Music Educators Association, adding that she can't recall the last time more than one teacher won from one school district.

        In addition to Mr. Whitford, area winners include Ted Williams, at Campbell County High, and Tara Drummond at Grants Lick Elementary.

        “Most of the Teachers of the Year ... are active in community music programs, as well as in their schools,” said Jim Fern, executive secretary of the association.

        “They're also active in professional organizations, and they put forth that extra effort in their teaching. Their programs ... give every child the opportunity to take part in music education.”

        Mr. Williams is an award-winning band director known for giving his nights and weekends to help students. Chris Droge, a 17-year-old Campbell County High senior who plays clarinet, said Mr. Williams' “real world” analogies help students learn a new piece.

        “He can relate how to play a piece to something else like a hockey game,” Chris said.

        Mr. Williams, 56, has taught music to students from first grade to graduate school, received the 1995 Ashland Oil Teacher Achievement Award and was one of five Kentucky finalists for the NASA “Teacher in Space” program.

        Mr. Whitford has been with Campbell County Schools as a middle school music teacher and band director for 18 years, formerly was assistant director of the high school band, and he has led his students to a number of awards.

        Mrs. Drummond, 43, an 11-year veteran of Grants Lick Elementary's music department, is best known for getting elementary school students to love opera.

        In 1983 she helped start the school's Creating Original Opera project with the Metropolitan Opera Guild, using a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Now, Grants Lick's fourth- and fifth-graders devote the school year to writing an original opera, rehearsing it, building its sets and performing it.

        Children pick the stories. Past operas have dealt with homelessness, runaways and illegal drugs.

        “Music education and instruction in the arts (are) not fluff,” Mrs. Drummond said. “It's basic education to help form a well-rounded student.”

       Enquirer reporter Patrick Stack contributed to this story.

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