It wasn’t until he was named one of five finalists for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra’s Music Educator of the Year Award that Brice Henry even knew he was nominated.
He was content and happy as the Director of Choirs at West Liberty-Salem Local School District, and to be mentioned as an educator of the year candidate was a nice accolade in itself. Learning he was selected as the 10th recipient of the annual honor hit the right note.
“It’s a huge honor, quite humbling at such a young age,” said Henry, in his fifth year at WLS. “I feel like I’m still new to this, but it means I must be doing something right.”
Henry will be presented the award at the Symphony’s next concert on Saturday at the Clark State Performing Arts Center.
The Music Educator of the Year Award drew a large number of nominations from Clark, Champaign, Greene, Madison, Miami and Montgomery counties. Rising to the top of the list were Henry, Tami Frost of E.G. Shaw Elementary School, David Sapp of Urbana High School, Michele Slone of Urbana Elementary School and Nicholas Mitchell of Northwestern Local Schools.
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“A classroom visit to see him at work with his students unanimously sealed the decision for Brice,” said Axl Pons, Symphony Outreach and Education Manager. “All our finalists made this a truly difficult decision to make as they each brought a wonderful amount of energy, personality and intelligence to their teaching. The Springfield Symphony Orchestra is incredibly grateful for their contributions as leading music educators in our community.”
Henry, a 2011 Bellefontaine High School graduate, teaches a variety of music formats to first through third grades and 7-12. He’s also assistant marching band director, director of a new show choir and co-director of the spring musical production at West Liberty-Salem High School.
While that’s a lot of musical involvement, his dedication to the students goes beyond their musicianship.
“My teaching philosophy is to reach the students and make each equally important,” said Henry. “I like to establish a personal relationship, what their grades are like, the sports they’re in, their interests. I think knowing all these leads to them becoming better performers.”
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Word of Henry’s honor sent a lot of buzz throughout the West Liberty-Salem schools this week and has boosted morale, he said.
He hopes this honor may help in potentially earning a master’s degree, starting an auditioned choir to travel, perform and compete in the area and raise the profile of the arts in schools.
“This can act as proof the arts are noticed, that they are needed and good things can come out of them,” Henry said.
In turn, he thanks all of his music teachers from kindergarten on up who were his inspiration and he still maintains friendships with. And Henry can see himself in that role one day.
“I’ve already had several students go into the music world and they can always contact me,” he said.
Tickets are available for Saturday’s concert with special guest classical pop crossover trio Take3. There will also be an after-party event at Mother Stewart’s Brewing Co. after the concert.
Tickets can be purchased at the Performing Arts Center or online at www.springfieldsym.org.