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2023 Yamaha “40 Under 40” — Excellence in Music Education

Yamaha launched the “40 Under 40” music education advocacy program in 2021 to celebrate and recognize outstanding music educators who are making a difference by growing and strengthening their music programs. Now, we celebrate the 2023 group of remarkable educators who triumphed before, during and after the pandemic to keep their programs thriving.  

These 40 educators — all under the age of 40 — showcase the following characteristics: action (offer innovation and imagination solutions in achieving plans and objectives), 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). 

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We received hundreds of nominations from students, parents, other teachers and administrators, local instrument dealers and mentors. The selected “40 Under 40” educators have gone above and beyond to elevate music and music-making in their students’ lives — like Gabriella Burdette, who embraces the Afrocentric and gender-specific curriculum at Grace James Academy of Excellence; Rob Chilton, who created a music theory video series that makes reading music fun;  Jasmine M.T. Fripp, who weaves history, culture and issues of social justice into her general music program; Kylie Griffin, who is keeping the music, culture and language of south Louisiana alive in her classroom; and James Sepulvado, who has helped to create a premier summer camp that attracts top music students and musicians/clinicians, as well as a new professional development workshop for music educators.

All the “40 Under 40” educators have remarkable stories behind their teaching philosophies and methods. You’ll be inspired by all of them. 

Join us in applauding the 2023 class of “40 Under 40” educators.

Meet the 2024 “40 Under 40” Educators

Meet the 2022 “40 Under 40” Educators

Meet the 2021 “40 Under 40” Educators

2023 "40 Under 40" Educator John Aguilar

John Aguilar

Director of Bands
Robert Eagle Staff Middle School
Seattle, Washington
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Emily Williams Burch

Dr. Emily Williams Burch

Coordinator of Music Education,
Professor of Music
University of South Carolina Aiken
Aiken, South Carolina
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Gabriella Burdette

Gabriella Burdette

Orchestra Director
Grace M. James Academy of Excellence
Louisville, Kentucky
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Logan Burnside

Logan Burnside

Band Director
Jordan High School
Jordan, Minnesota
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Rob Chilton

Rob Chilton

Readymade Music Literacy
Frisco, Texas
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Leah Claiborne

Dr. Leah N. Claiborne

Associate Professor of Piano
University of the District of Columbia
Washington, D.C.
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator David Davis

David Davis

Music Teacher
Park Spanish Immersion Elementary School
St. Louis Park, Minnesota
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Brandon Duras

Brandon J. Duras

Director of Instrumental Music
Brunswick High School
Brunswick, Maine
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Jasmine Fripp

Jasmine M. T. Fripp

Director of Choral Activities and General Music
KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School
Nashville, Tennessee
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Dr. Derek Ganong

Dr. Derek Ganong

Assistant Professor of Trumpet,
Director of Jazz
Boise State University
Boise, Idaho
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Andres Gonzalez

Andrés González

Music Director
Play on Philly
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Corey Graves

Corey L. Graves

Director of Bands
Tony A. Jackson Middle School
Forney, Texas
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Kylie Griffin

Kylie Griffin

Elementary Music Teacher
Dozier Elementary School
Erath, Louisiana
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Matt Gullickson

Matt Gullickson

Band Director
Eastview High School
Apple Valley, Minnesota
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Lisa Hatfield

Lisa Hatfield

5th-grade band and orchestra teacher
Batavia Elementary Schools
Batavia, Illinois
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Dr. Joseph Jefferson

Dr. Joseph L. Jefferson

Director of Jazz Studies,
Associate Professor of Trombone and Euphonium
Southeast Missouri State University
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Larry Jenkins

Professor Larry Jenkins

Professor, Assistant Director of Bands
Tennessee State University
Nashville, Tennessee
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Johanna Kitchell

Johanna M. Kitchell

Orchestra Director
Riverside Junior High School,
Riverside Intermediate School
Fishers, Indiana
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Paul Lowry

Paul Lowry

Director of Bands, Percussion and Jazz Studies
Department Chair, Performing Arts
Del Sol Academy of the Performing Arts
Las Vegas, Nevada
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Nerissa Manela

Nerissa Manela

PhD Student, Teaching Assistant
University of Miami
Coral Gables, Florida
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Emily Meyerson

Emily Meyerson

K-12 Music and Drama Educator
North Baltimore Local Schools
North Baltimore, Ohio
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator William Oliver

Dr. William Oliver

Director of University Bands, Assistant Professor of Music Education
Huston-Tillotson University
Austin, Texas
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Noelle Rader

Noelle Rader

Orchestra Teacher
Mendive Middle School
Sparks, Nevada
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Caleb Schepart

Caleb Schepart

Music Teacher
Dr. Kenneth B. Clark Academy
Dobbs Ferry, New York
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator James Sepulvado

James Sepulvado

Performing Arts Department Chair,
Associate Professor of Music
Cuyamaca College
Rancho San Diego, California
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Dr. Timothy Sexton

Dr. Timothy S. Sexton

Associate Director of Bands
Tarpon Springs Leadership Conservatory for the Arts
Tarpon Springs, Florida
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Dylan Sims

Dylan Sims

Associate Director of Bands
Gold Hill Middle School
Fort Mill, South Carolina
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Marcus Smith

Marcus D. Smith

Choral Director, Music Educator
Baltimore City College
Baltimore, Maryland
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Taylor Spakes

Taylor Spakes

Director of Performing Arts
West Rowan Middle School
Salisbury, North Carolina
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Theodore Thorpe III

Theodore Thorpe III

Director of Choral Activities
Alexandria City High School
Alexandria, Virginia
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Jabari Tovar

Jabari Tovar

Instrumental Music Teacher,
Percussion Specialist
Salem Public Schools
Salem, Massachusetts
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Trevor Tran

Trevor Tran

Head of Performing Arts,
Director of Vocal Arts
Fort Myers High School
Fort Myers, Florida
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Miriam Vazquez

Miriam L. Vazquez

Music Teacher
Duane D. Keller Middle School
Las Vegas, Nevada
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Nicole Wakabayashi

Nicole Wakabayashi

Director of Music and Drama
Notre Dame School of Manhattan
New York, New York
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Sara Weir

Sara Weir

Music Teacher
Park View Middle School
Cranston, Rhode Island
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Greg White

Greg White

Director of Bands
Ronald Reagan High School
San Antonio, Texas
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Tyler Wigglesworth

Tyler Wigglesworth

Choir Director, Performing Arts Academy Coordinator, Vocal Music Director
West Covina High School
West Covina, California
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Jeremy Williams

Jeremy Williams

Band Director
L.H. Marrero Middle School
Marrero, Louisiana
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Franklin Willis

Franklin J. Willis

Adjunct Professor of Music Education
Vanderbilt University, Blair School of Music,
Community Impact Director
CMA Foundation
Nashville, Tennessee
2023 "40 Under 40" Educator Susan Wines

Susan Wines

Orchestra Director
Wade Hampton High School
Greenville, South Carolina