Each year, the PYO Music Institute’s Ovation Award recognizes outstanding music teachers in the Delaware Valley region. J.W. Pepper is proud to sponsor the award alongside nationally renowned piano dealer Jacobs Music and prominent classical and jazz radio station WRTI 90.1 FM, both headquartered in Philadelphia.
Current and former students are asked to nominate their music teachers for the Ovation Award by submitting a short essay on the subject “How my music teacher has changed my life.” These nominations celebrate teachers who not only share knowledge, but also help build character and self-confidence in students: essential qualities that will help them to become the leaders of tomorrow.
10 Ovation Award finalists will receive honorariums from J.W. Pepper and the PYO Music Institute to support their work as well as a plaque provided by Jacobs Music. This year’s finalists are:
Congratulations to each of these very impressive music teachers, and many thanks to the students who submitted nominations!
The 2022 Ovation Award Goes to Mr. Sergei Nuissl
This year’s Ovation Award, the first to be presented posthumously, honors the memory of Sergei Nuissl. Mr. Nuissl was a musician and educator who touched the lives of many. He taught in several schools as part of the Philadelphia School District Music Department, offered private lessons, and was involved in summer camp programs. Sergei Nuissl was a musician’s musician: he performed regularly in the Reading and Kennett Square Symphony Orchestras as well as various trios and quartets. Most importantly, he shared his passion for music with his students.
PYO Music Institute President, CEO, and Music Director Louis Scaglione presented the Ovation Award to Mr. Nuissl’s wife, Li-Ping Chao Nuissl, on the rooftop of Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia’s Spring Garden neighborhood. Sergei Nuissl taught at Masterman for many years, and his family has dedicated a bench to the school in his memory. The bench’s inscription features one of Mr. Nuissl’s favorite quotations, Psalm 150:4: “Praise Him with the tambourine and dancing, praise Him with the strings and flute.”
Maestro Scaglione and Mrs. Nuissl took the opportunity to discuss Sergei’s passion for his students, his music, and his family. Moving tributes from his award nominations demonstrate the meaningful impact that he made on his students:
“Because of Mr. Nuissl, I realized I loved the violin, and music has become an important part of my life. Mr. Nuissl was fun; he could crack a joke about anything. He made me feel confident.”
“Love for teaching always shined through. He was very talented at the violin and his students always looked up to him.”
“Being his student and having the opportunity to be in his classroom gave me hope that one day, I could be a great violinist like him.”
Mrs. Nuissl offered a unique perspective on her late husband’s devotion to his craft. “Music—especially classical music—was Sergei’s whole life,” she shared. “Sergei did a research paper in college on Mozart’s music, and the conclusion of his paper was that he believed in having kids listen to and learn classical music at an early age. It helps them to be calmer and more focused; improves their ability to communicate; helps them learn to read; and reduces aggressive behavior, anxiety, and stress. Sergei loved to teach music and improve young peoples’ lives.”
In Their Own Words
“Mr. Nuissl was a great teacher,” said Cyrano Rosentrator, a student at Masterman. “[He was] a great mentor [who] included humor and love in all of his lessons, and I truly appreciated him for that. He encouraged so many young musicians to pick up an instrument, start playing, and love it.”
A second student, Josie Chrismer, appeared wearing one of Mr. Nuissl’s ties. “Mrs. Nuissl brought [the ties] in for the kids if they wanted to wear them, so I chose this one,” she explained. Josie went on to tell us that, in her opinion, Mr. Nuissl always did what was best for his students.
Frank Machos, the School District of Philadelphia’s Executive Director for the Office of the Arts and Creative Learning, expressed his admiration:
“Sergei is the perfect recipient for the Ovation Award. He is a teacher that led by example. He was a model for all of his colleagues…He very quickly established himself as somebody that teachers could look to for how to inspire kids, raise their musical level, and think outside of the box in terms of taking nontraditional approaches to music education.”
“Jacobs Music works with music educators every day,” said Chris Rinaldi, President of Jacobs Music. “We see firsthand the positive impact that music education has, not only in terms of advancing your music studies, but in your personal being.”
Kevin Gordon and Bill Johnson, WRTI’s classical host and general manager, see the Ovation Award as directly related to the radio station’s mission of championing music as a vital cultural resource. “WRTI is connected to the education community, the entertainment community, and—more broadly—we’re connected to the cultural community. Education is a huge part of the cultural community,” said Johnson.
Lee Paynter, Chief Operating Officer of J.W. Pepper, serves on the board of PYO Music Institute. “J.W. Pepper distributes group performance music and related materials to schools and institutions all over the United States and the world,” he explained. “A great many [J.W. Pepper employees] are former or aspiring music educators, so PYO’s mission is dear to our hearts.”
The Ovation Award is a unique opportunity to recognize the special place that music educators have in students’ lives. Each year, as we partner with the Institute, we are reminded of our shared commitment to music teachers and students. Each of the Award’s finalists and winners have inspired students throughout the years to cultivate a passion for music, which they will carry throughout their lives.