Celebration of Music Education

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates the contributions and achievements of Western New York’s music educators, administrators, and school music programs. Each year distinguished awards are presented at an evening of celebration at Kleinhans Music Hall. Music educators are invited to attend an exclusive live performance in honor and celebration of their dedicated hard work throughout the school year.

2024 Friends of the BPO Scholarship recipients
The above photo was taken at our 2024 reception.
2024 Yadzinski Scholarship for the Arts winner

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to recognize KeyBank with our 2024 Leadership in Music Education award. KeyBank and First Niagara Bank, which was acquired by KeyCorp in 2016, have had an impactful relationship with the BPO that amounts to a combined total of almost $3 million in lifetime giving. Their extraordinary support of our Education and Outreach programs through their support of our Next Generation Education Fund has allowed us to invest in the future generations of our community through indispensable music education programs that only enhance the classroom experience and create well-rounded citizens, especially in our local, Kleinhans neighborhood. Studies show that arts education has many positive effects on childhood development. Music, specifically, facilitates comprehension, fosters creativity, builds communication skills, and may lead to improved classroom performance and self-confidence in the long-term. This is important to KeyBank, and we are grateful that their support allows us to serve over 33,000 students annually.

Joseph L. Buckle has been teaching high school strings in Williamsville for the past thirty-two years. He began teaching in 1992 at all three Williamsville high schools and was conductor of the Williamsville District Orchestra. In 2002, due to size, that orchestra split into three individual high school ensembles and Mr. Buckle became the conductor and teacher at Williamsville North High School. In 2007, the Williamsville North High School Orchestra split into two ensembles due to growth. Currently at North, Mr. Buckle directs the Concert and Symphony Orchestras.

Mr. Buckle holds a Bachelors of Music Education from the University of Kansas and a Masters in Music Education from Indiana University, where he graduated with honors. In 2012, he spent a week at the Juilliard School of Music as a conducting fellow at their Conducting Workshop for music educators.

Mr. Buckle is currently the concertmaster of the Amherst Symphony Orchestra. At Williamsville North, he has directed the pit orchestra for the school musicals since 2005. Prior to that, he directed the pit orchestras at Williamsville East High School from 1994-2003. Mr. Buckle’s orchestras have performed at the NYSSMA Winter Conference four times and the MENC All-Eastern Division Conference in 1994.  He has achieved 26 Gold with Distinction ratings at the NYSSMA Instrumental Majors Festival. In addition, Mr. Buckle has hosted the NYSSMA Instrumental Majors at Williamsville North for the past twenty years.

During his tenure at Williamsville North, Mr. Buckle created the now-annual North/Casey/Heim orchestras Side by Side concert, collaborating with the Casey Middle and Heim Middle orchestras. He also created the popular Williamsville North Spartan Spectrum concert, an annual holiday themed concert featuring the entire North music department.

Professional memberships include ECMEA, NAfME, and NYSSMA. He has served on the ECMEA Board of Directors, the NYSSMA Conference All-State Selection Committee, has chaired the ECMEA All-County Sr. High Orchestra, and is a certified solo and Majors adjudicator for both NYSSMA and ECMEA.  Mr. Buckle resides in Clarence with his wife, Michelle, and has two grown children, Natalie and Nicholas, and a beautiful grandson, Aiden.

William Larrabee is in his thirty-first year as a music teacher at Alden High School where he currently teaches both instrumental and vocal ensembles, as well as Music Theory. During Bill’s time in Alden, the High School Band has traveled to music festivals in Chicago, Orlando, Washington, New York, Boston, and Virginia Beach where they have received outstanding and superior ratings. His extra-curricular commitments include directing the Pep Band, Jazz Ensemble, and the Pit Orchestra for over 30 musical theatre productions.

Bill has been a woodwind adjudicator for several county and NYSSMA festivals as well as chairing county and Area-All State ensembles. He is a former board member, Vice President, and President of the Erie County Music Educators Association. His other professional memberships include NYSSMA, NYSBDA and NAfME. Bill also performs regularly with the Erie County Wind Ensemble and Buffalo Wind Symphony.

A native of Niagara Falls, Bill earned his degrees from SUNY Fredonia and the University at Buffalo.  He lives in North Buffalo with his wife Elizabeth, an art teacher, and their two sons, Owen and Jacob.

Ms. Mary Kay Ortolano has been teaching instrumental music and theory at Frontier High School since 2002 and taught previously in the Gates Chili Central School District. Ms. Ortolano has been a guest conductor and has presented workshops and clinics on topics such as pedagogy for teaching double reeds and recruitment techniques for balanced instrumentation. Ms. Ortolano’s bands have been the recipients of several Gold with Distinction and Superior ratings at evaluation festivals. She earned her Bachelor and Masters degrees in Bassoon Performance from the Hartt School of Music and the New England Conservatory respectively. Ms. Ortolano’s New York State Public School Certification was completed at SUNY Fredonia.

Ms. Ortolano maintains a private double reed studio and has performed in ensembles such as the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Clarence Summer Orchestra, Southern Tier Symphony, the Erie County Music Educators Wind Ensemble, and the Hamburg Village Band. She is currently a member of the ECMEA Board as well as the chairperson for the ECMEA Scholarship Committee. She has been afforded the opportunity to travel during summers as staff with the band and chorus and orchestra of the American Music Abroad Empire Tour. Professional affiliations include Vice President of the Phi Beta Mu Chi Chapter, NYSSMA, ECMEA, NAfME and Musician’s local 92.

Ms. Ortolano resides in Clarence Center and is the proud mother of Air Force Band of the West musician, Rose MacKenzie. Rose is married to fellow Air Force Band member, Justis MacKenzie, and they reside in San Antonio, Texas with their 6-month-old baby, Miro.

Debbie Hutter graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo with a double major in music education and piano, and a minor in saxophone. She continued her education at the State University of New York at Buffalo, receiving her master’s degree in elementary education. She teaches 4th grade Elementary Band throughout the Lockport City School District and has been teaching in Lockport since 1992.

She has been the treasurer of the Niagara County Music Educators Association since 2001 and was the officer who was responsible for getting the Association non-profit status. She also recently had the Association’s insurance evaluated and worked through the process of getting comprehensive coverage for the Association.

She and her husband founded the Easy Street Big Band, in which she played piano for 11 years. Upon leaving the band, she became the accompanist for the Lock City Sound and the Lockport Chorale. Although she left the Lockport Chorale during Covid, she continues to accompany for the Lock City Sound, an all-male community chorus based in Lockport. In addition, she is the director of music at her church, responsible for directing the adult and children’s choir, and playing the organ and piano for weekly services. She has been seen in many local school and community theater pit orchestras, and occasionally accompanies students for all-state and college auditions.

She and her husband have been married for 36 years, and have one daughter and son-in-law, and one grandson.

Friends of the BPO Young Musicians’ Scholarship Awards

Honoring exceptionally musically talented high school seniors who are continuing their pursuit of music in college.

Marc Vredenburg is a senior at Williamsville South High School and has been studying cello under the mentorship of Feng Hew of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra since he was 5 years old. Marc also has nine years of experience in classical and jazz trumpet, serves as the jazz studies ambassador at Williamsville South, and performs in both the top band and orchestras. Marc has performed at prestigious events including NAfME All-Eastern Orchestra in 2023, NYSSMA All-State Orchestra in 2023 and 2024, and is a member of the Clarence Summer Orchestra. Marc is a recipient of the 2023 Orchard Park Symphony Scholarship and the 2024 ECMEA Scholarship.

He has studied at camps such as Interlochen, Eastman School of Music, Peabody Conservatory, and Cleveland Institute of Music. He plans to spend time this summer at Ascent Cello Camp at the Cincinnati Conservatory. Marc also performs in various chamber music settings such as Bravo Chamber Workshop, Buffalo Heartstrings, and with the Buffalo Choral Arts Society.

In addition to his musical achievements, Marc is a 3-sport scholar-athlete, captaining the lacrosse team and playing basketball and soccer, and is a member of the National Honor Society and Student Government. He plans to major in cello performance in college next year.

Matthew Russell, a senior at Lancaster High School, has been playing saxophone for 8 years and is currently studying privately with David Schiavonne. While alto saxophone is his main instrument, he also plays tenor saxophone in Lancaster High School’s Jazz Ensemble and baritone saxophone in the Lancaster Town Band. In 2023, he was the lead alto saxophone in Area All State, as well as 1st alto saxophone in the NYSSMA Conference All State Symphonic Band. This past year, he started a jazz trio called “Tea for Three” and has had the opportunity to play at different venues such as Salvatores, Buffalo’s Mohawk Place, and Fattey’s.

Outside of music he is also very involved in playing volleyball and currently serves as the team captain for the Lancaster High School Varsity team and was also awarded as an ECIC Division 1 All Star 1st team player. After high school he will be attending the University of North Texas to pursue saxophone performance.

Bassoonist Paul Wittmer is a senior at Williamsville South High School and studies privately with Glenn Einschlag, the Principal Bassoon of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Paul has performed in numerous honor ensembles including the All-Eastern Orchestra, All-State Orchestra, All-State Band, and dozens of Area All-State and All-County ensembles. Paul has been in the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra for four years and The American Legion Band of the Tonawandas for two years.

For the summer of 2023, Paul was awarded the Fredrick Fennell Scholarship to attend the Interlochen Arts Camp. He was Principal Bassoon of the World Youth Wind Symphony and was also awarded the Maddy Summer Artist Award for outstanding achievement in performance and citizenship. He also received the Orchestral Scholars Award for Interlochen Arts Camp for the summer of 2024, which is a full tuition scholarship for the orchestral program.

Paul plans to continue his studies at The Juilliard School, where he will be studying with world renowned bassoonist, William Short, the Principal Bassoon of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Yadzinski Scholarship for the Arts

For nearly sixty years, Edward I. Yadzinski devoted his career to the performing arts as a musician, composer, annotator, historian and educator with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and University at Buffalo. To build on this legacy, The Yadzinski Foundation established the Yadzinski Scholarship for the Arts in 2021, in partnership with the Friends of the BPO, to recognize a gifted high school senior in the Western New York region who has chosen to pursue music as a program of study at a university or college. The $2,500 award combines a $2,000 academic scholarship applied towards tuition and school expenses with an educational technology grant of $500 for computers, software or instruments.

Cade Wyles is a senior at Amherst Central High School. He studies cello with Nancy Anderson of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. For the past two seasons, he has been principal cellist of The Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra and has been consistently featured in NYSSMA’s Area-All State and ECMEA’s All County Orchestras.

At school, he has been president and principal cellist of Symphony, Sinfonia and Pit Orchestras. He has also performed as a solo cellist with The Buffalo Tango Orkestra and guest principal cellist of the Cheektowaga Community Symphony Orchestra. For the past five years Cade has been a volunteer teaching assistant at Buffalo String Works where he teaches stringed instruments to immigrant children. He also teaches private lessons where his students have achieved top scores at solo festivals. During the past two summers, Cade was an intern with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra where he worked on a program to expand their high school audience.

Cade has participated in the Bravo International Chamber Music Workshop where he worked with JoAnn Falletta, The Callisto Quartet and members of the Buffalo Philharmonic, Chautauqua Symphony, and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestras. He has also participated in solo masterclasses with the principal cellist of both the Boston Symphony, Blaise Déjardin, and the Cincinnati Symphony, Ilya Finkelshteyn, as well as international soloist, Alban Gerhardt.

Past Award Recipients

Click on the award name below to view past recipients.

2023  The Vincent and Harriet Palisano Foundation

2022  James Schwanz, Buffalo Public Schools

2021  All WNY Music Educators

2020  Jody Covington, Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, Buffalo Public Schools

2019  Daniel Lewis, Mary Lavin and Julie Flanagan, Amherst Central School District

2018  The Tower Family Fund

2017  The Montgomery Family Foundation

2016  NOCO and the Donald F. and Barbara L. Newman Foundation

2015  Harter Secrest & Emery LLP

2014  George and Bodil Gellman

2013  Time Warner Cable, Matthew Tremblay, Northeast Communications Specialist

2012  Allentown Villiage Society, Inc. Mary Myszkiewicz, President

2011  District Superintendents (Leadership Team) of Western New York BOCES

Donald Ogilvie, Erie 1 BOCES
Robert Guiffreda, Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES
Clark Godshall, Orleans/Niagara BOCES
Robert Olczak, Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES

2010  Dr. James A. Williams, Superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools

2023  Trevor Jelowski
2023  Alicia Struckmann
2023  Rudy Tichy
2023  Annelle VanNortwick

2022  Daniel DeAngelis

2021  Randy Czosnyka
2021  Betsy Gengo
2021  Ken Kowalski

2020  Charlene Brooks
2020  Cara Calabrese
2020  Craig Poissant

2019  George Kroetsch
2019  Lynne Ruda
2019  Louis Vitello

2018  John Blickwedehl
2018  Justin Pomietlarz
2018  Christine Reed

2017  James DesJardins
2017  Pim Liebmann
2017  Michael Robertson
2017  Andrea Runfola

2016  Eric Blodgett
2016  Chris Gawlak
2016  Doug Shaw

2015  John Iocco
2015  Donna Kerr
2015  Diane Sullivan

2014  Mark Flynn
2014  Wayne Moose
2014  Maureen Reilly
2014  Joe & Edie Clouse, J&E Instrument Service

2013  Keith Ersing
2013  Karen Robinson
2013  Walter and Pat Pidgeon

2012  Michael Conte
2012  Heather Holden
2012  Debra Komosinski

2011  Phil Aguglia
2011  John Hasselback
2011  Julie Furlong

2010  Alan Reed
2010  William Staebell

2009  Kristie Schlewitt
2009  Michael Shaw
2009  Dr. Roy Clare

2008  Chris Revett
2008  Evonne Michel
2008  Karen Williams

2007  Nora Murnane
2007  Richard Goss

2006  John Kryder
2006  Cristina Voto
2006  Timothy Gastle
2006  Marni Conte

2005  Dr. Maria Runfola
2005  Pamela Christie
2005  Norman Zogaib
2005  Craig Incontro

2004  Dr. Charles Stoddart
2004  Deborah Imiolo-Shriver
2004  Carolyn Lokken
2004  Martin Allen

2003  Gary Stith
2003  Joan Boissonnault
2003  Donald Carducci
2003  Cynthia Mayo

2002  Matthew Cool
2002  Michael Ried
2002  Vivian Johnston
2002  Barbara Wagner

2001  Dr. Joseph Casimino
2001  Nanci Bailey
2001  Ann Mosner
2001  Ronald Case
2001  Dr. Patricia Chiodo

2000  Kirstin Peltz
2000  Rosemary Dayton
2000  Stephen Shewan
2000  Mark & Cecilia Morette

1999  Teresa Ferraro
1999  David Cohen
1999  Terrence Gamble
1999  Dr. James Harris
1999  Cynthia Ripley

1998  Catherine Sutherland
1998  Steven Thomas
1998  Gary Lee
1998  John Maguda
1998  Eleanor Hoch

1997  Marsha Kushin
1997  John Fleischman
1997  Allan Ripley
1997  Betty Lou Cranston

1996  Nancy Seel
1996  Paul Kroll
1996  Sue Fay Allen
1996  Elizabeth Venator
1996  William Weikert

1995  Marie Sullivan
1995  Marcia Giambrone
1995  Clarke Elliott
1995  Al Hemer

2023  Judy Peterson, Newfane Central School District

2022  Megan Dray, Lockport City Schools

2021  Wallace Goodman, Niagara-Wheatfield & Wilson Central School Districts

2020  Kevin Duncan, Lewiston-Porter Central School District

2019  April Carere, North Tonawanda City School District

2018  Roger VanDette, Starpoint Central School District

2017  Eileen Brusino, Lockport City School District

2016  Linda Werder, Niagara Falls City School District

2015  Christine Riederer, Niagara Wheatfield Central School District

2014  Dean Vallas, North Tonawanda City School District

2013  Ken Fick, Niagara Wheatfield Central School District

2012  Paul Wos, Niagara Falls City School District

2011  Norman Alexander, North Tonawanda City Schools

2023  Annelyse Wilson, Williamsville East High School, oboe
2023  Jonathan Yi, Clarence High School, cello
2023  Rebekah Grande, Amherst Central High School, voice

2022  Charles Hibschweiler, Clarence High School, trombone
2022  Paul LaGreca, Lockport High School, alto saxophone
2022  Jackson Kelly, Amherst Central High School, voice

2021  Morgan Chalmers, Clarence High School, French horn
2021  Aubrey Gerhardt, Iroquois High School, clarinet
2021  Madelyn Stoklosa, Interlochen Arts Academy & Frontier Central High School, trombone

2020  Ben Mekinulov, Amherst Central High School, cello
2020  Stephanie Magera, Clarence High School, tuba
2020  Leah Streety, Iroquois High School, violin

2019  Alexander Neubert, Kenmore East High School, bassoon
2019  Matthew Cone, Williamsville East High School, violin
2019  Liam McManus, Lancaster High School, percussion

2018  Mia Fasanello, Clarence High School, oboe
2018  Frank Wendelin, Williamsville South High School, guitar
2018  Adam Kluge, Williamsville East High School, voice

2017  Jarod Yap, Clarence High School, piano
2017  Christophe Koenig, East Aurora High School, violin
2017  Drew Cone, Williamsville East High School, cello

2016  James Featherstone, Amherst Central High School, piano
2016  Madeline Ferguson, Williamsville East High School, clarinet
2016  Sarah Troeller, Clarence High School, cello

2015  Grace Ann Lee, Williamsville East High School, cello
2015  Lauren Scanio, Clarence High School, flute
2015  Angel Rhodes, Orchard Park High School, violin

2014  Duo Xu, Williamsville East High School, piano
2014  Teagan Faran, Williamsville East High School, violin
2014  Alexander Cousins, Grand Island High School, cello

2013  Cindy Q. Xue, Williamsville East High School, violin
2013  Aaron Schuman, Kenmore West High School, trumpet
2013  Joseph Desotelle, Williamsville East High School, percussion/marimba

2012  Leonard Ranallo, Sweet Home High School, classical guitar
2012  Audrey Yu, Williamsville East High School, oboe
2012  Anneliese Feist, Frontier Central High School, euphonium

2011  Anne Barr, Hamburg High School, voice
2011  Nicole Elizabeth Murray, West Seneca East Senior High School, flute
2011  Donal Sheets, Orchard Park High School, cello

2010  Joseph Mohan, Clarence High School, piano
2010  Joseph Isom, Williamsville East High School, cello
2010  Jilene VanOpdorp, Williamsville South High School, flute

2009  Joseph LoCicero, Christian Central Academy, viola
2009  Jay Louis Dref, Buffalo Academy for Visual & Performing Arts, voice
2009  Bradley Whitney, East Aurora High School, clarinet

2008  Michael Zuber, Frontier High School, bassoon
2008  Hilary Lee, Home School, piano
2008  Alina Jeon, Williamsville East High School, oboe

2007  Ana Lia Vafai, Buffalo City Honors, violin
2007  Lara Somogyi, Orchard Park High School, harp

2006 Lauren Yu, Williamsville East High School, bassoon
2006  Christopher Rogerson, Amherst High School, cello

2005  Jennifer Christen, Frontier High School, oboe
2005  Stephen C. Price, Buffalo Academy for Visual & Performing Arts, pipe organ

2004  Erica Snowden-Rodriguez, Clarence High School, cello
2004  Christopher Ziemba, Williamsville East High School, piano

2003  Justin Gopol, Williamsville North High School, violin
2003  Juliette Jones, Amherst High School, violin

2002  Lauren Zang-Eastlack, Clarence High School, violin

2001  Maureen Pohlman, Clarence High School, violin

2000  Sabatino Scirri, Clarence High School, flute
2000  Gregory Stass, Amherst High School, double bass

2023 Vincent Conlon, Lancaster High School, harp/voice

2022  Aidan Carney, Lancaster High School, tuba

2021  Aubrey Gerhardt, Iroquois High School, clarinet