Phillips' diverse music program at Canal Winchester honored
Sure, Todd Phillips is the choir teacher at Canal Winchester High School.
And the steel drum ensemble director. And the guitar class teacher. And the music theory teacher. And director of the annual Madrigal Dinner.
And now he is a winner of a Columbus Symphony Orchestra Music Educator Award for 2013.
Phillips, the winner in the Secondary Education category, will receive the award at a March 3 event at the Westin Hotel and Southern Theatre.
Phillips' nomination was spearheaded by since-retired Canal Winchester Superintendent Kim Miller-Smith. She retired at the end of December.
"I didn't really think too much about it," Phillips said of the possibility of being selected. "I just come in and do what I do."
What he does is teach a wide array of music classes that reach a significant segment of the student population.
"Ours is still a mid-sized school, so I don't spend all day doing six or seven different choirs," Phillips said.
"The program at Canal Winchester is unlike most other districts, so the job I do is not similar to a lot of others."
Phillips said he knows many choral teachers in the area and he respects the work they do -- "They are making great music," he said. But he credited his district's past and present administration -- a 28-year teacher Phillips has been with Canal Winchester for 25 -- with "allow(ing) and encourage(ing) all of us on staff to be adventurous."
Phillips' school days, of course, include directing the choral ensembles, which have performed at state contests and been honored for the quality of their music making.
But the unique program Phillips and band director Chad McGee have crafted at CWHS means his day "is pretty diverse."
He said the guitar program currently involves about 60 students, "the vast majority of whom we wouldn't see otherwise, either in band or choir."
A guitarist himself, Phillips teaches basic skills but also jazz and blues fundamentals as well as soloing.
"The students gain a tool to express themselves and further their understanding of music," Phillips said.
The district's steel band program, one of only two such programs in central Ohio public school districts, also involves both traditional and non-traditional music students.
The ensembles perform both in and beyond the community, and have worked with many of the top artists including Andy Narell and Ray Holman.
"It's an inclusive program," Miller-Smith told The Times. "If there is a desire to participate, Todd involves them in a way they enjoy and they feel a part.
"And, we not only do unusual things but do them with high expectations and high quality."
The music theory class is not taught with a strictly traditional approach, either.
In addition to covering the building blocks of music, Phillips incorporates computer software including Finale, GarageBand and Audacity.
"Many of our students are interested in music careers, not just choral or instrumental performance, but in the music industry," Phillips said.
"(Phillips) doesn't have to do it that way," Miller-Smith said, "but through the creation of these programs he has been able to meet the needs of students."
"(Phillips) is dedicated and focused on making his students better," said CWHS principal Kirk Henderson.
"He loves what he does," Henderson said.
The Columbus Symphony Orchestra Music Educator Awards were designed to honor individuals who make a difference in the community through a dedication to music education, and who promote a greater understanding of and appreciation for music education.
The winners are selected based on the following criteria: making a lasting difference in the lives of students of all abilities and backgrounds; routinely going above and beyond the call of duty by extending efforts beyond the classroom; making a significant impact on the community through music education; inspiring students to reach appropriately high levels of musical understanding and ability; and demonstrating longevity in the field of music education by their many years of work.
Winners also receive a $2,500 grant to be spent in support of their school's program at their discretion.