Amanda Musser

TODA Orchestra Director of the Year - 2018

At Mandy’s request, we are dedicating her recognition as our 2018 ODY recipient to Jennifer Lemin, a student teacher with Mandy in Arlington ISD. Jennifer considered Mandy her close friend and mentor and organized Mandy’s nomination for the ODY Award. Mandy refers to Jennifer as “my sweet baby girl, my friend and colleague. We loved each other fiercely.” Sadly, Jennifer passed away from breast cancer March 28, 2017 at age 35.

After retiring from the Arlington ISD in 2009 after 34 years, Mandy continued her contributions as an orchestra director. She is undoubtedly one of the busiest people post-retirement! At Hill Elementary and Bailey Junior High, Mandy inspired many fellow teachers and countless students throughout her career. Her honors and awards include being named the 1995 TMEA Honor Orchestra; an invitation for her orchestra to perform in Washington, D.C. in 1997; Outstanding Orchestra recognition and Best in Class at numerous festivals; and UIL Sweepstakes for over 30 years. Mandy received her BME degree at Texas Christian University, and returned to her alma mater after retirement as an Instructor in String Music Education, supervising student teachers and teaching string techniques to non-string music majors. She is also the Director of the Junior Symphony Orchestra of the Youth Orchestra of Greater Fort Worth, and a part-time mentor for orchestra teachers in Arlington ISD. Mandy is an active adjudicator and clinician throughout the state, and a member of TMEA, TODA, TMAA and Mu Omicron.

Mandy states that all she ever wanted to be was a teacher, and her many letters of reference reflect this fact over and over. Emily De La Torre, a student teacher with Mandy in her last year at Bailey Junior High, calls Mandy a “true mentor, inspiring, personable, funny and passionate. On some of my toughest days as an orchestra director, I think back to her words, still inspiring after seven years. Mandy is a rare and true gift to the profession.” Ashley Johnson, a former Bailey JH orchestra student, was inspired to pursue a career as a middle school orchestra director due to Mandy’s influence. Mandy taught Ashley and four of her siblings, and Ashley credits her for “sparking my love for orchestra”, and “being a major influence far beyond my junior high days in the classroom.” She calls Mandy “a life-long learner and music educator.” One of Mandy’s students at TCU, Katie Richardson, expounds on Mandy’s contributions to string education. “She takes what could be a monotonous and difficult string techniques class to one where the students are smiling in class, excited to try new things, and ready to accomplish new skills on their instruments.” Mandy met Michael Stringer, colleague and fine arts coordinator for Arlington ISD, when he was a college dorm counselor for UTA Summer Strings, where Mandy taught for 30 years. Michael states that watching Mandy teach was like watching a “fish in water, so masterful in every word and comment given to her students, inspiring me to learn more so I could be that inspirational to my own students.”

Mandy is consistently described as an orchestra director with “a big heart, giving, inspiring and humble, with a great sense of humor, willing to share her knowledge with anyone.” Unanimously, from former students, current students, and colleagues, Mandy sets the bar high for herself as well as all of her students.  She is in every sense of the word a true master teacher, a music educator who has made, and continues to make, significant contributions to many, many lives. The orchestral profession would not be the same without her. We agree that there is no educator more deserving of this honor than Mandy Musser.  TODA proudly welcomes her into the ODY Family!