MTNA Awards

MTNA annually presents several awards, which recognize excellence in music teaching, research and other significant contributions to music education. Those awarded to UMTA members are shown below. Past Foundation Fellow winners are found in the UMTA Archives.

2023-24 MTNA Foundation Fellow
Laurisa Ward Cope, NCTM

Laurisa Ward Cope, NCTM was born in Provo, Utah to Larry and Mary Ward, the first of their nine children. Laurisa’s life has been deeply influenced by her music teachers, beginning with her mother, who was her first informal teacher. From her first official teacher, Sharon Seiter, in Heber, Utah she learned the love of music. Judy Lee (Charles) inspired her by opening Laurisa’s vision of musical happenings outside of the small valley of Heber. From her middle school and high school teacher, Brad Thompson, she learned the importance of prioritizing and using every minute wisely as well as being introduced to how to really listen. She also learned creativity and hard work from her high school jazz teacher, Steve Erickson, pianist with the Airmen of Note for many years. Laurisa received her BM and MM in Piano Performance from BYU. While at BYU, she had the privilege to study classically with Dr. Irene Peery-Fox and Robert Smith, and jazz with Dr. Ray Smith, Dr. Steve Call, Craig Larson, and Dan Waldis, learning life-changing lessons too numerous to list. Her BYU experience gave her the joy of creating music in many different classical, jazz, and musical theater settings, including a concerto performance with the BYU Philharmonic and a tour of Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and France with Synthesis.

After graduation, Laurisa was appointed as Assistant Director of the Weber State Piano Preparatory Program, where she has been learning from master teacher Dr. Yu-Jane Yang for over 20 years. As an adjunct faculty member, she also had the opportunity to teach piano majors and minors, who have become outstanding teachers and leaders. While at Weber State, she was set up on a blind date with her future husband by one of the WSU piano students. She served as UMTA President from 2018-2020 and continues to be taught by the amazing teachers in Utah! She is married to Eldon Cope and they have four children: Kjerstin, Robert, Maryanne, and William.


2022-23 MTNA Foundation Fellow
Dr. Kevin Olson

DR. KEVIN OLSON is an active pianist, composer, and professor of piano at Utah State University, where he has taught courses in piano literature, pedagogy, accompanying, music theory, improvisation, commercial composition, and rock & roll history, among others.

In addition to his collegiate teaching responsibilities, Dr. Olson coordinates the keyboard studies program at Utah State, and oversees the USU Youth Conservatory, which provides weekly piano instruction to over 150 pre-college community students.
Dr. Olson has been a Composer in Residence at the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, and has written music commissioned and performed by groups such as the Five Browns, Music Teachers National Association, American Piano Quartet, Chicago a cappella, the Rich Matteson Jazz Festival, American Grands, the Festival for Creative Pianists, the American Festival Chorus & Orchestra, and numerous piano teacher associations around the country. He gives workshops and performances nationally and internationally, most recently in India, China, Canada, Great Britain, and Italy.

Kevin maintains a large piano studio, teaching students of a variety of ages and abilities. Many of the needs of his own piano students have inspired over 200 published books and solos, written in a variety of levels and styles. For more information, visit


2023 Stecher & Horowitz Power of Innovation Award
Joshua Wright

MTNA-Stecher & Horowitz Power of Innovation Award is provided through the generosity of its benefactors and namesakes, Melvin Stecher and Norman Horowitz, whose own life and work epitomized the power of innovation.

Joshua Wright’s work in the field of online music teaching and performance has reached over 175,000 subscribers and nearly 20 million views. Josh has created numerous online video courses to help students of all ages and abilities improve their technique and musicality. With his wife, Lindsey Wright, and the AMAR Foundation, he authored an online beginner piano course for refugees in a camp located in northern Iraq, displaced from their homes due to war and terrorism. With the help of generous donors, over 200 digital pianos were delivered to these camps and two semesters of piano classes were taught to children wanting to learn music.

Josh earned a DMA degree from the University of Michigan and MM and BM degrees from the University of Utah. His principal teachers were. Logan Skelton and Susan Duehlmeier. He has also studied privately with concert pianist, Sergei Babayan. Josh served on the piano faculty at the University of Utah from 2016–2021.

Josh was a prizewinner at the 2015 National Chopin Competition, also winning the Mazurka prize. He won third prize and the audience prize at the 2014 Washington International Piano Competition, first prize at the 2013 Heida Hermanns International Piano Competition, first prize at the 2013 Rosamond P. Haeberle Piano Award competition, the gold medal at the 2010 Seattle International Piano Competition, and first prize at the 2010 American Protége International Competition of Romantic Music. He was the second-prize winner of the 2011 Music Teachers National Association National Competition. He was also a top prizewinner in the New York Piano Competition, the Louisiana International Piano Competition and the Julia Crane International Piano Competition.


2023 MTNA Collegiate Chapter of the Year
Utah State University

Chapter President: Audry Ricks, Advisers: Kevin Olsen and Cahill Smith

The MTNA Collegiate Chapter of the Year Award is given to the MTNA Collegiate Chapter that demonstrates excellence in its chapter activities.

The Utah State University piano program has a vibrant MTNA collegiate chapter, consisting of nearly 30 piano majors and minors. It has been recognized as the Utah Music Teacher Association Collegiate Chapter of the Year three of the past four years (2019, 2020, 2022), due to its active engagement in UMTA conferences and other events. The chapter integrates UMTA events and other activities through the USU Youth Conservatory, a lab school where more than 150 pre-college pianists receive lessons and group classes, taught by the college students.

While the chapter has a long list of ongoing activities, among their newest projects are the Gina Bachauer “Music in Our Schools,” program which are contracted performances by chapter members and faculty at Utah K-12 Schools, educational concerts for around 3,000 students, age K-6 (and counting!) and “Piano and Strings Chamber Music,” which is the first curricular piano and strings collaboration at USU.


2021 – 2022 MTNA MarySue Harris Studio Teacher Fellowship

DR. DESIREÉ GONZÁLEZ-MILLER, NCTM was awarded the MarySue Harris Studio Teacher Fellowship. This award is a $3,000 fellowship, funded by the MarySue Harris Endowment. It is designed to assist a music teacher with establishing, developing and enhancing their studio.

Desireé González-Miller holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brigham Young University and a DMA degree from the University of Utah. Desireé has served on the BYU piano faculty as a visiting assistant professor of piano. While there, she served as pianist for the Sundance Trio. She maintains an active schedule maintaining a private studio, coordinating the U Piano Outreach Program, and as an associate instructor at the preparatory division at the University of Utah. She received the Reid Nibley Scholar award twice while studying at Brigham Young University (BYU).

In 2014, she was given the Student Teacher of the Year Award by the Utah Music Teachers’ Association, and the following year, she won the Janet Mann Teaching Excellence Award at the University of Utah.

Desireé served as the BYU Collegiate Chapter president and was a member of the 2015 MTNA National Conference Planning committee. She served on the planning committee for the 2015–2017 MTNA Collegiate Chapters Piano Pedagogy Symposiums and she is a current member of the MTNA Nominating committee.



2020 – 2021 MTNA Teacher of the Year

Dr. Yu-Jane Yang is a Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor, Endowed Scholar/Artist of the College of Arts & Humanities, and the Director of Keyboard Studies at Weber State University in Utah. Yu-Jane feels extremely privileged being selected as the national recipient of the 2020 MTNA Teacher of the Year, and being named as an MTNA Foundation Fellow in 2011. She served on the State Board of the Utah Music Teachers Association for more than twenty years, including serving as the UMTA State President, State Competition Chair, State Conference Chair, and State Collegiate Faculty Chair. Yu-Jane also served as a co-chair of the Collegiate Pedagogy Teaching Committee and the Internship Committee of the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy from 2007 to 2018. She was recognized with an Outstanding Service Award in 2019 by NCKP, and was bestowed with the prestigious honor of UMTA’s Legacy Award in 2010 for her exceptional teaching, outstanding professional achievements, and superior service to the music profession.

Much in demand as a presenter, performer, and master class teacher, Yu-Jane has given numerous piano workshops, master classes, and concert performances in Austria, Poland, Norway, Spain, Italy, Germany, Singapore, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Canada, and the United States. She also appears frequently as an adjudicator for piano competitions nationally and internationally, including judging the MTNA National Finals of the Senior Piano Duets Competition, MTNA Southwest Division Piano Competitions, and Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition preliminary auditions.

Yu-Jane’s piano students have been top prizewinners in both collegiate and pre-college divisions in numerous state, national, and international piano competitions, including the national first place winner of the 2010 MTNA Steinway Young Artist Collegiate Piano Competition, and the 2020 Gilmore Young Artist Award winner. Her WSU Pedagogy students have also won state and national recognition for their outstanding teaching, including seven state winners of the UMTA Collegiate Student Teacher of the Year, one national winner of the MTNA Studio Teaching Fellowship, and four-time national winners of the MTNA Collegiate Chapter of the Year.


Sandra Preysz Endowment Fund

The Music Teachers National Association has an established endowment program to honor prestigious music teachers throughout the United States. The Sandra Preysz Endowment Fund was created in 2018-19 to honor Sandra Preysz by her friends and family, current and former students, and music colleagues.

As a member of the Utah Music Teachers Association State Board for more than 39 years, Sandra Lewis Preysz, NCTM, has served in various capacities including Membership Chair and State Newsletter editor. She is equally devoted to the National Federation of Music Clubs and Utah Federation of Music Clubs and serves as the Festivals Chair for both organizations. Sandra attended the University of Utah where she graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in English. She currently teaches more than 75 students. In her free time, Sandra loves to read, sail, ski, play tennis, cook, and travel the world. Sandra’s life-long dedication to her students and her profession is unprecedented. The legacy she has left can be found in the countless lives she has influenced throughout her lifetime.

MTNA Note: These endowments support MTNA programs, grants and awards. Contributors to MTNA may direct their donation to a specific endowment, thus increasing its value and earning power. There are 32 named endowment funds. Several of these funds are directed to the support of the teacher enrichment grant program, while others provide funds for local association grants, competition awards and other MTNA programs.


2019 MTNA State Affiliate of the Year Utah Music Teachers Association (UMTA)
Laurisa Cope, NCTM -State President

The Utah Music Teachers Association uses four words or phrases to describe its members. The first is Unselfish. They give their time and talents not only to their own students and studios, but to the communities in which they live, and to make UMTA the best organization it can be. The second is Teacher Education and Communication. UMTA works tirelessly to update their website, Nationally Certify its members, execute an unparalleled conference, push their Achievement in Music Program, pursue ways to get to know and involve the collegiate members, and collaborate with local associations. The third is Achievement. From 2017-2018, UMTA had 77 students participate in the performance competitions, with student winners coming from 19 different teachers. They had 5 students participate in the composition competitions, with student winners coming from 5 different teachers. Finally, History! Utahans are known for their desire to keep a history of their roots. UMTA has a strong history that spans over 60 years. They have a a history of exceptional and distinctive teaching at all levels, including 33 MTNA Performance Competition 1st place winners, four Collegiate Chapter of the Year winners and two Studio Teacher Fellowship winners. Every member of UMTA contributes to its wonderful history and incredible future!