UMTA Awards

Each year we have the opportunity to celebrate the hard work, creativity, dedication, and years of service given by members of UMTA. These awards are given yearly at the UMTA State Conference as we honor each individual or group of individuals. Congratulations to this year’s winners!


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.


Lisa Flinders has been a music teacher for 25 years. In 2017 she decided to join UMTA and immediately started to reshape and refine her teaching. One year later during a monthly meeting with the Nebo chapter, she was prompted to start taking piano lessons. The guest speaker was Sharalyn Heath whose topic was “Terrific Technic From the Start.” Lisa felt as if this was an area she needed to improve in and at the end of the meeting she asked Sharalyn if she would be willing to accept her as a student. During her first lesson, the AIM program was introduced to her and she immediately recognized that this program would help her students be well-rounded musicians and give them the skills they needed to participate in and enjoy music throughout their lives. Outside of teaching piano, Lisa is the AIM chair for the Nebo chapter, is a choir conductor, a professional accompanist, and an occasional guitar player and vocalist. Lisa and her husband, Scott, are the parents of 3 sons and 3 daughters and are the grandparents of 2 grandchildren.


Pianist Christian Bohnenstengel feels equally at home in a wide range of musical genres.

Christian just performed the Carnival of the Animals with the Orchestra of Southern Utah for their Children’s Jubilee concert (an afternoon outreach concert with many activities for kids such as an instrument petting zoo; the other pianist was one of his college students). He also provides and plays the harpsichord for the annual Messiah performances of the Orchestra of Southern Utah.

A couple of former students and Christian planned and performed in a benefit concert for Allies2Refugees this past spring in the 900 seat Heritage Center Theater. Last spring, Christian also took their piano ensemble to perform at the Saint George Tabernacle.

Dr. Nancy Allred from Utah Tech University and Christian have been organizing and hosting the annual Southern Utah Piano Pedagogy Conference (alternately at Utah Tech and Southern Utah University). Their goal has been to offer the “conference experience” to local teachers who are otherwise not able to travel to major conferences.

Christian regularly performs for the Cedar City Art Walks during the summer and frequently provides jazz music for show openings and other special events at local art galleries. These are all service activities and free of charge.

Praised as “a master of contrasts” (Aalener Nachrichten) and for his ability to “put the audience into a state of sheer awe” (Gmünder Tagespost), Christian’s performances have taken him all over the United States, to South America, Asia, and to Europe. Christian is a founding member of Southern Utah University’s faculty jazz combo Kind of Blue, and he frequently performs with different jazz ensembles and combos.

Christian has performed on public radio, and he has presented at state, regional, national and international conferences. David DeBoer Canfield (Fanfare Magazine) remarked about his Albany Records CD Set No Limits with clarinetist Dr. Jessica Lindsey that the “piano parts are superbly rendered by Christian Bohnenstengel, whose artistry also greatly impresses me.” His latest recordings are Jazz Hands II with the Shawn Owens Project Trio and Southern Utah Jazz Collective.

Christian has been Director of Keyboard Studies at Southern Utah University since 2011. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Missouri Western State University, and he earned Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Christian founded the MTNA collegiate chapter at SUU, and he served as chair for collegiate programs on the UMTA state board.


Rosemary Nelson Olsen, NCTM was born in Portland, Oregon and attended BYU, receiving an associate degree in Piano Technology, and qualifying as a craftsman with the Piano Technician’s Guild. Following a mission to Colombia, she completed her bachelor’s degree in Piano Pedagogy, studying with Reid Nibley and Robert Smith. She and her husband, Richard, eventually made their way to Boston, where they raised their four children.

While serving on the board of the New England Piano Teachers Association, Rosemary completed a Masters of Piano Pedagogy degree through Lesley University in Cambridge, doing her course work at the New England Conservatory and Westminster Choir College in Princeton. Private studies were with Jean Alderman, Wellesley College, and Madeline Bruser (The Art of Practicing) in Manhattan. Rosemary is a member of Phi Delta Kappa and has been published in Clavier magazine.

Rosemary’s second love is choral music and conducting. After being selected for membership in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Rosemary left her wonderful piano students and beloved Boston Red Sox in a flood of tears and moved to Utah, where she immediately felt at home with the welcoming teachers here. She has felt honored to serve alongside them, first as president of the Salt Lake Chapter, and then as Vice President over Conferences and as State President. Her years of teaching and serving in UMTA have been the pinnacle of her career.


Paula Manwaring, NCTM is a music educator, published composer, arranger, creator of A Note in Time: Review in Note Recognition, and Musical Discoveries: Multitrack Sequencing. She has worked as an outside editor and clinician for Kjos Music Publishers, and is the author of Minimusic, a group theory program for young beginners which is taught in studios around the world.

Paula began her piano studies at an early age and continued through her college years. She attended Brigham Young University where she had the opportunity to study under Dr. Robert Smith and has enjoyed teaching piano for the past 40 years.

Paula has enjoyed serving as the Salt Lake Chapter president, UMTA Certification Chair, UMTA State President 2020-22, and MTNA Chair for the State Presidents Advisory Council. She currently serves on UMTA’s State Board as Immediate Past President, and as UMTA Student Programs Chair. She enjoys exploring new technology and engaging her students as they enhance their musical learning experience. Her greatest technological challenge and joy has been in the re-creation of UMTA’s state website. Paula and her husband are grateful to have raised five beautiful children and are the proud grandparents of eleven, and she is pleased to say that all but the two youngest are learning to play the piano!



ROWENA BUNCE has been teaching piano for over 10 years. She is a proud product of the AIM program (although it was called Student Achievement way back when it was taught to her!) She always remembered the valuable, well-rounded curriculum that AIM gave her as a student, and she knew when she started teaching that she needed to give her students the same experience.

She is a big believer in the AIM program and feels it has made her a better teacher and made her students better musicians. Rowena has taught AIM to many students over the years, including all 4 of her own children. She loves to hear from former students how AIM has helped them in other musical avenues whether it be choir, band, orchestra, guitar or college music courses.

She is constantly looking for teaching tools and techniques to make music fun and engaging. She has created YouTube ear training videos, Kahoot quizzes, and Gimkit games for herself and other teachers to use. <br<
Rowena loves being involved in UMTA. She has served as the Bridgerland Chapter President and is currently on the State Membership Committee as the Local Chapters/New Members Chair. She truly values the camaraderie of her fellow chapter and state members and enjoys learning and sharing with the


ASHELEY MADSEN WATABE graduated from the University of Michigan suma cum laude in Violin Performance. As a chamber musician she took 1st place in the Music Teachers National Association Competition and has participated in several professional music festivals such as the National Orchestra Institute, Washington D.C. and Meadowmount School of Music in New York. She is currently a member of The Orchestra at Temple Square and the Millenial Choir and Orchestra and enjoys performing around the Salt Lake valley as a solo recitalist and chamber musician.

Asheley has taught private lessons for over 25 years and maintains a private studio of over 85 violin and viola students who have continued their studies at Julliard, University of Michigan, Interlochen, Tanglewood, BYU, Utah State University, U of U, among others and won. Her students have won the East Coast International Competition, International Young Maestro Competition, Protegé Competition, Radda Rise International Competition and have been finalists in the Fischoff International Competition.

In 2018 Asheley founded “Music with Purpose” a performing group whose purpose is to raise awareness for charitable organizations and give back to local and international communities. In 2019, this group went on a musical humanitarian expedition to Dubai, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia and donated over $17,000 to the I Am Zambia Organization and donated 10 violins and 1 piano to the Namambwe Village.

Asheley is also the founder and director of Sotto Voce Strings, a performing group whose goal is excellence in music while also giving back to the community. This group has performed in Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, Austria and recently returned from a performing tour to France and Spain for the IX Encuentro Internacional De Musica Festival this 2022 summer. This group also just returned from a collaborative workshop in NYC with Manhattan School of Music. This Spring 2023, Sotto Voce Strings is looking forward to a performing tour to Southern California as well as being a featured performance in Disneyland.

Asheley’s other interests include the study of law in which she received her juris doctor in 2006 from the University of Utah. When not performing or teaching, Asheley enjoys spending time with her husband and 7 children!


SHAWN BASTIAN, NCTM, grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. She began piano lessons at age 5 and became a Nationally Certified Music Teacher through MTNA in 2013. She has been a member of UMTA for over 25 years, has taught piano for over 30 years and continues to teach today. She is an active member of the Timpanogos chapter, and has served as president, and the State and Chapter AIM Chair.

“My mom, Zina Riches, brought me to my first UMTA conference in 1992 and pointed me down this musical path, a path that I am truly thankful for. I have been blessed to teach so many truly talented students and work with great teachers and friends. You have all impacted every aspect of my musical career and my life. THANK YOU!!” Shawn Bastian



BONNIE SLAUGHTER, NCTM, has been a piano teacher for over 40 years. She is active in the Utah Music Teachers Association where she has served as President of the Bridgerland and Ogden Chapters and on the Utah MTA State Board and Region FAIM (Future Artists in Music) Coordinator. She was the Northern Utah Coordinator for the renowned international pedagogue N. Jane Tan.

Bonnie is the director of the Oakwood Performing Arts Academy. She has over 100 students including “The Oakwood 88’s” 5 Piano Teams. Members of the teams have enjoyed performing at area events including opening for Jon Schmidt. The teams have also competed at state and international levels.

She has published 5 music camps, a series of Theory Workbooks called “Theory Strips” and a set of CDs about Surviving the Music Lesson Rollercoaster. She enjoys sharing them with music teachers across the country. She has given workshops and presentations to teachers across Utah, California, Colorado and New Mexico. She is married and has five children and 21 grandchildren.



CAROLINE JENNINGS received her master and bachelor degrees in piano performance from the University of Utah. Ms. Jennings became a Permanent Professional National Certified Teacher of Music in 2020. She has enjoyed serving in UMTA as the president of the St. George chapter, a member of the State AIM Board, and as local AIM chapter chairman. Caroline maintains an active private studio and is a part time professor at Dixie State University.


JUNE CHRISTENSEN always knew she wanted to be a piano teacher – and she learned from the best, studying with Martha Greene, Florence Brinton, and GladysGladstone and placed twice in the Utah State Fair Competition. Beginning as congregational pianist at age nine, June has shared music in her community playing for countless church meetings, funerals, and weddings.

June graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Music Composite Secondary Education. She began teaching at age 14, which led to 60+ years experience, 700 private students, 300 studio recitals, and exhibits at 50 state and national conventions. Dr. Pollei’s amazing pedagogy class inspired June to create and market 100+ teaching aids that promote better reading, rhythm, and theory skills, plus insights about composers, history, the piano, and practicing.

June has presented in UMTA meetings statewide and served as Magazine Coordinator, Music.ed Chair, Chapter Secretary, Salt Lake Chapter President, and UMTA State Publicity Board. June has five brilliant children who played the piano under her tutelage. They return the favor with technology assistance and strong opinions. June and her husband pay forward their love of the arts by funding scholarships for deserving students.


JUDITH (JUDY) JOHNSON, a member of the Provo/Orem chapter, has a long history with music and UMTA. Judy grew up in Wyoming, next door to her grandmother, who was the town piano teacher. When Judy was 12, her father was choir director and Judy accompanied. She learned early on to transpose pieces to a lower key so the choir could sing them.

Judy attended BYU, where she studied piano with Robert Cundick and theory with Crawford Gates. She graduated in 1962 with an Elementary Education major and a Music minor.

Judy has been a member of UMTA/MTNA for almost 50 years. She has served as Secretary of the Provo/Orem chapter. She also served as the Federation Chair for 35 years and has played for many church and community functions over the years.

Judy’s teaching career began when a neighbor asked her to teach a little boy that several piano teachers had given up on. Judy’s success with this student quickly led to many students. Judy says, “Music has opened so many doors for me my whole life. Music has been such a huge part of my life.”



In 2017, Heather K. Smith, NCTM, produced Utah’s first Silent Film Festival for Davis and Salt Lake City Chapters, held at the Bountiful Davis Art Center, where Heather served on the Executive Board.

This year the Davis Chapter repeated a similar event. Eleven films were presented at the Legacy Crossing Megaplex in Centerville. As a Co-chair, Heather organized 23 teachers and over 250 students in this all-day event. Sponsors, ticket- sales, and student participation fees combined to make the donation of two Boston upright pianos a reality for assisted living centers in Davis County.

Heather also organized the Davis Monster Concert, which raised funds for a piano at a Layton community theater. Heather is a certified Change Leader with the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. For her certification project, she oversaw the fundraising and creation of the Lenora Ford Brown recital venue at Bountiful Davis Art Center, including the purchase of two Steinway Grands.

As an educator, Heather was pivotal in expanding RCM adjudications in Utah. She is a member of the College of Examiners for RCM, and serves on the MTNA Development Committee and the MTNA Business Network.

Heather received a Bachelor and Master of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Utah, and a BS in Accounting from Maryville University in St. Louis. She is currently completing an MBA at Westminster College. Formerly the Assistant Director at the U of U School of Music, Preparatory Division, Heather now teaches private lessons and group classes in her home studio in Centerville, Utah.