Foundation Fellows

Iowa MTNA Foundation Fellow Recipients


Dr. Jason Sifford, NCTM is a freelance pianist, teacher, and composer with a wide range of abilities and interests. He maintains a private teaching studio in Iowa City and is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician, lecturing on such diverse topics as classical performance practice, jazz pedagogy, technical development in young pianists, composition, and music technology. As a composer, Jason focuses on writing engaging music for student pianists. He is currently a composer and clinician for the Willis Music Company/Hal Leonard, and is the composer for the Footliters’ Traveling Playhouse, a children’s musical theater project of the City of Coralville, IA.
Jason serves on the boards for the Iowa Music Teachers Association, the City Circle Theatre Company, and currently is a commissioner for the MTNA Certification Board and a member of the program committee for the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy.


Dr. Sharon Jensen holds music degrees from Calvin College, University of Texas and University of Michigan. As the recipient of a Rotary Fellowship, she studied at the Hochschule for Musik in Vienna, Austria where she earned the Artist’s Diploma. She has performed recitals in Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Canada and the U.S. In 2016 Sharon performed with members of the Czech Philharmonic at Smetana Hall in Prague during the Prague Proms Festival. Jensen has been the featured soloist with orchestras throughout the Midwest, including the University of Michigan Symphony, Augustana Symphony and the Quad Cities Mozart Festival orchestra. In 2007 she made her solo debut with the Dubuque Symphony. In March 2010 Dr. Jensen made her debut at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall and performed there for four consecutive years with flautist Peg Cornils Luke. She has also been heard on NPR’s Live from Landmark Center, Live from the Chazen and Chicago’s Dame Myra Hess Series. Dr. Jensen was chair of keyboard studies at Augustana College (Rock Island, IL) from 1986-1993 where she was also a member of the Augustana Trio. She taught at UW-Platteville for one year and from 1996-2013 she was a faculty member at Emmaus Bible College (Dubuque, IA). She has recently retired as Assistant Professor of Music at Clarke University where she taught piano, music history and keyboard skills. She has also served on the faculties of Calvin College, Bay View Music Festival, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and Lutheran Summer Music Camp. Sharon is active as a teacher and adjudicator in Iowa Music Teachers Association where her students have earned honors at district and state auditions. Sharon is a valued IMTA member and has worked tirelessly as Local Associations Chair. She has chaired the Dubuque Auditions and served as President of DBQMTA. In 2015 she was honored as the Nationally Certified Teacher of the Year from the state of Iowa.


Jerie Gail Ramsey, Iowa’s 2020 Foundation Fellow, began teaching piano in Ames, IA in 1962 with three students. She relocated to suburban Kansas City where she developed a studio of about twenty students. After returning to Iowa, she began teaching organ and piano at Graceland College as well as in her private studio. At its peak enrollment she taught some sixty private students in addition to her adjunct teaching at Graceland.
She became active in IMTA and entered students in Auditions and Festivals at Pella for many years (where the students always insisted on a trip to the bakery for Dutch Letters). She later established a center in the Lamoni/Centerville area.
Jerie Gail served as editor of The Iowa Music Teacher upon the retirement of John Wannamaker from that position (1984). She did virtually all the work of publishing the IMT from soliciting articles to delivering the magazines (sorted by zip code) to the post office. She received IMTA’s Distinguished Teacher Award in 1995, and “Certified Teacher of the Year” in 2000. She served as IMTA president in 2009 – 2011.
She moved with her husband, Bob, to Cedar Falls, where they reside at Windhaven Assisted Living.


Connie Danielson, NCTM of Ellsworth served as Iowa President from 1985 to 1987. During her nearly 60 year teaching career, she taught hundreds of students and mentored many successful teachers in Iowa. She served as an adjudicator for the Iowa Music Teachers Association and the National Guild of Piano Teachers. Connie served on the National Certification Board and shares responsibility for the high percentage of certified members in the state of Iowa. Connie was still teaching at the time of her death at 93 in 2006.

Connie was awarded the IMTA Distinguished Service Award in 1987 and IMTA Certified Teacher of the year in 1995. We honor the memory of Connie Danielson and the positive impact she had on the Iowa Music Teachers Organization. Iowa was pleased to recognize Connie Danielson, NCTM as the 2019 Iowa Foundation Fellow at the MTNA Gala in Spokane, WA on March 18, 2019.


Donita McCoy has been a member of MTNA, Iowa MTA and Music Teachers of Central Iowa since 1987. She earned a BM degree from Iowa State University at age 33 and has been teaching for 49 years, maintaining a private studio for piano and strings. McCoy has served both MTCI and IMTA in numerous capacities. She currently is IMTA parliamentarian, a member of the Ethical Concerns committee and Young Artists and Chamber Music coordinator for the state MTNA competition. For 48 years, McCoy has been the section bass player in the Des Moines Symphony and is principal bass of the community orchestra in Ames.


Cyndie Caruth, NCTM, an Iowa MTA/MTNA member for more than 40 years, completed a music degree at Iowa State University in 1998. Her students have earned honors from district through international competitions. She received the Friend of Education award for her volunteer work developing a program for K-4 accompanists. Caruth served Iowa as state president, auditions chair, festivals, local associations, certification, advertising editor, repertoire, theory and Foundation. Caruth received the Certified Teacher of the Year and Distinguished Service Award in 2004. She is an accompanist, adjudicator, lecturer, organist, portrait artist and piano sales representative.


Suzanne Torkelson, NCTM, is professor of piano at Wartburg College. She has served MTNA in many capacities including National Certification Commissioner and West Central Division Director. She holds a doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Iowa and a masters of music degree from Kansas State University. Torkelson frequently performs nationally and internationally as piano soloist and chamber musician. Very active in the field of piano pedagogy, she is in frequent demand as clinician and adjudicator. Iowa MTA awarded her the Distinguished Service Award in 1996 and the Certified Teacher of the Year Award in 2002.


Diane M. Smith, NCTM, has taught piano as an independent music teacher in West Des Moines, Iowa, for more than 50 years. She has been an active member of MTNA since 1976, working on the local, state and division levels and serving in a variety of offices including president of the Iowa MTA. Smith was honored by the Iowa MTA as Certified Teacher of the Year in 1999 and with the Distinguished Service Award in 2008. Smith founded and directed the Music and Movement Center, Inc., of West Des Moines, which was one of the largest centers for early childhood music education in the country.


Robert R. Shultz, professor emeritus, was a member of the piano faculty at Drake University from 1946-1984, serving part of that time as assistant dean for the music department. He also served as president of the Iowa MTA, the Civic Music Association of Des Moines and was a member of the Des Moines Symphony Board. He received bachelor's and master's degrees from the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, and he was a Ford Foundation Scholar at Columbia University, where he earned his MME and EdD degrees with additional studies at Juilliard. Shultz authored the manual The Pianist's Interpretation of Bach


Catherine Burke is an independent piano teacher in Iowa City, Iowa, where she has maintained a private studio for 50 years. A graduate of the University of Iowa School of Music, she began her professional career as a choral director and music teacher in the Iowa public school system. There, she was the supervisor and coordinator of the general music program in elementary schools. An active member of the East Central Music Teachers Association, Burke has held the offices of president, vice president and secretary; organized IMTA auditions and festivals; and chaired many committees. She has also served on the state board of IMTA in many capacities


Lois Nassen, NCTM, has been an MTNA member for nearly 45 years. She studied piano and voice at the University of Northern Iowa and has taught piano for 50 years. Nassen was the second teacher in the country to pass the MTNA Certification exam. She has served the Iowa MTA as certification chair and president, and served two terms on the West Central Division board. Nassen has been judging auditions and festivals in Iowa for 40 years, as well as chairing her center's auditions and festivals. She received the first IMTA Certified Teacher of the Year Award in 1994 and the Distinguished Service Award in 1995.


Berneil Hanson, NCTM, has been an MTNA member for more than 50 years. She retired from public school teaching after 30 years and continues to teach piano at her Council Bluffs, Iowa, studio today. Hanson has served as auditions chair for SWIMTA's district auditions for many years and received the Iowa Distinguished Service award in 1997. She has also served as vice president of the Council Bluffs MTA. Hanson serves on the board of the Nebraska Summer Music Olympics and has been organist at First Christian Church for more than 30 years. She is also a member of the American Guild of Organists.


Ted Reuter is professor of piano at Wartburg College, teaching piano and related courses, including music history and aesthetics. He received his bachelors degree from Knox College, his masters degree from the University of Illinois and his doctorate from the University of Iowa. Reuter has extensive experience as a performer and has given solo and chamber music recitals at colleges, universities, institutes, and on artist series throughout the country. Reuter is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician, and has done workshops and masterclasses at universities, high schools, and for private teacher organizations across the country. Reuter served the Iowa MTA as president and is currently the IMTA Scholarship Auditions chair.


The late Solveig Gregory graduated from Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa, and from Iowa State Teachers College (UNI) with a bachelor's degree in English and a minor in music. She served Northeast Area MTA as program chair, president and chair of its annual Summer Piano Pedagogy Workshop. Gregory was Iowa MTA foundation chair at the time of her death. She was an organist and director of music at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls for more than 30 years and taught piano for 50 years. Gregory was also a member of the American Guild of Organists and the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians.


Sue Hudson, NCTM, has been a piano teacher for more than 50 years and still maintains an active studio in her home in Des Moines, Iowa. She is a graduate of Drake University, where she also taught piano pedagogy. Active in the Des Moines MTA, Hudson is in constant demand as an adjudicator and also speaks at workshops and teaches master classes. She has held several offices in IMTA, including president and treasurer, and has served on the certification board and ethics committee. Hudson received the Drake University School of Music Outstanding Alumni Award, IMTA Teacher of the Year and IMTA Certified Teacher of the Year.


William David has been a member of MTNA and the Iowa MTA since 1972. He is a professor and the assistant chair of the department of music at Iowa State University. David has served IMTA in many facets, including president, state convention chair and on the board of directors. Currently, he is the editor of The Iowa Music Teacher, IMTA's quarterly journal. David was awarded his state association's Distinguished Service Award in 2000 and Certified Teacher of the Year Award in 2001. Along with his contributions in education, he also is a founding member of the Ames Piano Quartet, which has performed more than 250 concerts around the world.


David T. Piersel is professor emeritus of music at South Dakota State University, where he served as director of keyboard studies for 22 years before retiring in May 2000. He also served in a similar position at Black Hills State University for 11 years. Piersel holds a B.M.E. degree from Simpson College and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Iowa. He has served as South Dakota MTA president and West Central Division president. In addition, Piersel has been a member of MTNA's National Certification Board and National Executive Board. He is currently national coordinator for the MTNA Young Artist competition.


The late Diane Brimmer, NCTM, of Independence, Iowa, graduated from Sherwood Music School in Chicago, and held a state master certificate from the Iowa MTA. She was active throughout her career serving as Iowa MTA president and certification board and repertoire committee member, and Northeast Area MTA president and advisor. Brimmer also received the Iowa MTA Master Teacher Award (1971), the Iowa MTA Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award (1994) and the Iowa MTA Certified Teacher of the Year (2005, posthumous). She died in December 2004, after 56 years of teaching, composing and arranging music.


Norma Seifert, NCTM, of Collierville, Tennessee, has taught private and group piano lessons for forty years. Although presently retired from teaching, Seifert currently serves as president of the Tennessee Music Teachers Association. Seifert has been an active MTNA member for forty-three years and also has served as West Central Division president, Des Moines Music Teachers Association president and Iowa Music Teachers Association president.

Fellow Program

The Music Teachers National Association Foundation Fellow program offers a meaningful method for honoring deserving individuals while supporting the efforts of the MTNA Foundation Fund through a donation to the Foundation Fund in an individual's name.

Each year new MTNA Fellows are recognized at the MTNA National Conference. Fellows receive a complimentary ticket to the Gala, an attractive MTNA Fellow certificate and pin. Also, new Fellows are prominently recognized on the Foundation Fund website and their names will appear on a plaque located at the MTNA National Headquarters.

The awards committee encourages IMTA members to submit future suggestions to the foundation chair or the current president. The final decision is that of the awards committee and is announced at the state conference banquet by the foundation chair.

You may donate personally to this fund as a tax-deductible contribution. Each local is also encouraged to raise funds and send proceeds directly to IMTA Treasurer- Carroll Caruth

2105 NW Pleasant St.
Ankeny, Iowa 50023

Make checks to IMTA if you are sending contributions to the IMTA State Treasurer.
If you send directly to MTNA, please make the check to MTNA Foundation Fellow and indicate the recipient’s name in the memo

When you make a contribution to the MTNA Foundation Fund, you are helping us work for a more musical tomorrow through programs that nurture the creation, performance, study and teaching of music. Young students are recognized for their pursuit of excellence in performance and composition through the MTNA Student Competitions. MTNA Foundation also supports the creation of new music through its Composer Commissioning program.

-Dr. Perry Mears, IMTA Foundation Chair,
[email protected]