ACEMM would like to congratulate François Suhr, ACEMM’s Spring 2019 Spotlight Award Winner!

François Suhr, ACEMM’s Winter 2019 Spotlight Recipient
François Suhr, ACEMM’s Spring 2019 Spotlight Recipient

For the past nine years, François Suhr has brought his passion and enthusiasm to New Jersey public schools.  His current position is with the South Brunswick School District where he teaches Kindergarten through Fifth Grade at two different locations,  Monmouth Junction Elementary School and Constable Elementary School. In addition to classroom teaching, François has three choirs at each school –  a 3rd Grade, combined 4th and 5th Grade, and a Chamber Choir.  “His elementary choirs are top notch,” says fellow music teacher Dr. Brian Hunter.  François credits the experiences he has had accompanying the Princeton Boychoir and Girlchoir, as well as his attendance at the American Boychoir School, as huge factors in the development of his personal musicianship and his ability to accompany and direct such high quality ensembles.

François uses children’s literature to teach musical concepts

His general music classes are also highly regarded in his school community.  He uses a Kodály-inspired approach that is infused with Music Learning Theory in teaching both choir and music class “I teach 5th grade, but I want to be in his music class,” says colleague Crystal Huau.  “ He structures his classes in a way that students are able to learn while having fun. His enthusiasm and positivity are contagious, and students leave his class with smiles on their faces.”  

François receiving his school’s Staff Member of the Year award

“François is simply magical!” says Monmouth Junction principal, Cristina Vildostegui-Cerra.  “He makes the most of each instructional minute with students – actively engaging them in song and dance while teaching them complex concepts and musical vocabulary. Students have so much fun that they don’t realize how much they are learning!”  François’ impact on his school community is undeniable, so much so that in 2018 François was awarded his school’s Staff Member of the year award.

A Teacher’s Teacher

In 2012, François was accepted into the graduate program at the American Kodály Institute (AKI).  There he learned the curricular sequencing, musicianship skills, and vocal pedagogy techniques that are hallmarks of the Kodály methodology.  In 2016 François began teaching the Musicianship Course at AKI. This course exists as required part of the Kodály certification process so that students can learn to sight-read and improvise expressively. Says current AKI student Craig Davis, “…he presents musical concepts that are dense and layered in fun, relatable terms while always focusing on achieving mastery.”

Because the course involves individual performance, the experience can be somewhat intimidating.  “He is very positive towards learners and always makes you feel comfortable regardless of the situation,” says AKI student Madelyn Mazzeo.  Another AKI student, Hannah Graf feels that François’ detailed planning and dedication are inspirational. “Through his Musicianship Course at the American Kodály Institute, he has inspired me to keep developing my skills so that I can be the best teacher for my students,” she says.

François leads a professional development workshop

Apart from his teaching at AKI, François also teaches professional development workshops for Kodaly chapters and state music conferences.  There, he has shared folk dancing, rhythm syllable systems and audiation activities with other music teachers.  “[I want] to bring awareness of the wealth of knowledge, materials, resources and research that exists in the music education world,” says François.

In His Own Words

…since adopting [the Kodály Methodology] into my teaching, I’ve learned that music education is much more than simply building literacy.  Learning through discovery, experiencing music in movement and play, singing and dancing together; these are aspects of music education that make learning music natural, that build community, and that put the heart in music. And while I still believe fostering musically literate children is important and continue to focus on improving music literacy, my students benefit from learning to read, write and audiate music through discovery, play and movement.

François Suhr , Spring 2019 Spotlight Award Winner

Musicals with Musicianship

In addition to teaching and accompanying local choirs, François has also had an impact on his local community theater. “He is a frequent performer, pit musician, and musical director for local musical theater productions,” says AKI Director Lauren McDougle.  At the Villagers Theater, François has been the music director for the Miniature Musical Makers for the past 8 years, as well as also musically directing shows for the main stage and Teensvill.  Miniature Musical Makers and Teensvill are programs that help both elementary age children and teens learn how to be a performer in a musical.

François ‘ students in their fifth grade musical

“Working closely with Francois to produce quality pieces of musical theatre for young people has been such a rewarding experience for myself as well as the students we empower,” says Villager Theater director Corey Rubel.  “Not only does Francois have an infectious energy that any child would want to engage with, but his passion for music is always present in his teaching.” Donna Kimberlin, a producer at Villagers Theater, agrees: “He has contributed to the growth of more than 1,000 students creating a learning environment that is hands on and personal to each one of them which in turn teaches them the importance of music and art in their lives.”

What others are saying about François:

François and colleague Dr. Brian Hunter

“There are few educators I know as dedicated to children and the spirit of elemental music and movement as François Suhr.” – Dr. Brian Hunter, colleague

“He is a collaborative member of our school community who inspires other educators to challenge their limits and to believe in each child’s ability to achieve at the highest level. He also serves as a leader and model within our District’s esteemed music department…François is an exceptional teacher and an even better human being. His work ethic, energy, and enthusiasm are unmatched. He is a gift to our school community and has truly found his calling!” – Cristina Vildostegui-Cerra, principal at Monmouth Junction Elementary School

François onstage in the musical “Little Shop of Horrors”

François is music. He is the most dedicated musician and educator that I know. He spends countless hours writing plans and preparing for his classes. He is very knowledgeable in his content and craft which makes him extremely effective. Every child loves him and is excited to go to music class.. Not only are his music classes successful, but what his choirs are able to achieve is beautiful. He brings his expertise from his involvement in theatre into his school musical production to put on an advanced showcase as well. He is always kind and encouraging and contributes with such humility, not expecting any credit for his accomplishments. I am inspired by his gifts and talents, dedication and commitment, and his desire to share his love for the arts with all those around him. He makes a difference and leaves an imprint on so many lives. – Crystal Huau, 5th grade teacher   

“François is a dedicated and passionate teacher, who also happens to be an incredibly gifted performer. He is a true artist who chooses to selflessly share his gifts with children and future music educators. He is a cheerleader for his students, and he is passionate about teaching musicality and music literacy, in addition to spreading the joy of musical theater. His students clearly love and value him. I consider it an honor to know him and to have worked with him, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award.” -Elisabeth Crabtree, classmate and colleague                 

François leads a folk dance in his general music class

“François’ always has an engaging classroom! I enjoyed learning from him and his creativity to make learning fun. His piano skills are flawless and truly define his musicianship in and out of the classroom. François’ is a wonderful teacher, musician, and friend.”  – Madelyn Mazzeo, AKI Graduate Student

“I know that he cares for every student in his class, wanting the best for them and giving them all the highest level of music education he can.” -Fearghal O’Connor, fellow AKI student      

“François is a dedicated and talented music educator…He holds all his students to a high standard and challenges them to push themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of.  He plans his lessons in such a detailed manner, yet always keeps in mind the bigger picture of where to guide his students to next. His students (both elementary and graduate) are very fortunate to have François as their teacher.”- Hannah Graf, AKI Graduate Student

François uses solfa with his elementary students

“François’ is one of the most talented and dedicated teachers to participate in our community theater over my past 20 years. His enthusiasm and teaching style cannot be matched as he shares his incredible passion for music with all of his students, as well as the adult he works with. Francois dedicates his life to music and it resonates in all he does.” – Donna Kimberlin, producer at Villagers Theater

“François’ energy and enthusiasm is evident once you enter a room and watch him share his musical expertise…his influence on my knowledge and approach to music education and performance is forever changed.  He is encouraging but never effusive in his praise of others demonstrating his tempered style of teaching. He is the kind of teacher and musician we all strive to be in a world that deserves exceptional music educators.  Francois Suhr is an amazing educator and one of the greatest advocates of music education I have ever known.” – Craig Davis, AKI Graduate Student

François with one of his many tools he uses to engage students

“François’ is an incredible teacher. He is full of energy and passion for music, and he easily transfers that drive to everyone with whom he works- whether it is children, graduate students, or those in the community. His knowledge and skill are to be admired, and there is no one I can think of that is more deserving of this award.” – Bethany Pasierb, AKI Graduate Student

“François is one of those gifted teachers with the ability to lift up every student and push them to achieve in a positive, affirmative environment.  His musicality is superb, but it is his ability to motivate and encourage excellence in his students and colleagues that sets him apart from the crowd.”  – Kirsten Foyles, colleague

François Suhr is a music teacher that is passionate about his subject.  He pushes both himself and his students to their highest level of musicianship.  ACEMM would like to applaud François for his enthusiasm, his positivity, and his dedication to his craft!

5 thoughts on “François Suhr is is ACEMM’s Spring 2019 Spotlight Recipient!

  1. Bravo, François!!!! What a powerful force for good you are in the world of Music Education! Thank you for your amazing contributions to our craft!

  2. Congratulations François on this achievement ! Keep up the good work ! We are very proud of you !!!
    Tita Nanette and Tita Corina

  3. I am so happy to see Francois recognized nationally. I had the joy of attending AKI as a student with him. He was so welcoming and supportive to me during my time there. He is the best musician I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He is very down to earth and easy going.

  4. Congratulations Francois on well deserved recognition. I have seen you grow from a young man to an adult. You have always put your best forward and gone above and beyond to make things perfect for all who were privileged to work with you. CONGRATS again. You are Awesome!!!

  5. THIS IS FANTASTIC! Wow I can’t even begin to say how proud I am of you and your accomplishments. I always knew you would be a top notch teacher and I am so thrilled that you have been recognized for all your hard work. I would love to be a fly on the wall in your classroom. I know you could teach me so much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *