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Congratulations to the 2016 Real School Award Recipients!

Jim Keenan

February 2, 2017

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The Real School of Music names five outstanding recipients of the prestigious 2016 company awards: Rookie of the Year, Nicole Berke; Instructor of the Year,Chris McKenney and Everly McCormack; Employee of the Year, Rich Podgur; and the Founders Award, Seitu.
BURLINGTON, MA, February 2, 2017 --- The Real School of Music announced the 2016 Employee Awards for staff who demonstrate exceptional commitment, contribution, and achievement in the areas of teaching, customer service, or program leadership. Coming from the full spectrum of roles at Real School, these awards recognize new instructors through seasoned employees. 
Real School believes that a first-class culture is at the heart of our organization, and is proud to recognize and celebrate the faculty and staff who make a profound difference in the lives of our students everyday.
Reflecting on this year's award winners, Real School Founder and CEO, Thomas Byrne, explained, “This year we recognized three longtime, loyal employees who have each contributed to helping us build the company we have today; and also two rising stars who are already helping to shape our future. I am very proud to recognize Nicole, Chris, Everly, Rich, and Seitu as Real School's 2016 award recipients!"
 Rookie of the Year: Nicole BerkeBerkeNicole.jpg
The Rookie of the Year was awarded to Nicole Berke. Nicole joined Real School in September 2015 and quickly grew her student roster with her engaged, positive teaching style and versatile musicianship. A Boston-area native from a musical home, Nicole's career has spanned from North America to Asia, including tours and residencies in Portland, OR, Beijing, Hong Kong, Bali, and Indonesia.
Nicole teaches voice, piano, and songwriting in Burlington and has made strong contributions to amplifi as a lead instructor and as part of the curriculum development team. Nicole has also been involved with a new, highly promising project in amplifi, developing a unique songwriting program for vets. 
Upon receiving the award, Nicole said, "Real School has helped me grow in more ways than I ever imagined. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to teach, make music and create with all different types of amazing people every day. Having this sense of purpose has allowed me to find not just a job but a career path I love!"
Instructor of the Year: Chris McKenney and Everly McCormack 
McKenneyChris.jpg2016 saw two very deserving teachers named as Instructor of the Year. Chris McKenney came to Real School Burlington in 2010 along with a team of teachers in a merger with the former Minuteman Music Center (Lexington, MA). Since then, he's carved out a reputation as a high energy and in-demand guitar instructor, ensemble coach, and RealJams Academy instructor. Chris maintains one of the largest student rosters company-wide, and does it well as evidenced by his high student retention rate. Chris was recently featured as part of the Instructor Spotlight Series. 
Reflecting on this well-deserved recognition, Chris said, "I am so fortunate to have received recognition for doing a job that is barely even work. Every day, I really feel lucky to be here doing this work that I love. Here's to many more years and many more students!"
EverlyMcCormack.jpgEverly McCormack  joined Real School Andover in April 2015 during the merger with the former Boston Music Center (Andover, MA). In addition to carrying a roster of 40 weekly private piano lesson students, Everly teaches five group classes as a certified Yamaha Music Education System instructor and was named Yamaha Program Coordinator in the summer of 2016. 
Everly approaches her teaching with positivity, creativity, and flexibility. She enjoys teaching students of all ages and learning styles and loves discovering innovative ways of demonstrating musical concepts to her students. Her varied teaching methods are adaptable to the needs of each individual student, and she has a passion for teaching students with special needs. 
Flattered and surprised by this award, Everly said, "It is a great honor to receive this award. I am so grateful to Real School for this job, which allows me to do meaningful and positive work each day through teaching music, and for the unique opportunity to develop my teaching and musicianship further through becoming involved in the Yamaha program. Working with the excellent employees and wonderful students at Real School is truly a joy!"
Heather Luhn, Real School's Director of Education, has worked closely with Everly over the past year. Heather said, "This award is well deserved for Everly! Not only does she have a full roster of students and high retention, but she took a huge leap taking over the Yamaha program last year sight unseen and embraced the experience with a great attitude. Everly has grown as a Yamaha teacher and has been instrumental this year as she took on more of an administrative role within the program. I've enjoyed getting to know her as a person, as a teacher, and as a colleague and am grateful she's part of the Real School team!"
Employee of the Year: Rich Podgur 
PodgurRich.jpgLike many of the award recipients, when colleagues think of Rich Podgur, they wonder, 'what doesn't he do around here?' Rich joined Real School Burlington in 2011 and teaches drums, guitar, voice, and songwriting. As Director of the RealKids Early Childhood program, Rich is the resident pre-school music education expert, delivering off-site group classes to local preschools. As if that were not enough, he also serves as an Assistant Director of RealJams Academy, where he manages site coordinators, cultivates enrollment, and designs curriculum. 
Rich said, "I consider myself to be among the lucky ones... someone who’s job is an extension of their being. That I’m able to assist in the development and progress of students from infants to adults, sharing information, songs, and passions that I covet. I get to perform my work with others whose talents and knowledge blow me away on a daily basis. I’ve grown immensly since joining Real School, and I’m incredibly humbled and grateful for this honor."
Founders Award: Seitu 
Seitu.jpgFirst introduced in 2015, this exclusive award recognizes extraordinary contributions and long-term dedication. The Founders Award is an invitation for the employee to become a partner in the Real School business. As one of the first employees, Seitu helped to build Real School from a fledgling start-up to the dynamic company it is today. 
This is Seitu's second company award, having been named as the Employee of the Year in 2013. 
Seitu brings a wealth of music industry experience to his role as Director of Administration, and is held in high regard by everyone as the 'man behind the curtain.' Real School CEO Tom Byrne summed it up perfectly, saying, "Even I don't know everything that Seitu does around here, I just know that if he wasn't doing it we'd be in big trouble!" 
All of the awards were announced individually at the annual company party. Seitu was the last to be recognized, and to thunderous applause and adoration. Seitu said, "I was truly stunned when I heard my name spoken as the recipient of the 2016 Founders Award and would like to once again to thank our CEO Tom Byrne and all of those responsible for this. I am quite honored, and extremely grateful for the recognition I've received for my work and will continue to do my best at The Real School."
Of that, we have no doubt! 
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Would you like to become the next rising star at Real School? Learn more about joining our team!

2011: Employees of the Year, Bill Doss and Vykki Vox; Instructor of the Year, Dave Hinckley
2012: Employee of the Year, Dwight Hill; Instructor of the Year, John "Muzz" Muzzy, Rookie of the Year, Ed Spargo 
2013: Employee of the Year, Seitu; Instructor of the Year, Jim Zaroulis and Chad Maggs; Rookie of the Year, Heather Luhn
2014: Employee of the Year, Gavin McCarthy; Instructor of the Year, Tim Rowell and James Towlson; Rookie of the Year, Stephanie Morey-Barry
2015: Employee of the Year, Erik Ringstad; Instructor of the Year, Eric Goldberg; Rookie of the Year, Kelly SuretteFounders Award, Bill Doss