SUU Music Educator, Best in State

Published: December 18, 2007 | Read Time: 3 minutes

Thirty years is a long time to be doing anything, and for many, such a long-term endeavor can lead to burnout. But for Southern Utah University Music professor Virginia Stitt, 30 seems to be the magic number, as she was recently named as the Utah Music Educators Association’s (UMEA) Outstanding Music Educator for 2007.

Stitt has been working in music education at SUU since 1977, and over the years, her quiet guidance and love of the craft has impacted countless students—many of whom have gone on to teach music, extending Virginia’s impact far beyond her expectations.

According to one former student, Cedar High School Band Director Steve Shirts, the UMEA’s recognition of Stitt’s talent and hard work is long overdue. States Shirts, “Virginia is a gem that has been kept secret from a lot of people across the state. Her students and colleagues in southern Utah have always known of her brilliance, but she likes to fly under the radar, so it’s taken a while for word to spread.”

Shirts, who also chairs UMEA’s Awards Committee, was not surprised Stitt’s name surfaced after calling for nominations in UMEA’s quarterly journal earlier this year. Stitt has been serving as a mentor for Shirts since she first gave him private lessons in high school, and now teaches Shirts’ daughter in music classes at SUU.

Yet even knowing all he did about the quality of Virginia’s work, Shirts was still surprised by the number of nominations his longtime mentor received during the awards selection process. States Shirts, “Virginia received 12 or 13 nominations from her colleagues. It’s impossible to deny the impact Virginia has had on music education across the state.”

The UMEA annual awards serve as statewide recognition of those music educators whose efforts have most impacted their students and peers. With just one person named as the overall music educator each year, Virginia joins an elite group of teachers who work far beyond their required responsibilities to improve music education throughout the state.

While honored, Virginia best describes her sentiment for such recognition as “humbling.” States Stitt, “I know a lot of the people that are teaching across the state, and I know all the amazing things they do. It’s very humbling to be singled out amidst so many great teachers.”

That said, Stitt may be the only person surprised by this nomination. According to Bill Byrnes, Dean of SUU’s College of Performing and Visual Arts, “Dr. Stitt is a dedicated teacher who makes a major difference in the lives of her current students, and her influence as a faculty member extends to countless SUU alumni.” Byrnes continues, “I can’t think of a colleague more deserving of this recognition.”

SUU president Michael Benson, a music aficionado and long-time supporter of music education throughout the state, agrees, stating, “This is a very well-deserved award for a very committed and dedicated faculty member. Our students are the beneficiaries of Dr. Stitt and her many abilities and talents.”

According to Shirts, all of Virginia’s colleagues, students and friends are invited to attend the UMEA awards ceremony at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, February 1, where Virginia will receive formal recognition by her peers. The ceremony will be held at the Dixie Center in St. George.

The Utah Music Educators Association is open to all music educators in both public and private institutions from Pre-K to college level in the state of Utah. UMEA is dedicated to improving existing music programs and creating opportunities for learning and growth in the field.

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