Alumni News


Sharing Your Stories…


What have you been up to?
Take a moment to share YOUR story with the VanderCook family.  Professional news, personal news, relocation, family additions...we'd love to hear it.  PIctures are welcome!
Send your information to: Cindy Tovar at


Joyce Pacheco (B’88) (M’91)Initiated a successful Elem/JH string program in 2006 in Manhattan, simultaneously re-building the successful Elem/JH choral program (with costumed madrigals), as well as reconfigured the general music K-8 curriculum. Thank you, VanderCook faculty, and the Chicago Classical Symphony (Joseph Glymph, maestro).

Kathleen McGrady (M’95) was recognized by  BCSN as the January teacher of the month in Holland, OH.  She is currently in her 15th year of teaching instrumental music with the Springfield Local Schools in Holland, Ohio where she is responsible for instructing the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade bands, the “Blue Devil” Marching Band, and the High School Symphonic Band.

VanderCook alum Philip Olazaba (B’08) and current student Michael Espinosa have spearheaded The Chicago Mariachi Project, a movement for elevating the Art of Mariachi. Their presentation at the 2015 Illinois Music Education Conference was a huge success and the first of its kind at the conference.

Recent alum Mark Reid (M’14) has been nominated for an international teaching award.  He is one of 50 finalists from a list of over 5,000 teachers being considered for the Varkey GEM Foundation Global Teacher Prize.  Mark currently teaches band, choir, and orchestra at the Vancouver Technical Secondary School.


Thomas A. Goodwin (M’74) passed away on December 15, 2014. He devoted his talents and love of music as Band Director of the New Lenox Grade School Bands for 31 years. His achievements included the JTHS Band Alumni Association Outstanding Achievement and Distinguished Service Award, the Chicagoland Outstanding Music Educator Award and the Illinois Grade School Music Association Cloyd Myers Memorial Award for Excellence in Music Education.

Steve Szurek B.M.Ed. 1991

Steve Szczurek (now Fr. Victor) was recently made Headmaster (i.e. Principal) of St. Michael's Preparatory School, in Silverado, CA. He also serves as organist at St. Michael's Abbey, the monastery in which he lives.

Corey Ames B.M.Ed. 2007

Corey Ames, director of bands at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL travels to Dublin, Ireland August 29 to participate with Loyola’s football team in the 2012 Global Ireland Football Tournament  (GIFT). Loyola Academy will be taking a 12 member pep band for a 6 days visit to the Emerald Isle. Marching bands, cheer squads and alumni groups gather forces to put on a true ‘Dublin Friday Night Lights’ celebration in multiple stadiums. Follow Corey and the Loyola entourage at: for updates throughout the trip.

Paula Paris B.M.Ed.  1976, M.M.Ed.  2003 

Teaching Career: DeForest Area School District, Taught K-6 General Music, 3rd & 4th  Choir 'The Music Connection', 5th & 6th grade choirs  First teaching job: Oregon Wisconsin, 1976-1979, Orchestra Director grades 4-12

Paula notified us of her retirement this spring:
“Someone who was very instrumental in helping me decide to take my first teaching position was H.E. Nutt.  When I was offered the position in Oregon, WI, I called him from Madison, WI.  We had a 45-minute phone conversation about teaching strings.  (I was a flute player and a vocalist.)  He encouraged me and told me that I could do it! He was right!
I ended my career teaching general music and the choir.  I established the 3rd and 4th grade choir.  It was called 'The Music Connection'.  We rehearsed Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 7:30-7:55.   It was amazing how the kids would come into the rehearsal and work on our music!  No discipline issues!  We sang!
I also began the 5th  grade choir at our middle mchool.  Membership averaged around seventy 5th  graders.
Teaching has been such an inspiration to me!  I have enjoyed every minute of it!  I was given something upon my retirement that I never expected.  The Music Parents established a scholarship for graduating seniors that will be pursuing a degree in vocal music in my name.  What an honor!”

Chris Hughes M.M.Ed. 1997

In spring 2012, Chris Hughes was named Director of Bands and Associate Professor of Music at New Mexico State University where he will conduct the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, teach graduate and undergraduate conducting, and coordinate all aspects of the university band program. He returns to the USA this summer after a four-year adventure as Director of Bands for the College of Music at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand. Chris has developed an impressive international profile that includes engagements in Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Australia, in addition to Thailand. He remains grateful to VanderCook professors Dr. Charles Menghini and Dr. Roseanne Rosenthal for their guidance and to his high school band director, Mr. David Funk (M.M.Ed. 1991), who is also a VanderCook alumnus.



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