About the ORMTA Contribution to Teaching Award

The ORMTA has an abundance of members who dedicate much time and passion to teaching their students, helping this organization, and volunteering within their communities.  It is with this spirit that the ORMTA recognizes these exceptional individuals on an annual basis with an ORMTA Contribution to Teaching Award (or OCTA, previously Special Teacher Award).

ORMTA branches are invited to nominate one of their members for this award in any one year. The nominee must have been a member of the ORMTA or one of the other provincial Associations within the CFMTA for at least ten years.  Further criteria to nominate colleagues are determined by the individual branches. The branch invites the nominee to the annual ORMTA Awards Luncheon where they will be recognized for their achievements and receive a certificate.  The nominee will also be featured in a future edition of NOTES Magazine.


2019 Winner: Warren Nicholson

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Warren Nicholson joined the Hamilton-Halton branch of ORMTA in June 2000. He has been an active member ever since and contributed to the branch activities as an executive member in capacity of Recording Secretary, Treasurer, V.P., President, Past President, also with the workshops portfolio for the Provincial body of the ORMTA. Past teaching positions have included The W. Ross Mac Donald School for the blind, The Boys Choir of Harlem Inc, Brooklyn College Prep Centre, The Bishop Reading School. He currently maintains a private studio in Oakville and is also an instructor for Arthouse Oakville and for the City of Burlington. He has also guest lecture/concert, at Queen’s University on the guitar music of Jacques Hetu.

As a guitar teacher, his students have won Silver/Gold medals in RCM guitar exams at junior intermediate and advanced levels on playing tests. He and his guitar students have collaborated in concert with: The Mississauga Children’s Choir, Oakville Symphony, Etobicoke Philharmonic and for Rotary music fundraiser initiatives.

Warren Nicholson is a graduate of McMaster University (BM 91) and Manhattan School of Music (MM 94) with Peter MacAllister, and Manhattan School of Music with Norbert Kraft and Mark Delpriora.

Warren maintains a private teaching studio in Oakville, along with a “junior guitars” programme for Arthouse Oakville, and he teaches guitar courses for the City of Burlington. He is married to his wife Kathleen of 17 years, they live in Oakville and have 2 teenage boys involved in sports.

2018 Winner: Jacqueline Huffman-Krisza


The 2018 Hamilton-Halton nominee for this honour is our very active and long-time member, Jacqueline Huffman-Krisza. Congratulations, Jacquie and thank you from all of our members for your past and continued dedication and hard work.

“It is customary that small children try to emulate their older siblings and I was no exception. My sister and brother were piano students of Mrs. Myers and I wanted to be just like them. Before I was five, I too was given lessons. Unfortunately, Mrs. Myers died
suddenly and my lessons ended until I was allowed to audition for Reginald Godden at the Hamilton Conservatory. This resulted in my studies with Louis Murch and obtaining my ARCT. After my two daughters were born, I enrolled as a mature student at McMaster
University where I completed an Honours B. Mus., and benefited from the tutelage of the late Myrtle Guerrero. I Graduation from The Faculty of Education, University of Toronto with a B. Education followed and eventually a M.Ed.
from Brock University.

Professional development has been a priority which has resulted in accreditation in Dalcroze, Kindermusik, Musikgarten,
and Orff plus certification and involvement in the Early Childhood Music and Movement Association (ECMMA) as
Northeast Regional Representative and Secretary.

A member of ORMTA for thirty years, I have been actively engaged both at the Provincial and the local Hamilton-Halton
ORMTA level. As an Executive Member in the H-H Branch, I have fulfilled the secretarial duties and currently maintain
the Member-at-large profile. While serving on the Provincial Council as the Southern Zone Representative with the
Student Membership portfolio, it was exciting to have a positive vote for the inclusion of Student Membership in our
current Provincial Bylaws.

In addition to teaching piano and being a Church Organist and Choir Director for over 50 years, time and energy were
dedicated to the Montessori and Junior Schools as the Early Education Music Specialist at Hillfield Strathallan
College. Directing musicals and performances for twenty seven years remains a fond memory! Retirement from these
educational roles has given me the opportunity to spend more enjoyable and fulfilling times with my family, my three
grandchildren, my private students, friends/colleagues and my role as the Rotary Burlington Music Festival Artistic

Whether teaching private students (ages 4 to 94 yr.) or classroom students (2 1⁄2 to 10 yr.), my commitment and dedication
has always been to develop musical intelligence in others with a smile and with the joy of what I love to do.
The OCTA award is a special honour for me and I am most appreciative of having been chosen by my branch colleagues.”

2017 Winner: Olga Tcherniak

Thank you HH ORMTA for nominating me for the Contribution to Teaching Award third time in the three consecutive years. I joined ORMTA 25 years ago, in 1992, shortly after immigrating to Canada from the USSR. Initially I joined Etobicoke -Mississauga Branch and later Sarnia Branch, where I have held different Executive positions from 1993-2003.

Since 2003, I have been an active member of HH ORMTA and had served on its Executive Board for almost ten years. I was the HH Branch President from 2007-2009.

My musical background comes from the Mussorgsky School of Music for Gifted, where I was raised in the best Russian musical tradition. I continued my Graduate and Postgraduate studies in Moscow and at the University of Western Ontario and had earned Degrees in Performance, Collaborative Piano, Piano Pedagogy and Musicology. I performed as solo and collaborative pianist in Russia, France, Israel, the United States and Canada and have held positions on the Music Faculty at the Ural State University in Russia and the St.Clair County College in Michigan. I am currently teaching at the Redeemer University College and examining for RCM.

In my private teaching studio I have been teaching and mentoring students of all levels and abilities, beginners and teachers, professionals and amateurs. As a teacher, I have been always committed to excellence. In the last three years eight of my students successfully accomplished their ARCT Diploma from RCM.

Every year majority of my students appear on the HH ORMTA Honour Roll and every year my students participate in ORMTA competitions. There were many successful performances at the different Music Festivals and Competitions during more than twenty years of my teaching in Canada. For instance, only in the last 2016 year my student Victor Nguyen won Mike Geryk competition in Hamilton, Peiyao Wang received the Third Prize in Diploma Class at the Provincials and Maximillian MacNeil- Soltysiak has received W. Ross MacDonald ARCT Trophy at the BKMF. I am proud of the fact that many of my former students have become music professionals. Some are enjoying successful careers as conductors, pianists, organists, singers, pop musicians and teachers. Many of my former students have become members of my extended family and they continue their musical endeavours. The greatest satisfaction for me, as a teacher is to know that I sparked their lifelong love and appreciation for music and their lifelong interest in learning.

Besides teaching, my other passion is promoting Classical music to the young audiences. I had initiated and directed a number of educational concert series, including “The Young Peoples Concerts” at the Royal Botanical Gardens and Hamilton-Halton schools in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and the Glen Gould School of Music (2007-2010). I am sincerely grateful to many HH Branch members, who supported and helped me with that project during thoseyears.

2016 Winner: Francine McIsaac

Francine, a native of Cochrane in Northern Ontario, began her musical studies at age 11, first of accordion then soon afterwards piano, and eventually, in high school, of many brass and woodwind instruments.  By 13 she achieved her RCM Grade 8 and by 17 her ARCT.  After several request from parents, she agreed to teach local students, and to her amazement she cherished the experience and found much fulfilment in teaching.  She sought out opportunities to perform in festivals and area concerts, both as solo pianist and concert band member.  At 17, she decided to pursue an Honours Bachelor of Music at McMaster University, followed by a Master of Arts in Musicology at UBC in Vancouver.  

In 1989 Francine founded McIsaac Music School in Hamilton and has been teaching in the area ever since.  She specializes in teaching advanced piano students and advanced theory subjects. She has also taught students with various abilities such as autism, schizophrenia, visual impairments and brain injury.  Many of her students have won awards for piano, pedagogy, theory and composition as well as numerous scholarships at both provincial and national levels.   Mentoring young teachers and helping them establish their own studios are of special interest to her.  

Francine has been a member of the College of Examiners at the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM)  since 1992, examining both piano (and anything else) and marking senior theory & history subjects.   She has been a member of ORMTA Hamilton-Halton for over 25 years.   In addition, she is actively involved in the church music ministry and festival committees.  Francine also works as an independent and RCM workshop clinician, and festival adjudicator across Canada. One of her workshop specialities is “The Art of Painless Playing" and rehabilitating injured pianists.

Francine’s relatively new appointment as RCM Ontario West and Ontario North representative has brought her to meet and assist teachers across Southwestern and Northern Ontario , to promote new materials and programs such as the new Teacher Certification program and online pedagogy courses released by RCM in the Fall of 2015, and to act as liaison between existing and new teachers and RCM.  She is excited at this new venture and sees it as a marvellous outreach to teachers, parents and students.  She continues to explore new ways to promote the benefits of music education through her involvement in various musical organizations.

2015 Winner: Philip Corke

I am a graduate of The Royal Conservatory of Music in composition and piano performance, studying piano with Keith Hopkins and composition with Roman Toi and Sam Dolin.

I have taught piano, guitar, theory and composition for more than 40 years and am a member of the Ontario Registered Music Teachers’ Association (ORMTA) Hamilton-Halton Branch, for which I served as branch president many years ago! I have presented workshops for the branch, adjudicated student composition competitions and organised teacher performance concerts.

I have been fortunate to have some hard working and creative students who have won both ORMTA and CFMTA awards for their compositions and well as branch awards for fine results in advanced RCM theory exams.

As a former member of the music committee for the Burlington Rotary Music Festival (chiefly as piano lid-lifter for concerts!) and the Keys to the Future fund-raising committee for the concert grand piano purchased for the new Burlington Performing Arts Centre, I was involved in planning numerous concerts featuring local musicians.

I have composed numerous chamber and choral works as well as theatre music, along with music for solo piano, piano four-hands, guitar, violin and flute. Arrangements of mine include material from Renaissance music to popular standards for various instrumental and vocal ensembles. I have received composition awards from both the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Association and The Canadian Composers’ Forum and have a number of works in the syllabus of the Alliance for Canadian Contemporary Music.

Along with the owner of Different Drummer Books in Burlington, I run a music series called Music at the Drummer. Going into its 5th season, the series features local musicians performing in the intimate environment of the store, with music ranging from jazz to classical to folk and traditional.

My music performance career has been a varied one: 17 years as music director at a local Presbyterian church; 6 years as principal pianist at a local dance studio; 32 years with branch member Roland Packer performing throughout Southern Ontario in the hammer dulcimer/guitar duo called The Playford Players and in recent years working with branch members Andrea Battista (violin), Catherine Richardson (flute) and Karen Gross (voice) in local concert venues, including the Music at the Drummer series and the Keys to the Future grand piano campaign.

I also have done rewarding volunteer guitar playing for 2 Burlington nursing homes over the past 10 years, for residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia.


2014 Winner: Sandra Brewer

Sandra Brewer began her music career in kindergarten when she touched the keys of the ‘off limit” piano in her classroom. As a result of her early interest, formal piano lessons commenced along with the recitals, festival competitions, and
exams that are an integral part of musical development. Sandra graduated with a Diploma of Music from Ecole Vincent D’Indy in Montreal while concurrently completing a B. Sc. in math and chemistry at McGill University. Sandra was
privileged to have Claude Champagne as one of her three final examiners. Learn more about Sandra


2013 Winner: Leon Karan

Leon Karan holds degrees of Master of Fine Arts from Ural University, Yekaterinburg, Russia and Bachelor of Music from the Music College, Mogilev, Belarus.
In Minsk, Belarus, Leon held the positions of Piano Department Head at the Music School for the Gifted Students; piano methodology course instructor at the Music Teacher’s University and concurrently worked as a piano tuner.
Learn more about Leon


2012 Winner: Linda Fletcher

Linda Fletcher of Oakville is very active in the music community as a teacher, composer, singer, adjudicator, clinician, accompanist and music director. Her early piano studies were with Grace Vandendool. She holds an Honours BMus and a B.Ed from McMaster University, where she studied piano with Reginald Bedford, and voice with Dr. Gladys Whitehead. She received an A. Mus. degree in voice from the University of Western Ontario and was awarded the gold medal for the highest mark in Canada. Linda continued her study of voice with Tom Oliver and organ with Keith Hopkins. She also plays French horn and guitar.  Learn more about Linda

2011 Winner: Andrea Battista

Andrea Battista received most of her musical education in Winnipeg where she was born into a family that valued music. Her parents began her older sister on piano lessons and they soon discovered that Andrea was learning all her sister’s pieces, so she started piano lessons at age 5 with renowned Winnipeg teacher, Jean Broadfoot. At age 9, her parents added violin lessons with Anne Pomer-James. She later studied violin with Mary Graham after Mrs. James moved away from Winnipeg. Learn more about Andrea

2010 Winner: Shireen Moos

Hamilton-Halton ORMTA is pleased to select Shireen Moos to be recognized as a “Special Teacher” in 2010. Shireen, a 31-year association member, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from all of her life’s facets. Her ongoing journey is defined by her profile as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mom, a grandma, a teacher / mentor, a loyal friend. Learn more about Shireen