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Andrew Marshall Awarded Pennypacker Prize

The Pennypacker Prize is a special way for us to recognize a Winsor teacher of great promise.  Created in 2002, the award is “given annually in the name of Henriette Pennypacker Binswanger ’52, with respect and admiration for the educational excellence of the Winsor School and the memory of an extraordinary experience.” Henriette attended Wheelock College after graduating from Winsor and went on to earn her M.Ed. from Harvard. A fervent advocate for women’s rights and environmental preservation, she loved classical music, dragonflies, mid-coast Maine, and was described as having a “sense of absurd humor.” 
 
The Pennypacker Prize is awarded each year to a teacher who is in at least their third year of full-time teaching at Winsor. It’s intended to encourage the recipient’s continuing educational growth and development. This year’s winner joins impressive company: our list of past recipients includes Josh Constant, Theresa Evenson, Jeremy Johnson, Maren Kelsey, Denise Labieniec, Dana Martin, Ken Schopf, and Lisa Stringfellow, to name a few.

The following award presentation—which remain//s a surprise until awarded—was given by Head of School Sarah Pelmas during the faculty and staff appreciation dinner on Monday January 30, 2023. Ms. Pelmas’s remarks are recapped below: 

This year’s recipient made his great work known even before we hired him. He was one of those candidates that inspired everyone to run around the school to share our impressions of his amazingness, and to urge me to make an offer as soon as possible. And he had massive shoes to fill: he was following a 41-year legend—so actually, they were tiny shoes, high-heeled and made for ballroom dancing! But our honoree brought his own sense of style to Winsor, with his trademark gray fedora and his artistic black turtlenecks and slacks. In fact, I remember the day that I first saw him in blue jeans and I thought, “Ok! He’s settling in, and he means to stay.” 

He came to us from teaching at colleges in Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma, having gotten his Ph.D. in choral conducting there. He started his choral career in Jamaica, and also trained at the world-famous Westminster Choir College in New Jersey. But none of this gives a sense of his energy, his patience, and his creativity. 

He began working here in the fall of 2020, not timing for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. Head of Performing Arts Felicia Brady Lopez introduced him to the faculty and staff by sending out a recording of a recent piece he had written for Jamaican Emancipation Day, entitled “We Are One.” At that time, before he had even begun with us, he said, “One of the things about Winsor that is a high point is the commitment to breaking down walls in every respect….moving here over the summer…definitely made me think back on [the] theme that's embedded in this song. So I'm glad to be in a place that's dedicated to ideas of this nature.” 

And what has he done since arriving? Well, he has made new arrangements for virtually everything we sing, including “Lift Ev’ry Voice” and the “Star-Spangled Banner.” He has given context to the suffragist roots of “Jerusalem,” and his new arrangement of “Jerusalem” was a revelation to those of us who have been here many years. To hear it soaring lyrically, to connect it with the suffragist movement—and even more to have all that happen during Covid when we were trapped and sad—well, it was a gift that none of us could ever have imagined receiving. About that virtual Winter Concert in 2020, which surely took him hours of work and likely not a few tears in the process, Institutional Researcher and Science Faculty Denise Labieniec said, “If I paid $100 for a ticket to that virtual holiday concert in 2020, I would have thought I got the best deal in the world—the music was SO incredible.” 

In that first year, he was so inspired by Winsor students that he wrote a three-movement piece entitled “Last Day”—what we used to call graduation day—a work for violin, piano and soprano voice, which had its world premiere last summer in Sudbury, and will have one here at school as well. I cannot list everything he has done in his short time here, but here is a start: 
  • He created original pieces for 14 players in the Class III piano elective, so they sound like a full orchestra. 
  • Wrote original music for the Class I play that is catchy, rhythmic, and memorable but never elementary. 
  • Created a new music course for Class II that focuses on creativity, composing, arranging and ensemble playing. 
  • Arranges music for Illumina that focuses on a specific choral skill such as blending or vocal placement. 
When I was sitting in on an Illumina rehearsal, and the group was working on the song entitled “What Happens When a Woman,” he brought the singers back to Philadelphia to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and exhorted them to take up that rallying cry and really feel the rhythm and power in their bones. To take up voices that had not been part of the founding but are now insisting on liberty. And to cap it all off, he lay down on the floor and pounded out the rhythm himself. 

And then there is the side of this teacher that, as Chief Operations Officer Karen Geromini notes, “arrives at 6:00 a.m. and we are lucky to get three words out of him!” The person who steals some of Felicia’s lollipops to take to advisory and give to his Class I advisees—she always wonders which kids are sneaking in to steal them! The conductor who does a high kick to illustrate an accent in Carmen. The colleague whose laugh is joyful and contagious. Who loves travel enough to propose taking students to Jamaica next year, and to volunteer to drive the instruments for Crash Course all the way to Washington, DC for their performance at the national conference. 

Theater Director Jeremy Johnson, a collaborator in musicals, has this to say about our honoree: “When I think of [him], I automatically calm down. The final weeks of the Class I play tend to be a bit chaotic and Performing Arts Faculty Carey McKinley and I are both swirling masses of energy and (at least in my case) anxiety. In the middle of this storm, [there he is,] sitting quietly in the theater—in a parka, and a scarf and a pom pom hat—at the piano, serenely waiting for us all to take a breath and settle so that we can sing. He is an anchor that holds us in place and keeps us moving ever forward. I can turn to him at any moment and say, ‘This is gonna work, right?’ and I know I that I will get a calm and confident, ‘Ya mon, it's gonna be great.’” 

He seems completely boundless in his talents and energies. Felicia characterizes him as “a soulful, inspired musician; a dynamic conductor; a humble, hard-working and beloved member of the department; someone who lights up the stage when accompanying his singers.” He works efficiently in rehearsals, but also passionately, and knows how to manage the younger students with patience and calm. And he has that same light touch with adults as well! Felicia notes that he “collaborates with care, thoughtfulness, and humor, circling back to continue conversations after he has thought things through, and even getting down on one knee when I am sitting at my desk and he wants to talk to me.” 

Carey remembers “Walking into rehearsal one day, [when] I found [him] and the Class I students in a state of bliss, singing and dancing with freedom, joy, and connection. The students surrounded him at the piano while he played. It was a sight! And I knew then that he was a transformative teacher for these students, and for me.” Everyone who works with this teacher, or has the pleasure of being in the audience for a performance he’s in, cannot help but be moved by the beauty of the music and also touched by the hard work and commitment he shows to his students and to the school itself. 

And the students, of course, love him! When I reached out to his students for a few words, they gushed! Says Sarah Finkelstein ’28, “He has taught me countless times, from orchestra, to the Class I play, to chorus…His contagious energy and passion for music motivates us all.” 

Bailey Hall ’28 in Class III exclaims, “Whenever entering a chorus practice, you will always hear rings of laughter, stemming from [his] cheerful character. I am so grateful to have a mentor, teacher, and fellow Jamaican who is so caring and genuinely recognizes the capability of all those he teaches.” 

Class VII’s Alicia Wu ’24 says, “Off the top of my head, I can immediately think of a million [things] that make [this teacher who he is]: the way that he makes us do stretches before every class, his…choir-related analogies, and of course, his impeccable sense of style, including the gray fedora that he brings with him on a daily basis. But what sticks out to me the most about [him] is the passion that he holds for helping us improve as a choir.” 

Adds Natalie Cooper ’24: “[He] often encourages us with his iconic phrase, ‘it’s the little things.’ This short, simple mantra captures Illumina’s collective goal to ‘do the little things’ and to strive for musical greatness.” 

And Class V’s Liana Min ’26 sums it all up by saying, “If I had to describe [him] in one word, I would choose ‘passionate.’” 

I can think of no higher praise than what our students have to say. Please join me in congratulating this year’s Pennypacker Prize winner, Mr. Andrew Marshall!
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