A Holyoke High School teacher was announced as the winner of the Boch Center’s Music Teachers Who Inspire contest. 

According to Holyoke Public Schools Spokesperson Judy Taylor, Mark Todd teaches choir, madrigal and bell choir at Holyoke High School.

Taylor said in addition to teaching, Todd also devotes after-school time every year to the school’s spring musical and coaches the school’s Match Wits team for a high school quiz show. 

The Boch Center, described as a “guardian” of Boston’s historic Wang and Shubert Theatres, launched the contest to identify local music, band, or chorus teachers who inspire students to pursue a love of the arts. 

Nearly 30 teachers from across Massachusetts were nominated. They announced Todd as the winner of the contest on their Facebook page, saying, “The Holyoke community has filled his nomination picture with inspiring stories of praise and love for this inspiring teacher and voted him to the top of the nominees.”

As the winner, Todd will receive a $1,000 school grant from Music Drives Us. He was presented his prize on Tuesday.

Josiah Spaulding Jr., President and CEO of the Boch Center said, “The enthusiastic comments of support that were shared about Mark’s impact as a teacher and love of music were truly inspiring.”

Todd said he was honored to have been voted as the winner of the contest. 

Below is a nomination write-up for Todd that  the Boch Center shared on Facebook:

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” Arthur O’Shaughnessy 

In an urban district in which 75% of the students are economically disadvantaged, Mark Todd is the Vocal Music Director. 

He teaches: 
Choir: This course requires no audition, and all students – regardless of ability or disability – are welcome. It provides opportunities for both musical and social growth. 
Madrigal: A select a capella ensemble. 
Bell Choir: A small hand bell ensemble. Public performances and competitions are a natural outgrowth of the students’ work in these courses. They are authentic assessments of the students’ mastery of the many lessons they have been taught. 

Mr. Todd also coaches the As Schools Match Wits team for a high school quiz show televised on the local PBS channel. In 2015, against all odds, they won the Western Mass Championship for the first time, beating five-time champion Longmeadow. This helped shatter stereotypes that Holyoke students aren’t proficient. Come January, Mr. Todd devotes his after-school time to the musical that for four days in March plays to sold out audiences. Supported in part by a Holyoke Cultural Council Grant, a typical production will involve 50 students performing on stage and another 75 students and 35 adults working on choreography, set design and construction, costume/wig design, make-up/hair, lighting/sound, fundraising/publicity, and in the orchestra. This year’s production of The Little Mermaid was the 19th musical he has directed and produced. Regardless of their role, on stage or behind the scenes, students are committed to both their own success and the success of their peers. In an ensemble production, they support each other. To borrow from 42nd Street’s Julian Marsh, the students do not just do their best, they do better than their best. In Mr. Todd’s own words, “I am incredibly proud of the work of our students, and I am excited for people to enjoy this wonderfully entertaining show.” For nineteen years, audiences have been enthralled. One of the things that has inspired me most about Mark Todd is his willingness and ability to include all students – regardless of ability or disability – in his classes and productions – and how he has created and fostered opportunities for natural connections. Two years ago, Mr. Todd directed and produced Shrek the Musical. Not only did he include students with disabilities, he also purchased 1,000 green Shrek ears to sell at $5 apiece. “We want to sell every one of them to benefit our special needs students,” he said. “They are great kids and sometimes don’t have the transportation needed for field trips to places like Sturbridge Village. Hopefully this money will help to provide for things like that.” 
In December, my brother joined us at a concert. My granddaughter was front and center singing her favorite carols as loudly as she could. The words weren’t always pronounced correctly, but that didn’t matter. My brother asked if all schools were as inclusive or if this was unique to Holyoke. I responded, “Mark Todd is a Holyoke treasure!”

Nominated by Mary Birks
Holyoke High School