MMEA Music Educator of the Year Award

MSU Associate Professor of Music Education Judy Palac recognized for work in performing arts medicine.

Associate Professor of Music Education Judy Palac poses with the award and with Michael Kroth, professor of bassoon and associate dean for undergraduate studies.

Judy Palac first learned violin from a local teacher, then joined the orchestra when her school in Dundee, Ill., started a strings program. The more she played and the more she interacted with her teachers, the more she knew she wanted to be a music teacher herself.

Palac’s devotion to music education was recently honored by the Michigan Music Education Association. In early 2017, the associate professor of music education at Michigan State University received the coveted 2016 Music Educator of the Year Award—an honor reserved for individuals who have demonstrated outstanding merit in music teaching and who have served their students, communities and profession in an exemplary manner.

“I’m speechless,” says Palac. “I’m so grateful to the MMEA for all they do. It’s wonderful to have a state association that recognizes music educators in the broad sense. To be honored by them is inspiring.”

Palac joined the Music Education area at MSU 32 years ago. A specialist in string education and performing arts medicine, Palac helped strengthen and coordinate the MSU Suzuki program at MSU—a program that has trained more than 1,500 children over nearly three decades. She has published in the fields of performing arts medicine, string teacher education, and the Suzuki method. In 2004, Palac helped found MSU’s Musicians’ Wellness program that was among the first of its type at universities across the U.S.

“Judy’s contributions to musicians’ health and wellness have made her a national leader in this area, and have influenced a generation of music teachers in Michigan to be more mindful of the factors that may impact their students’ physical well-being as musicians,” says MSU Associate Professor Mitchell Robinson, area chair of Music Education. “Leadership is all about building relationships and trust, and that’s what Dr. Palac has done best—the teachers in our state have known for 32 years that they have had a friend and colleague at MSU in Judy, and there’s really no better tribute to her career than that.”

Palac was nominated for the 2016 MMEA award by Music Education alumnae Karen Salvador (MM ’07, PHD ’11) in recognition of both her teaching and her work in performing arts medicine.

“If our goal as music teachers is to foster a lifelong engagement with making music—and if we want to sustain our careers as professional music educators—we have to pay more attention to our health and well-being,” says Salvador, associate professor of music at the University of Michigan-Flint. “Judy’s work in this area draws attention to something that would be easy to ignore, and I think this is her most important legacy.”

Palac will be retiring from the MSU College of Music at the end of the 2016-17 academic year.

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