WOOSTER, Ohio — Longtime music educator and advocate for the arts Gary DeVault has received the prestigious Distinguished Service Award from the Ohio Music Education Association (OMEA)— the highest honor bestowed by the organization. The annual award is given in recognition of excellence in teaching, service to the association, and professional outreach — and DeVault’s achievements in all three areas are exceptional.
A graduate of Heidelberg College, where he earned a degree (magna cum laude) in music education, and the University of Akron, where he earned a master of music education degree, DeVault served as a music specialist (1979-1982) and director of music (1982-1991) at Southeast Local Schools, overseeing the vocal and instrumental music programs. In 1991, he joined the Wayne County Schools, now Tri-County Educational Service Center (TCESC), as a fine arts consultant and continued there for two decades before retiring in 2011. He is currently adjunct Instructor of music education, music student-teacher supervisor, and staff accompanist in the department of music at The College of Wooster. He joins Nancy Ditmer and the late Stuart Ling as recipients of the OMEA Distinguished Service Award, making Wooster the only college in Ohio to have three individual winners.
“There can be no question that Gary is very deserving of OMEA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award,” said Ditmer, who received the award in 2006. “His service to music and arts education at the local, state, and national levels, as well as his outstanding teaching and leadership, are indisputable. The teachers and students in our schools are the beneficiaries of his outstanding work. He is the consummate professional, approaching every project with a depth of knowledge, a high level of energy, and extreme attention to detail, all of which distinguish him as the kind of leader who has and will continue to make a difference in the large arena of arts education.”
DeVault’s service to OMEA includes hosting junior high large-group adjudicated events and serving as president and vice-president of District 6, as well as a representative to the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, chair of the music supervisors committee and Government Relations/Advocacy Committee. He was also instrumental in the development of Ohio’s Academic Content Standards in Fine Arts, serving on the advisory committee and as facilitator for the writing teams (music, visual art, drama/theatre, and dance). In addition, he was the guiding vision behind the development of the OMEA’s High Quality Professional Development (HQPD) Pre-Conference. He is also well known for his extensive work with the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, serving in a variety of capacities, including president.
At the national level, DeVault has worked with the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., serving as chair of the Center’s Alliance for Arts Education Network, and as a member of its National Governance Committee, Partners in Education Committee, and its Alliance for Arts Education Self-Assessment Task Force, among others. As part of his work with the Kennedy Center, he provided training for Ohio Teaching Artists on arts integration strategies and professional development workshops, and served as vice-chair and nationally elected member of the Arts Education Council, Americans for the Arts in Washington, D.C.
DeVault’s distinguished accomplishments have been recognized in a variety of ways, including the Ohio Art Education Association Visual Art Supervisor of the Year Award (1999), the National Art Education Association Western Region Visual Art Supervisor of the Year Award (2000), the Governor’s Award for the Arts in Education (2001), the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education Award for outstanding service to arts education at the local, state, and national levels (2005), the Canton Symphony Orchestra Board of Trustee’s Award (2006), and the Distinguished Educator for Art Education in Ohio (2010).
In accepting the award at the OMEA meeting last month at the Columbus Convention Center, DeVault said, “this award is truly an honor, and I am sincerely humbled to join the list of past Distinguished Service Award honorees. I have always believed in the mission of OMEA and the emphasis of this association on voluntary service and leadership. I truly believe that music education changes students’ lives and that OMEA plays a critical role in advocating for and promoting comprehensive, high-quality music education experiences for all students. I have been so fortunate to have had some exemplary music educators and role models in my life. I’m especially grateful for their encouragement, guidance and support throughout my career.”
In particular, DeVault recognized Roberta Mohan Newcomer, former Director of Arts Education for the Wayne County Schools and retired Music/Theatre Consultant for the Ohio Dept. of Education, for her unwavering support. “She was such an inspiration and a great mentor, colleague, and friend for all of these years,” he said. “She truly shaped and impacted my professional life in so many ways.”
In his concluding remarks, DeVault made a plea to parents, teachers, administrators and elected officials to advocate for the future of fine arts programs. “As more and more school districts are faced with tough financial decisions, we cannot let music and the arts be eliminated from our schools,” he said. “Every child deserves a high-quality, sequential, comprehensive education, including music and the arts taught by qualified professional educators.”
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