Oklahoma Baptist University

OMEA Top Honors Recognize Alumni, Faculty

Three OBU music alumnae recently received honors from the Oklahoma Music Educators Association. Julia Woodward Haley was inducted into the 2011 OMEA Hall of Fame; Katie Cease Robertson was named the 2011 OMEA Outstanding Young Music Educator; and Vivian Hall Rice was named a 2011 OMEA Exemplary Teacher.

The honorees were recognized during the organization's annual meeting in Tulsa in January.

Haley, a 1980 OBU graduate, is one of three music educators statewide to be inducted into the OMEA Hall of Fame this year. She is an associate professor of music education at Oklahoma State University where she specializes in elementary music methods and teacher training. She has been a member of OMEA/MENC (the National Association for Music Education) since her freshman year at OBU.

Julia Haley

Katie Robertson

Vivian Rice


During her years of teaching at the college level, Haley has supervised numerous student teachers and helped to place them in music teaching jobs all over the state of Oklahoma. She has served as Collegiate MENC Faculty Advisor at OSU since 1991 and served as Collegiate OMEA State Advisor from 1998-2004.

She is founder and conductor of the Stillwater Honor Choir, a community choir for singers in grades three through 12. The choir is in its seventh season. She also has served as an officer of several state music organizations.

Haley's mother, Betty Woodward, a long-time OBU music education/church music faculty member, was chosen for the Hall of Fame in 2003. Haley co-authored a book with Woodward titled "Using Kodály and Orff in the Church," published by Genevox. She also writes choir curricula for LifeWay Christian Resources.

Haley earned a master's degree and a doctorate with Kodály emphasis from the University of Oklahoma. She earned a Kodály Certificate from Silver Lake College in Wisconsin and achieved certification in the Orff-Schulwerk approach through OBU and Memphis State University.

Robertson graduated from OBU in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in instrumental music education: oboe emphasis, with the scholastic predicate summa cum laude. She accepted a graduate assistant position at the University of Oklahoma, earning a master's degree in music education: Kodály emphasis in 2008.

She began teaching elementary music in the Putnam City School District at Overholser Elementary in Bethany, Okla., in 2008. She currently teaches at Ralph Downs Elementary in Oklahoma City. She also is the elementary music coordinator for the district.

Robertson has served as Region O's "Circle the State with Song" chair for the past two years, and she will assume the state chair position next year. She has served for two years on the board of Oklahoma Kodály Educators.

Rice graduated from OBU in 1971 with an emphasis in voice, K-12. She also has completed graduate studies at the University of Central Oklahoma and University of Oklahoma. She is certified for Orff, Level 1.

Before teaching in public education, Rice served Putnam City Baptist Church and Council Road Baptist Church in the children's choir programs. She later taught music at Coronado Heights Elementary School in the Putnam City School District in Oklahoma City.

In her quest to develop innovative teaching methods, she wrote and received many grants from the PC Foundation. Her school was chosen to sing at the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial for the MENC World's Largest Concert. In 2007, Rice and Cristi Miller wrote "What a Place! What a Land!" which celebrates Oklahoma history.

Rice has been honored as Coronado Teacher of the Year, PC Excellence Educator, OEA Instructional Excellence Teacher, Coronado PTA Teacher of the Year and was in the first group to complete the National Board certification process. She served as elementary vocal music chair for her district. She retired after 38 years of teaching in both church music and public school education.

Two youth choirs with ties to OBU were invited to perform during the convention: The Shawnee Honor Choir, part of the Young Singers of Central Oklahoma, under the direction of Conchita Hansford, and the Young Choirs of Central Oklahoma, under the direction of former OBU faculty member Dr. Darla Eshelman.

Conchita Hansford

Darla Eshelman


Performing at the convention is a prestigious honor for the choirs. A panel of judges listens anonymously to all the recordings submitted by the interested groups, and then they rank them according to artistic merit. Following judging, invitations to perform are extended by the OMEA executive board. The judges base their decision on the general musical artistry of the group including such elements as beauty of tone and tuning, quality of repertoire, artistic singing, beauty of expression, technical accuracy and diction.

Hansford, director of the OBU Preparatory Department and assistant professor of music, has conducted Shawnee Honor Choir for 21 years. Dephanie Lilite serves as the choir's accompanist. This is the fifth year the choir has been selected to perform at the OMEA state convention; under Hansford's direction, the choir has performed at the convention in 1997, 2004, 2007 and 2011. The choir performed at the convention prior to 1990 under the direction of Marilyn Wood.

Eshelman served as associate professor of music education at OBU from 1995-2009. She and Suzanne Morrison, a 2002 OBU alum, founded Young Choirs of Central Oklahoma in 2009 through the UCO School of Music and the Oklahoma Center for Arts Education. Eshelman serves as associate professor of music education and program coordinator for the vocal music education degree at UCO.

Leslee Howze, YCCO associate conductor, is a 1999 OBU graduate, and Cheryl Tarter, YCCO accompanist, is a 1975 OBU graduate.

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