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Wernega receives special recognition from NAfME and Barbershop Harmony Society

Wernega receives special recognition from National Association for Music Education and Barbershop Harmony Society

In recognition of his excellence in teaching and impact on young singers, John Wernega of Quinton Township School, has been named the 2021 recipient of the Music Educator Award by the Barbershop Harmony Society and NAfME, The National Association for Music Education.

The award was announced in a surprise Zoom call on December 21, 2020, with some of John’s friends, family, colleagues, chapter members, Harmony Hall staff, and present and former students joining virtually.

The BHS/NAfME award honors educators “who give students the opportunity to learn and participate in the joy and power that music education brings in uplifting the human spirit and fostering the well being of society.”

John and The Wildcat Harmonizers (2019)

John Wernega is arguably the most influential barbershop leader in the country at the elementary and middle school levels. Over the past six years, his singing groups have appeared across the country at major barbershop festivals and conventions, and hosted local events drawing hundreds of young singers. In 2016, following a thunderous ovation before 7,000 guests at the Barbershop Harmony Society’s International Convention, the Wildcat Harmonizers made a special national radio and television appearance on the Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Four of his Wildcat Harmonizers continued singing into their high school years, and as The Quin-Tones, became the 2019 Next Generation Barbershop Junior Varsity Quartet Champions.

Wildcat Harmonizers (2019)


Like so many educators, John juggles his classroom duties with fundraising, costuming, set building, show scripting and so much more. John is a prodigious arranger, creating works for all his school and barbershop ensembles, and for himself as multi-instrumentalist YouTube performer... and still finds time to be a Philadelphia New Year’s Day Mummer, church organist and choir director. It’s not known if he ever actually sleeps.

His colleagues and kids are equally effusive: “John Wernega is one of the greatest ambassadors for barbershop in the way he encourages people to participate in barbershop throughout the entirety of their lives. Being an elementary school teacher, it would be easy for him to shy away from having barbershop be a part of his curriculum due to the age of the students. Understanding this, year in and year out he has children at elementary age level singing four part harmony!”

“It has been inspiring to observe John as an educator and to see the impact he has on the students he teaches," said a colleague. “When John took the K-8 music teacher position at the Quinton School, he was tasked with reviving a music department that had been completely cancelled years prior. Within years John had two thriving choruses, a band, and jazz ensemble. With his vast vocal and instrumental backgrounds John is able to help students find their musical passion and provide them with the tools they need to succeed. John loves working at this school in particular because he gets to work with his students for 8 straight years, learning their personalities and catering instruction to them individually.”

The Quin-Tones

For years John has utilized technology and cutting edge teaching methods to help engage his students. Over the years, he has created thousands of hours of learning tracks and instructional videos to help them learn and practice, many of which are found on his YouTube channel. All this work had John well prepared to adapt to the virtual and hybrid learning environments made necessary by the Covid-19 pandemic. His students have remained engaged while at home, continuing to receive personally tailored instruction over video. John was even able to put together a virtual chorus this summer composed of his students.”

Wernega holds a BA in Music Education from Rowan University, and an MA in Music Education from Westminster Choir College.

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Watch John’s barbershop singers

Head Start In Harmony Testimonial Video https://youtu.be/VxZ7wOZe9Qs

Head Start in Harmony 2020, Mixed Youth Barbershop Chorus https://youtu.be/pbseLzddj0Y

Teaching a Student to Write and Read Music in Braille https://youtu.be/7a2TZl2i4R0

Quintastics (Girls Quartet) https://youtu.be/96b9aAXbUPc

Wildcat Harmonizers 2016 Midwinter https://youtu.be/anBjR5TYa38

Elementary Mix 2017 International Convention https://youtu.be/uVZZE_Hd4a0

Wildcat Harmonizers, The Joint Is Jumping https://youtu.be/B5zCOkMD50Q

Quinton School Hand Bell Chorus https://youtu.be/5h_rWtOcMnk

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The Barbershop Harmony Society is a leader in community singing and adult music education, with more than 16,000 members across North America; allied organizations in more than a dozen countries bring the total number of active singers to more than 70,000 worldwide. Through active programs in music education, publishing, performance and outreach, the Society preserves and extends the reach of a uniquely American close harmony musical art form whose roots lie in African American improvisational harmony. Founded in 1938, the Society now expends nearly $1 million annually in support of community and school programs that bring the fellowship, fulfillment and excitement of vocal music to a new generation of singers. Follow the Barbershop Harmony Society on Twitter @barbershopnews and on Facebook (facebook.com/barbershopharmonysociety)

For additional information, contact Brian Lynch, blynch@barbershop.org or 615-673- 4131.

The National Association for Music Education, among the world’s largest arts education organizations, is the only association that addresses all aspects of music education. NAfME advocates at the local, state, and national levels; provides resources for teachers, parents, and administrators; hosts professional development events; and offers a variety of opportunities for students and teachers. The Association orchestrates success for millions of students nationwide and has supported music educators at all teaching levels for more than a century. With more than 130,000 members, the organization is the voice of music education in the United States.

Follow NAfME on Twitter (@nafme) and on Facebook (facebook.com/nafme)