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Penny Yanke honored with BHS/NAfME Award

Penny Yanke honored with BHS/NAfME Award

Penny Yanke of Burlington (Wisc.) High School has been named the BHS/NAfME 2024 Music Educator of the Year.

Penny Yanke of Burlington (Wisc.) High School has been named the BHS/NAfME 2024 Music Educator of the Year. The award recognizes excellence in teaching, performing, and the lifelong impact music teachers make on young singers. Yanke received the award at a December 2023 concert in Wisconsin, then was again formally recognized at the BHS 2024 Midwinter Convention in New York City.

Since Penny began teaching at Burlington in 1987, she has grown the program from a single choir to five groups, alongside a busy musical theater program. Penny’s educational background, including both a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master’s degree in School Guidance and Counseling, uniquely reflects the empathy and wise mentorship that her students and colleagues treasure.

Penny is widely recognized by the professional music education community in Wisconsin, with multiple citations for her service and excellence in teaching, and a wall full of awards for her excellent choirs. She is a recipient of the prestigious Herb Kohl Teacher Fellowship Award, the Civic Music Educator Award in Choral Music from the Milwaukee Civic Music Organization and was recognized by the Wisconsin State Music Association and Wisconsin Music Education Association for her 35 years of service in Music Education.

Thanks to a scholarship to the music educators track, Penny first attended the Barbershop Harmony Society’s Harmony University in 2018, which she describes as “a life-changing event.” That led her to bring barbershop choruses to Midwinter in 2019 and 2023, and a unique songwriter collaboration for the 2022 virtual event. Multiple quartets have also spun out of the program, including 2023 Junior Varsity Quartet Champs YTBN.

Her advocacy for barbershop harmony has led her to join the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Youth Harmony Festival, which brings high school quartets together to compete annually for the Schmitt Brothers Traveling trophy. She serves on the Young Women in Harmony National Task Force (YWIH). She was also one of three music educators who made a presentation at the 2019 Wisconsin School Music Conference relating how they incorporate singing barbershop harmony in their high school curriculum.

In 2023, Penny was awarded the Golden Chord Award by the Land O’Lakes District of the Barbershop Harmony Society as the Music Educator of the Year.

The Barbershop Harmony Society is a leader in community singing and adult music education, with more than 14,000 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 Facebook (


NAfME, the National Association for Music Education, is a collaborative community that supports music educators and advocates for equitable access to music education. 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 Facebook (