Awarding artistry: At 2021 Viola Awards, Lumberjacks recognized for art, science and education

Edith Copley directing

For Edith Copley, receiving a Legacy Award at the Viola Awards was a journey back through her three-decade career—a chance to relive the choral concerts in Africa, Europe and Asia; directing at Carnegie Hall in New York City; the musicians with whom she has collaborated and conducted; and the thousands of students who passed through her classroom in preparation for a career as musicians, music teachers or simply people who want music to be a part of their lives.

Copley, who retired this spring after 31 years in the Northern Arizona University School of Music, was one of many Lumberjacks recognized at the 13th annual Viola Awards, which took place June 18 at Fort Tuthill County Park. It was a special ceremony, highlighting art created during the pandemic and celebrating artists, community organizations and partnerships. Artists, scientists, groups and creators from NAU won a variety of awards.

Copley conducted the Shrine of the Ages choir, Chamber Singers and University Singers; choral ensembles under her direction have performed in Western Europe, the People’s Republic of China, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Bulgaria, Turkey and the Baltics.

In addition to conducting NAU choral groups, Copley was music director of the Master Chorale of Flagstaff, and she has conducted many concerts with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. She has received many honors in her long careers, including NAU School of Performing Arts Centennial Teacher of the Year Award, Arizona Music Educator of the Year, Arizona ACDA Outstanding Choral Director Award, the Viola Award in Music and the Weston H. Noble Award from her alma mater, Luther College. Copley is currently serving as national president-elect for the American Choral Directors Association.

“I think music is an important part of our human culture,” she said in a video for the awards show. “Music, art, theater, dance—all of these arts, not just music, they’re an important part of being human, and that’s why I think every young person needs to have music in school.”

Find out more about all the winners.


Excellence in Storytelling:  The Man in the Dog Park” by Cathy A. Small, Jason Kordosky and Ross Moore

Cathy Small, a professor emerita of anthropology, co-authored this book on homelessness in the United States with a man she met when he was homeless. She interviewed dozens of homeless people in Flagstaff to share their stories and discuss the growing problem of homelessness in the country. The book takes readers into the places that many homeless frequent, including a community shelter, a day labor agency, a panhandling corner, a pawn shop and a HUD office. Read the NAU News story about the book.

Excellence in STEAM and Excellence in Visual Arts: “Parched”

“Parched: The Art of Water in the Southwest” debuted at the Coconino Center for the Arts in 2020. It featured nine artists who worked with scientists, conservationists and policymakers in 2019 to explore the uses and misuses of water in the region and created pieces that explore “our intricate relationship with water in our natural, cultural, and political landscapes.” The featured artists are: Klee Benally, photographer Josh Biggs, art professor Debra Edgerton, art lecturer Neal Galloway, Marie Gladue, Delisa Myles, Shawn Skabelund, Glory Tacheenie-Campoy, and Kathleen Velo. The steering committee included: curator Julie Comnick, professor of biology Jane Marks, Audrey Kruse (Grand Canyon Trust), Sarah Smallwood (Creative Flagstaff), professor of communication Peter Friederici, Ron Doba (Northern Arizona Municipal Water Users Association), Don Bills (U.S. Geological Survey) and Alicyn Gitlin (Sierra Club).

Excellence in Performing Arts: “The Nutcracker”

In a year like no other, the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra continued its annual tradition of presenting “The Nutcracker” to northern Arizona, but with a pandemic twist. Featuring dancers from the Northern Arizona University Community Music and Dance Academy under the direction of Andrew Needhammer, program manager in the School of Music, who adjusted the choreography to adjust for safety restrictions, and FSO maestro Charles Latshaw, the group performed the ballet at the Orpheum Theatre over four days, with NAU-TV filming and producing the production and making it available for viewing online.

Excellence in Education: Melinda McKinney

NAU alumna Melinda McKinney is a biology faculty member at Coconino Community College. She is the adviser for Students Advancing STEM and has volunteered with the Flagstaff Festival of Science and STEM City. Last fall, she created a formal poster session for undergraduate researchers to present their work to 15 volunteer judges. She also is a faculty research mentor for Bridges to Baccalaureate, an NIH program that provides research opportunities and training in biomedical science for Native American students.

Other nominees connected to NAU include:

Excellence in Performing arts: “Voice of the Whale,” a March 9, 2020 Horizon Concert Series

Excellence in Music: Sean Golightly, an alumnus of the communications master’s program

Community Impact Organization: Flagstaff Festival of Science, of which NAU is a major partner

Excellence in Performing Arts: F-Town Sound, which includes NAU professors, alumni and staff

Excellence in Education: Kayley Quick, a 2009 alumna in art education

Excellence in Education: Owen Davis, an alumnus of music education

Excellence in Education: Stephanie Yingst Galloway, an alumna of choral and instrumental music education and piano performance

Emerging artist: Lauren Sarantopolus, a recent graduate in environmental biology and wildlife ecology

Emerging artist: Student Sierra Bryan

Learn more about all the nominees.




NAU Communications