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Denton ISD Announces Recipient of Mark and Barbara Smith Fine Arts Discovery Award

Denton ISD announced the recipient of the inaugural Mark and Barbara Smith Fine Arts Discovery Award on Friday, April 12.

Dillon Downey – who is in his second year teaching music at Sandbrock Ranch Elementary – was selected as the winner of this year’s award, which will be given annually to a fine arts educator in the district.

The Mark and Barbara Smith Fine Arts Discovery Award is funded through the Mark and Barbara Smith Endowment with the Denton Public School Foundation. Each recipient will receive $2,500 to be used for professional development in fine arts.

“I am blown away to receive this award from the Mark and Barbara Smith Endowment,” Mr. Downey said. “The Smith’s generosity supporting our young musicians and artists in our district will have a huge impact on our community. I am so appreciative to work in a district and school that supports students’ musical development at many levels, including staff development.”

The $2,500 awarded to Mr. Downey will be used for him to attend the Gordon Institute for Music Learning later this summer at the University of New Mexico. While there, Mr. Downey will extend his training on Music Learning Theory, a research-based approach to building musical literacy and understanding.

Mr. Downey was selected for this award from a pool of applicants district-wide. A selection committee was formed that consisted of retired fine arts educators, administrators and community members who represent all of the Denton ISD zones and are familiar with the district’s fine arts program. The committee scored on a blind review process based on the application each candidate submitted.

“Mr. Downey is an outstanding elementary music specialist who not only serves the students of Sandbrock Ranch, but also serves as an excellent leader among our teachers,” said Eddy Russell, Director of Fine Arts. “This award will enable Mr. Downey to attend an incredible learning experience this summer, where he will have the opportunity to grow his knowledge about how students learn and to develop his skills as a teacher. Many thanks to the Denton Public School Foundation and to Mark and Barbara Smith for sponsoring this award so that professional development experiences like this are possible.”

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