Bolton wins Outstanding Music Educators Award


Ammu Lanka

While teaching the Guitar Ensemble, fine arts teacher Traci Bolton tells her students to take notes of an audio clip. Bolton recently won the Outstanding Music Educator Award from the St. Louis Suburban Music Educators Association, along with a Rose Award from Rockwood.

Ammu Lanka, News Assistant Editor

As a teacher at Lafayette for 18 years, fine arts teacher Traci Bolton recently earned the 2022-2023 Outstanding Music Educator Award. Only two teachers won the award in Rockwood this year, the other being Geggie Elementary vocal music teacher Leigh Schaefferkoetter.

The Outstanding Music Educator is determined by the St. Louis Suburban Music Educators Association (SLSMEA) and is someone in the St. Louis suburban area that is dedicated to the musical development of all students. Brad Balog, another fine arts teacher in Lafayette, is president of the association.

“Teachers were nominated for the award by their colleagues [in the association]. [Then], the SLSMEA executive board reviews all the nominations for the award and decides the recipients.” Balog said.

“I first started teaching guitar as part of a ‘Music Exploration’ class at a middle school. When I was hired at Lafayette, teaching a single Guitar 1 class was part of my course load as an assistant band director,” Bolton said.

For the past seven years, Bolton has been teaching Guitar 1, 2 and Guitar Ensemble. She also leads Lafayette’s three jam bands.

Even though the recipients were nominated by teachers, Bolton’s students agree she deserved the award.

Junior Andrew Baca is in Bolton’s Guitar 1 class and has enjoyed her teaching techniques.

“Mrs. Bolton provides a great learning atmosphere, and the students in the class are really fun to have there. My favorite thing about Mrs. Bolton [is] her ability to keep the class engaged and allow us to expand on our own musical strengths and abilities, she’s really encouraging,” Baca said.

While there are many outstanding music educators at Lafayette, Baca said Bolton puts the most time and effort to make sure her students are able to develop musical expression and creativity that is not found in any other class.

Sophomore Kalie McLaughlin is taking Guitar 2 and said what she loved about Bolton was her down-to-earth attitude while teaching the class.

“The class is very laid back. We spend the vast majority of the time playing guitar, but we also have plenty of time to talk [to friends]. In class, we focus on many different aspects of guitar playing. We read music, practice chords, and different styles of playing and soloing. Weekly, we have a ‘who did it best competition’ [to determine] who sang or played a song the best out of two options,” she said.

Bolton is happy to receive positive feedback from the community.

“It feels really nice for people to take notice of the work you are putting in. I love what I do. It is good to know that others are seeing that as well,” she said.

Lafayette will also be expanding course options with the addition of Music Production, in which students will create original music loops and beats with a digital audio workstation and learn how to distribute music. Bolton will be teaching this course.

“I think [Music Production] will be a great addition to our Music Department. Guitar is going strong, and I hope to keep it that way. I am very proud of the work that the guitar students and jam bands are doing.  They are making some amazing music,” Bolton said.

Bolton is also very involved in her professional association, currently serving as the general music vice president for the Missouri Music Educators Association. She is also an instructor for the Teaching Guitar Workshops, which are held to teach other music instructors across the country how to start their own guitar programs.

Bolton was honored at the March 2 Board Awards ceremony at Marquette.