2024 W-ASTA Awards

Outstanding Contributions to String Education Award:
Jeffrey Bell-Hanson, Pacific Lutheran University

As Director of Orchestral Studies at Pacific Lutheran University Jeffrey Bell-Hanson became known for combining scholarship with artistry to create lively and thought-provoking performances of historic and contemporary literature. He premiered many new works during his twenty-one years at PLU, including those of many young and regional composers.

He has also become known for his work with school orchestras at all levels throughout the region and beyond, bringing to them the perspective of his long career as a conductor and scholar. He was recently honored by the College Orchestra Directors Association with their Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Bell-Hanson has conducted orchestras and wind ensembles throughout the United States and in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, including the West Bohemian Symphony Orchestra, the Olympia Symphony, the Marquette Symphony Orchestra, the Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra, the Vratza Philharmonic, and the Philharmonia Bulgarica. He has held faculty appointments in Kansas, Louisiana and Michigan. He has served as music director of both the Hutchinson Symphony Orchestra in Kansas and the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra in Michigan.

Outstanding Studio Teacher Award:
Dr. John Marshall, Eastern Washington University

Dr. John Marshall is Director of Orchestra/Professor of Cello at Eastern Washington University and Principal Cellist with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra. He has held this dual position since 1994. Marshall is also a conductor with the Spokane Youth Symphony, and teaches at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan during the summers.

Dr. Marshall loves studio teaching, and works primarily with high school age cellists, in addition to his university students. His students have won positions with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra and the Coeur d’Alene Symphony. Many are also teaching throughout the region, both in schools and through private studios. Marshall has also had 5 cello students win Young Artist Awards at Musicfest Northwest, where they were featured as soloists with the Spokane Symphony. Prior to the pandemic, Marshall organized an annual cello festival titled CELLObration Spokane, which would bring over 50 cellists together for a day of cello ensemble, classes, and performances.

Dr. Marshall is finishing work on his own method book, titled “Zen in the Art of String Playing”. This method focuses on exercises to develop high-level coordination between the left and right hands.

Outstanding Orchestra Director Award:
Kara Hunnicutt, Ellensburg School District

Kara Hunnicutt, M.M., M.Ed., is the founder and director of Ellensburg School Orchestra program since 2007. Beginning with only 25 students, the program has grown to over 100 students in the district’s five schools in the past ten years, providing string education for students from second grade through twelfth grade. Conductor of the Icicle Creek Youth Symphony since 2011, Hunnicutt was the founder of the Icicle Creek Academy Orchestra in 2005, and founded the music camp in 1988 that is now Icicle Creek Summer Symphony. She conducts five Ellensburg school orchestras during the year, and conducts summer camp orchestras at Icicle and Central Washington University’s Prep Strings.

Kara has been the principal cellist of the Yakima Symphony since 1990. Solo appearances with Mid-Columbia, Wenatchee, Yakima and Lake Chelan Bach Fest orchestras have featured concertos by Dvorak, Schumann, Lalo, Bloch, Respighi, Walker and Haydn. She taught orchestra classes in the Wenatchee school district 1999-2007, was on the faculty at Woods House Conservatory of Music in Wenatchee, and Icicle Creek Music Center in Leavenworth. She was awarded the Outstanding Performing Artist Award by NCW Allied Arts and has performed with the Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra and the Spokane Symphony, and as principal cellist with the Wenatchee, Federal Way, Tacoma, Everett, Mid-Columbia and Orchestra Seattle symphonies. She attended Seattle Pacific University, Oberlin Conservatory, Music Academy of the West and the Aspen Music Festival.

Ms. Hunnicutt earned Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Southern California with legendary cellists Gabor Rejto and Ronald Leonard, and a Master of Education from Central Washington University. In March 2007 Kara premiered a new cello concerto, In A Time Of Peace, Three Songs for Cello and Orchestra by Dr. Gwyneth Walker in Richland with the Mid-Columbia Symphony.

Distinguished Service Award:
Tacoma Youth Symphony

For over 60 years, the Tacoma Youth Symphony Association (TYSA) has reached tens of thousands of youth, families, senior citizens, and community members through music education. TYSA offers symphonic programs along with free interactive music experiences and activities throughout the South Sound region. At TYSA, youth learn social-emotional skills such as empathy, perseverance, cooperation, conflict resolution, and self-expression in addition to professional skills like teamwork, problem-solving, advanced leadership skills, a strong work ethic, and a responsibility to community

TYSA provides a variety of community-based programs including hands-on experiences such as the Tacoma Young Violin Program, the Tacoma Community Ukulele Project, and Discover Drums! Throughout the year, TYSA presents community performances and free outreach events and classes across the region in partnership with schools, museums, arts organizations, community centers, city parks, senior centers, public libraries, after-school programs, youth centers, and hospitals. Each summer, TYSA offers 4 summer music camps, a TYSA and Friends Musical Arts Walk, and numerous free public concerts.

Tacoma Youth Symphony Website: