Marguerite McCormick Founder's Award

Gary Mabry

Reneé Meriwether | 2023 Honoree

The Board of Directors of the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio is pleased to announce Reneé Meriwether as the 2023 recipient of the Marguerite McCormick Founder’s Award for Excellence. Named in honor of founder and Artistic Director Emeritus, Marguerite McCormick, this annual award is presented to an individual or organization demonstrating significant contributions to the mission and values of CCSA and whose work advances arts in the lives of young people in greater San Antonio.

Renée Meriwether boasts an extensive tenure with the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio. Her multifaceted engagement spans various roles such as a dedicated parent, attentive chaperone, committed volunteer, skilled musicianship instructor, talented pianist, staunch supporter, and active participant. Possessing an all-level teaching certificate, Renée garnered invaluable experience across various grade levels, including as a secondary choir director. Her professional journey traversed four distinct school districts in San Antonio before concluding her full-time teaching career at The Montessori School of San Antonio.

Renée pursued teaching certification at Baylor University, studying with the remarkable Martha Barkema, who helped her voice become her primary instrument, with the piano not far behind. While teaching music in public schools, Renée sang with the San Antonio Mastersingers and directed civic choruses in Chatham and Lynchburg, Virginia. She has also served as a church music director in San Antonio, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Renée generously volunteered her time and expertise over the years, offering assistance wherever needed. Eventually, she became an integral part of the CCSA staff, serving as a Music Literacy instructor and accompanying the Prelude Choir as a pianist. Presently, Renée actively supports the Children’s Chorus as a cherished member of the “Library Ladies,” dedicating her time regularly to maintain the organization of the music library among various other responsibilities. Outside her involvement with the Children’s Chorus, Renée shares her passion for music as the music director at Shepherd King Lutheran Church. Here, she oversees the handbell and adult choirs while also performing on the piano every Sunday.

Gary Mabry

Dr. Diane Persellin | 2022 Honoree

As Professor of Music Education at Trinity University since 1982, Dr. Diane Persellin teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in music education, supervises music student teaching interns, conducts the Trinity Handbell Ensemble, and co-founded and continues to direct the Trinity Summer Orff Schulwerk Levels Course. Her awards include Trinity University’s Outstanding Advisor, Murchison Term Professorship, and the Z.T. Scott Award for Outstanding Teaching, Trinity’s highest award for teaching and advising. She was also inducted into the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame for her work in education in San Antonio.

Dr. Persellin has served as a handbell adjudicator at the Singapore Youth Festival and as a presenter of numerous music education papers and workshops in Asia, Europe, North America and Africa. Her interests in the acquisition of music skills, music teacher preparation, and application of brain research on learning and retention have resulted in the publication of two books by Stylus Press and over 100 research articles. The Trinity Handbell Ensemble which she directs has performed at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, and with the San Antonio Symphony Holiday Pops at the Tobin Center for six years. She served as Chair of the Education Committee for the San Antonio Symphony for seven years, Editor of General Music Today, President of Texas Music Education Conference, and continues to serve on the CCSA Advisory Council and as organist at Shepherd King Lutheran Church. Prior to receiving her doctorate at Arizona State University, she taught in preschools, elementary schools, and colleges in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Arizona. Diane met her husband, Dr. Robert Persellin, through the San Antonio Chamber Music Society.

Gary Mabry

John Silantien | 2021 Honoree

Dr. Silantien served as the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Texas at San Antonio for several decades, and was instrumental in both the development and success of the Children’s Chorus of San Antonio. He, is celebrating his 38th season as the Music Director of the San Antonio Symphony Mastersingers, and recently announced he will retire from this position in June 2022 following the group’s tour to Scotland, Wales, and England. Dr. Silantien has taught and conducted choirs on the secondary and collegiate levels in Texas, the Washington, DC, area, and on the faculty of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Illinois. His awards include a Rockefeller grant for choral conducting at Aspen, Colorado, and a Fulbright award for research in London, England. 

Between 1992 and 1998, he served as Editor of the Choral Journal, the official publication of the American Choral Directors Association, with a circulation of over 18,000. Choirs under his direction have been invited to perform before the Music Educators National Conference, the American Choral Directors Association, the Texas Choral Directors Association, and the Texas Music Educators Association. They have sung in New York City’s Lincoln Center and London’s Royal Festival Hall. His orchestral conducting credits include performances with the San Antonio Symphony, the San Antonio Pops, and New York’s West Side Chamber Orchestra, as well as CD recordings of three Mozart piano concertos with the Moscow State Radio Orchestra. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in May 1994 conducting Mozart’s Requiem, returning in 2008 for a performance of Mozart’s Solemn Vespers.

 Dr. Silantien serves frequently as adjudicator, clinician, and guest conductor. During the summer of 1999, he lectured at an international conference of choral musicians held in Brasilia, Brazil. He is listed in the International Who’s Who in Music and Who’s Who among America’s Teachers. 

Gary Mabry

Gary Mabry | 2020 Honoree

Dr. Mabry is Professor Emeritus of the UTSA music department, having served 28 years as a choral director, voice teacher, and conducting instructor.  He recently served as the Interim Artistic Director (2019-2020) for CCSA, developing young singers and leading the team of directors during a time of transition for the organization.  He continues to voluntarily serve as Artistic Advisor.  During his tenure as interim AD, he successfully arranged for CCSA singers to perform with the All-State Choir and Orchestra at the 2020 Texas Music Educators Association TMEA) convention.  This opportunity with TMEA helped the singers expand their amazing experiences, build on their artistic excellence, and introduced CCSA to music educators across the state.  At UTSA, he founded and conducted both the Women’s Choir and Men’s Glee Club.  He has served on the Executive Board of the Texas Choral Directors Association as Vice President of the Church Music Division and is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association. He has served as the Repertoire and Standards Chair for Women’s Choirs for TCDA and has been a conducting mentor for the TCDA Student Conductors Symposium. From 1993 to 2006 he was the Artistic Director and Conductor of the San Antonio Choral Society and served several years as Chorus Master of the San Antonio Opera.  His continuous mentoring of musicians and directors is still building on his wonderful legacy.  

Irma Taute | 2019 Honoree

Irma Taute is a respected and beloved music educator and served as an associate director for CCSA for 20 years. Taute has taught in two school districts in San Antonio, the Texas cities of Alice and Kingsville, Texas A&I (A&M) University, and the University of Texas at San Antonio. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from Texas A&I (A&M) University in Kingsville. A frequently contracted choral clinician and adjudicator, Taute also conducted middle school region choirs and prepared choruses for the San Antonio Symphony. She has held leadership positions for TMEA Regions 11 and 12, the South Texas chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and the San Antonio Symphony Mastersingers. Taute conducted the advanced-level Youth Chorale and intermediate-level Choristers for CCSA and was an integral component in the creation of the Neighborhood Choir program. She has influenced countless young musicians with her gracious and positive spirit, tireless energy, and keen sensitivity to her singers’ personal growth into young adulthood.