Three Shenandoah Conservatory alumni were selected as 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients:
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Don Krudop ’75, ’92, ’03 (Bachelor of Music Education, Master of Music in Conducting, Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education)
- Service to the Community: Margaret Gonzalez ’12 (Bachelor of Music in Performance)
- Hornet Hero Award: Thomas Sweitzer ’95, ’11 (Bachelor of Fine Arts, Graduate Certificate)
They join De’Angelo Wynn ’19, ’20, ’21, selected for the Young Career Achievement Award; Monica Baranko ’19, selected for the Young Career Achievement Award; and John Bischoff ’02, ’08, selected for the Professional Achievement Award.
All 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients will be recognized during Shenandoah University’s Homecoming & Family Weekend from Thursday, Oct. 5, through Sunday, Oct. 8.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Don Krudop
Krudop earned his Bachelor of Music Education in 1975, a Master of Music in conducting in 1992 and a Doctor of Musical Arts in music education in 2003 from Shenandoah University. He also earned a Master of Education in administration in 2005 from Regent University. Krudop is the artistic director and conductor of The Virginia Beach Chorale and is the director of music ministries at Heritage United Methodist Church in Virginia Beach. After 48 years of teaching, he retired from the music faculty at Regent University in 2023. From 1975 to 2019, he taught with the Virginia Beach City Public Schools system at all levels – elementary through senior high school. From 2004 to 2019, he was chair of the vocal music strand at the Visual & Performing Arts Academy at Salem High School.
Krudop will be the featured conductor of a residency in Carnegie Hall in New York City in June 2024. He has conducted All-District, All-County and All-City honors choirs throughout Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and New Jersey. Choirs under his direction have sung in the White House and National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.; Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City; and Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral in London, England. He is also a Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA)/Virginia Choral Directors Association (VCDA) certified adjudicator and has judged VMEA Senior Honors, All-Virginia and All-District Chorus auditions, as well as District Choral Assessments across Virginia.
Krudop served on the Shenandoah University Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2013 to 2019. He has had many professional achievements and recognitions throughout his career, including receiving Shenandoah University’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Outstanding Career Achievement, Virginia’s Music Educator of the Year, Teacher of the Year for Salem High School, Choral Director magazine’s Director of Note for Virginia and was a national finalist for the GRAMMY Foundation’s Music Educator Award.
Service to the Community: Margaret Gonzalez
Gonzalez earned her Bachelor of Music in performance in 2012 from Shenandoah University. She is the founder and director of Music Mission San Francisco (MMSF), a nonprofit organization that provides free music education to underserved children in San Francisco. She is also a Spanish tutor for Shenandoah University.
In March 2021, Gonzalez received The Jefferson Award for MMSF’s commitment to serving and empowering the youth in its community. Gonzalez has also been a speaker at the American String Teacher Association, a speaker at the 2014 YOLA conference and was a member of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra.
In 2022, she was accepted into the Global Leaders Institute for Arts Innovation’s MBA program, which prepares arts professionals to grow creative enterprises that impact communities’ sustainability. Her future endeavors include working with the San Francisco Police Department to learn more about the city’s homelessness crisis and how she can use music to make an impact on the community.
Hornet Hero Award: Thomas Sweitzer
Sweitzer earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1995, and a Graduate Certificate for music therapy in 2011, from Shenandoah University. In 2017, He received a Master of Music Therapy from Berklee College of Music. Sweitzer is the co-founder, creative director and head of music therapy at A Place To Be in Middleburg, Virginia, which is a nonprofit organization that serves over 300 families weekly, offering music therapy in northern Virginia.
In 2014, Sweitzer received the Loudoun County Humanitarian of the Year award and was invited as a guest to the White House for his work with disabilities. A Place to Be and Sweitzer were awarded Best Music Therapy Provider of the Year by the American Music Therapy Association in 2017.
Throughout COVID-19, he facilitated a nationwide online support group featured on both NPR and ABC News. In 2020, Sweitzer was a subject of the documentary, “Music Got Me Here,” along with one of his heroes, Forrest Allen, a young man with traumatic brain injury, who found his voice and courage through music therapy. “Music Got Me Here” can be streamed on Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime and features one of the stars of Netflix’s “Outer Banks,” Chase Stokes, as Forrest. He has created several therapeutic musical productions that focus on acceptance, diversity and empathy that have toured schools and beyond. Sweitzer also had his rock opera about suicide prevention, “A Will to Survive,” performed at the Terrace Theater at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. This fall, he will perform his one-man show about his childhood Off-Broadway at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia.