Dr. Benjamin D. Caton III, who recently retired after 46 years on the faculty of East Tennessee State University’s Department of Music, was named the 2020 Teacher of the Year by the Tennessee Music Teachers Association (TMTA).
Caton was announced as the award winner by his fellow ETSU piano faculty member Dr. Esther Park during the recent TMTA board meeting, which was held virtually.
“I have known (Caton) to be a tireless and detailed worker, a beloved teacher and colleague, a wise and winsome leader, and a humble servant,” a colleague wrote in support of Caton’s nomination for the award.
“I am humbled, honored and appreciative of this very special award,” Caton said. “Over the years, I have been impressed with the many, many outstanding teachers in Tennessee, and I feel grateful to be named as a member of this group.”
Caton has a long and distinguished record of service at the state and local levels of the TMTA, including terms as president, recording secretary and collegiate auditions chair.
He has also been active with the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) on the regional and national levels, including the MTNA Southern Division, which he served as president, and the MTNA board of directors. During his 10 years as a board member, he held the office of president and numerous other roles.
In addition, Caton served two terms as a member of the music advisory panel of the Tennessee Arts Commission.
Caton’s many honors include ETSU’s 2014 Distinguished Faculty Award in Service, one of the top three awards presented to faculty at the university. He was the inaugural TMTA Distinguished Service Award recipient in 2004, and received the MTNA Distinguished Service Award in 2017. He was named an MTNA Foundation Fellow and received an Award of Excellence from the Ohio Federation of Music Clubs Foundation for the Advancement of Music. He also earned the John Phillip Sousa Award while playing trombone in his high school band.
Caton has taught at all levels from first grade to graduate courses. At ETSU, he taught for seven years in grades 1-6 at University School while teaching music education methodology, and later music theory, aural skills, piano literature, piano pedagogy, applied piano, and history and philosophy of music education at the collegiate level. His articles have appeared in Clavier, Music Educators Journal, American Music Teacher and The Tennessee Musician.
He says his most memorable performance was accompanying the ETSU Men’s Ensemble during a concert in Orchestral Hall at the American Choral Directors Association Conference in Chicago in 1999.
Caton holds his bachelor’s degree in music education from ETSU and his master’s and doctoral degrees from The Ohio State University, as well as the Pedagogy/Musicianship Certificate from the Kodaly Musical Training Institute.
Since announcing his retirement, Caton says, he has heard from many of his former students from his career at ETSU, who have expressed appreciation for the influence of his teaching and his life. He plans to enjoy his pastimes of travel, working in his flower gardens, shopping, attending OSU Buckeyes sporting events and taking walks with his terrier mix, Granite, who is happy to have him at home more. He also plans to write a textbook on aural skills and a lecture/recital on the Debussy Preludes.