When Jason Schayot ’97 took over as fine arts coordinator and director of bands at L. V. Berkner High School (BHS) in Richardson, Texas, in 2015, he inherited a highly regarded program with a rich history of excellence and hundreds of trophies lining the walls of the band hall. But Schayot wasn’t intimidated. Instead, he took the program to the next level.

In 2016, under Schayot’s leadership, the Berkner Symphony Orchestra had the honor of performing at the Midwest Clinic, the world’s largest and most prestigious music education conference. That same year, the Berkner marching band advanced to the Texas UIL State Marching Championship, and three years later, the Symphonic Band I performed at the Midwest Clinic.

“While many great educators have come and grown the program, Jason did this differently. He did it through the eyes of a father, husband, leader, and educator,” says Jeff Bradford, executive director of fine arts for Richardson Independent School District (RISD). “He uses the many different leadership roles he plays in life to provide every child with exactly what they need at just the right time. And while his focus is musical excellence, he uses band and music education as the vehicle to help others achieve in all aspects of their life.”

After graduating from Southwestern with his bachelor’s degree in music education, Schayot taught in Giddings and Georgetown at both the middle school and high school levels. In 2011 he returned to RISD, where he himself went to school as a child, and worked alongside his sixth-grade band director, Frank Troyka, who was his predecessor.

“Jason is a community figure whose influence extends beyond the walls of the school,” Troyka says. “At a time when most teenagers pull away from their parents as they test the waters of their emerging independence, Jason provides opportunities for parents to stay a part of their children’s lives by way of concerts, community events, and volunteer opportunities. It is a community within a community.”

As music educators across the country struggled with teaching virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, Schayot adapted quickly, pioneering online performance. True to his generous spirit, he was eager to share the secrets of his success and presented a session to fellow music educators titled “Simple Solutions for Virtual Performances” at the 2020 Midwest Clinic, the 2020 Texas Bandmasters Association Convention, and the 2021 Texas Music Educators Association Convention.

Schayot’s generosity isn’t limited to his students and colleagues.

“Every time I had a dream I wanted to follow, Jason gave his immediate and full support, usually before I could even finish explaining why I wanted to do it,” says his wife, Molly Barnett Schayot ’97. “He has always wanted the same level of fulfillment for me that he wants for himself, and that is the definition of real love and partnership.”

Schayot has received a number of accolades throughout his career. In 2019, he was recognized as an RISD STARS Teacher of the Year, an honor awarded to only 10 of the 2,500 teachers in the district. Most recently, in October 2021, the Recording Academy and Grammy Museum named him a semifinalist for the 2022 Music Educator Award, which recognizes current educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the music education field. And, he has held the Guinness World Record for watermelon spitting distance since 1995!

“His commitment to serving students, staff, and the BHS community is second to none. While he’s a great musician and educator, he’s an even better human being,” Bradford says. “A dedicated husband, father, colleague, and friend, Jason epitomizes excellence and a servant’s heart in all aspects of his life. His contributions to BHS and RISD will be felt for many years to come.”

For his inspiring commitment to his field, his students, and his community, the Southwestern University Alumni Association is proud to honor Jason Schayot with the Distinguished Professional Award.