ONEIDA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV/WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) — A local teacher from Oneida has been awarded a prestigious award from the one and only Barry Manilow.

Heather O’Connell has won the Manilow Music Teacher Award for her work as a music teacher at Oneida High School along with $10,000, which consists of $5,000 cash and another $5,000 in “Manilow bucks” to purchase musical instruments for her school’s music program. 

The Manilow Music Project Teacher Award recognizes an “outstanding music teacher who helps bring music to life for their students,” stated Turning Stone.

“I am so humbled and so honored to have won this award to give me the opportunity to help so many students,” said O’Connell. “The $5000 instrument money is going to my colleagues to purchase instruments for the students, and the other $5,000 is going directly back to the students at the high school. We have a beautiful community outreach program here in our school that I can help to feed and clothe and help kids in our community.”

Turning Stone employees helped the Manilow Music Project by nominating deserving music teachers in their area for this award. O’Connell received several nominations from Turning Stone employees, including Dezaire Collins, Turning Stone Bingo Supervisor. The Manilow Music Project then selected 10 finalists and opened up voting online to name the winner.

“Honestly, [Mrs. O’Connell] was the first person I thought of; she is truly an amazing teacher,” said Collins. “Now that I’m a parent and think back to the joy she brought to my life in music, and now she’s giving it to my kids as well. It’s quite amazing the impact she’s made in our district over these past 30 years.”

O’Connell will also receive VIP tickets to Manilow’s concert at Turning Stone on Saturday, August 19, where he will present the award with the $10,000 prize to her in a special backstage ceremony. The Manilow Music Project has given away over 10 million dollars’ worth of funds and musical instrument donations.

“It is wonderful to partner with our concert venues to identify schools and music teachers in their neighborhoods that deserve this small token of my gratitude, said Manilow. “Many school music programs have either been terminated, or their funds have been severely depleted. I always want to do my part through The Manilow Music Project to keep music in schools.”

Those interested in going to the concert can still buy tickets online at Ticketmaster. Limited tickets are available.