The Orange County Education Foundation (OCEF) honored longtime music teacher Judy Peterson with its lifetime contribution award at its Aug. 25 Celebration of Education at The Pavilion at Lakeland Farm on Route 15 in Orange. The occasion doubles as a fundraiser for the foundation, which provides scholarships for local students and grants for local teachers.

In introducing Peterson, Orange County Public Schools’ Director of Elementary Education Judy Anderson spoke of the lifelong impact Peterson—a fellow “Judy”—had on her as a student, fellow teacher, principal and administrator.

She spoke of Peterson’s “greatness of spirit,” and said the 36-year teacher made learning exciting and inviting.

Anderson spoke of how Peterson took a special interest in all her students and made learning fun.

“She taught us that music can connect us all,” Anderson said, “And that it’s OK to take a risk—the important thing is to try.”

Peterson, moved to tears by Anderson’s remarks, thanked the audience of family, colleagues, OCEF supporters and community leaders.

“You all are amazing,” she said. “Orange County, the Town of Orange, teachers, former students and co-workers, you all made this possible.”

Peterson, who remains active in local music and the arts, spoke of the vibrant arts community downtown Orange has become—from the thriving music program at Orange County High School, to The Music Room at the corner of Main Street and May-Fray Avenue, to The Arts Center In Orange, the Orange School of Performing Arts and the Orange Presbyterian Church, where the community chorus and band practice.

“I retired 11 years ago,” she said, “But I really didn’t retire. I just started working with other people. I’m still involved with the arts from one end of Main Street to the other.”

This year marked the foundation’s eighth annual celebration of education and Peterson is the first arts teacher to receive the award.

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