HALL OF FAME AWARDS

The Rockford Public Schools Fine Arts Hall of Fame is a district-wide event that highlights 4-5 individuals or groups per year. This awards ceremony began in 2016 as a way to celebrate the past and current successes of the fine arts in District 205. Nominations are accepted from the community, and a panel of voters makes the final selections based on the information in the submissions.

CLASS of 2022

ALONZO Russell, Auburn High School

ALONZO Russell graduated from Auburn High School’s Creative and Performing Arts program in 2009. He is a professional choreographer, dancer, singer, songwriter and performer. Russell is the founder of the Rockford-based hip-hop dance group Fatally Unique, which made it to the semifinals of the television competition show America’s Got Talent in 2011. The Creative and Performing Arts program graduate founded the group at age 15 and taught hip-hop classes at Rockford Dance Company. As a vocalist, he performed as the lead singer in a symphonic Prince tribute show, “4U The Music of Prince,” a celebration of Prince’s music approved by Prince’s estate, in addition to performing background vocals. His first solo album debuted at No. 14 on the iTunes rock charts.

Dr. Eric A. Johnson, Guilford High School

Dr. Eric A. Johnson graduated from Guilford High School in 1983. He is the Director of Choral Activities at Northern Illinois University and the Founding Artistic Director of Cor Cantiamo, a professional 24-voice touring choral ensemble. As a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Artworks grant recipient, he has been recognized for his artistic leadership, whose ensembles represent choral artistry at its finest. He is a champion of contemporary choral music and dedicated to addressing social justice issues through interdisciplinary concert events. Ensembles under his direction have performed at multiple national and division conventions for the National Collegiate Choral Organization, American Choral Directors Association and the Music Educators National Conference. He has a long list of international guest conductor and tour credits, music collaborations and published works.

Michelle Williams, Auburn High School

Michelle Williams graduated from Auburn High School’s Creative and Performing Arts program in 1997. She is an author, mental health advocate and former member of R&B/pop group Destiny’s Child, one of the best-selling female vocal groups of all time. With Destiny’s Child, she earned seven Grammy Award nominations and one win: The Destiny’s Child album “Survivor” won Best R&B Album in 2002. She is among the most notable Rockford natives and was recently featured in a mural on the corner of West State and Winnebago streets, part of CRE8IV, a community-building, arts-infused event. Williams has found success as a solo artist and has appeared in theatre and on Broadway, worked as a singer/songwriter, actress, entrepreneur, designer and television host. She is an advocate for mental health and is an ambassador for the Office on Women’s Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Marti Frantz, Guilford High School

Martha Hand Frantz graduated from Guilford High School in 1969. She co-founded the Rockford College Music Academy, now known as The Music Academy of Rockford, and has led the program for 34 years. The Academy’s mission is to inspire a life-long love of music and the arts. Thousands of students have learned to play and appreciate music at the Music Academy. There are families that are now starting their 3rd generation of students at the school. Frantz has been there to witness their growth, as both musicians and as individuals, from the beginning.

CLASS OF 2021

Valerie Brandt-Soetermans is an accomplished performer. A Jefferson High School graduate, Brandt-Soetermans received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theatre and dance at Millikin University. She has performed in numerous music videos and concerts and has taught dance and choreography for nearly 20 years.

E. Faye Butler is an accomplished and esteemed performer. An Auburn High School graduate, Butler received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting and theatre from Illinois State University and the Goodman School of Drama. She has performed in several Broadway national tours and has received numerous awards for her work.

Jill Heinke Moen is an Auburn High School graduate who has a passion and talent for music and an extensive musical education. In addition to several teaching positions and private lessons, her membership of Areon Flutes in San Jose, and performances with blues-rock group The Shouting Matches, Jill also runs a rock band program for girls at Eau Claire Music School.


Nathan Alan Davis is an Auburn High School graduate and gifted writer. His plays include “Nat Turner in Jerusalem,” “Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea,” and “The Wind and the Breeze.” He has won several awards for his accomplishments.

Beth Rydberg had a 33-year teaching career, with the last 18 teaching art at Bloom Elementary School. She is remembered for her passion and dedication to teaching and the arts, and for her ability to excite and inspire students. Rydberg was a member of the Golden Apple Foundation and was a 2003 recipient of the Golden Apple Award.

Class of 2020

Dorothy Paige-Turner

Award-winning singer and music educator who spent 34 years as a music teacher in RPS 205.

She has performed in symphonies, musicals, concert bands and jazz ensembles and has written, produced and directed several plays and musicals for both children and adults. Paige-Turner has also performed with many local musicians.

Lisa Frost

Nationally recognized visual artist whose work ranges from portraits to dish making, and recently painting murals in downtown Rockford.

Frost, a Rockford native and former RPS 205 teacher, has provided more than 80 student scholarships to Northern Illinois University’s “Summer in the Arts” Program through her Frost & Friends community event.

Mario Panagiotopoulos

Accomplished cinematographer who attended RPS 205 from kindergarten through his graduation from East High School in 1997.

He received his Bachelor’s degree in Cinematography from Columbia University. Panagiotopoulos worked as a cinematographer and producer in California on numerous movies, TV shows and documentaries. He was nominated for an Emmy Award of Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program in 2016.

Los Primos Cardenas

Family band that originated in 1944 with brothers Raul, Omar and Arnold Cardenas, and their cousins Arthur, David and Arnie Cardenas.

All members are RPS 205 graduates and have been musical leaders in the Rockford and Latino community for decades. The band has performed at several festivals, venues and events in the Rockford region.

HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2019

Valentino DeCastris, Music

Jonathon Sleger, Educator

Stephen Wallem, Performing Arts

Betsy Youngquist, Visual Arts

Visual Arts The 2004 All-City Production of "Oliver"

Hall of Fame Class of 2017

Tom Heflin, Visual Arts

Kevin Wilson, Performing Arts

Marcel Wilson, Performing Arts

Ann Rundall, Educator

Hall of Fame Class of 2018

Mark J. Adamany, Visual Arts

Jake Runestad, Music

Kathryn Engel-Terasaki, Educator

1990 East High School Cast of “Grease”, Production