Since 1990, Masterworks has honored deserving individuals with its annual Salute to the Arts Award. Award recipients have played prominent roles in fostering the arts in the South Sound, truly shaping the region’s cultural landscape through their talent, energy, and commitment. The yearly recipients have significantly altered our community’s cultural landscape through their continued contributions of time, talent and energy to all of the arts in our region.

Past recipients have been integral in forming, creating, and sustaining such vibrant elements of our community as: The Olympia Symphony, The Washington Center, The Procession of the Species, Harlequin Theater, the Olympia Opera Guild, Masterworks Choral Ensemble, Capital Playhouse, Creative Theater Experience, and The Tacoma and Olympia Youth Symphonies. In addition, Salute to the Arts recipients have, through their public and private studio teaching, helped create new generations of artists that continue to enrich us all. To all award winners, past and present, we express our deepest appreciation. We salute you! 

Nominate a Deserving Person

We are now accepting nominations for the 2017 Salute to the Arts. To recommend any individual that you believe merits this recognition, download the Salute to the Arts nomination form as a WORD document or a PDF document.

Word version:  salute_nomination_form_2017

PDF version:  salute_nomination_form_2017

2016 Salute Honoree: Gary Witley

Gary Collage







Since 1990 Masterworks Choral Ensemble has honored deserving individuals in our community who have played prominent roles fostering the arts in the South Sound. Their contributions have truly shaped the region’s cultural landscape through their talents, energy and commitment. Gary is the 25th recipient of this prestigious award.

As a founding member of Masterworks and director for most of the choir’s 35 years, Gary is among the ranks of those who have significantly influenced the region’s cultural identity. Gary has taught over 1,000 students in the last 36 years at local school districts, established music programs, written and directed musicals for youths, written two commissioned works for Masterworks and is a composer, arranger and keyboardist. His skills and talents have touched many and he has collaborated with most of the area’s arts groups.

Growing up, Gary thought he would be an artist. While he has spent his career as a musician and teacher, he has used his artistic talents to design, build and paint sets for musicals he wrote for his students.

Gary lives a creative life – he writes poetry, improvises on the piano, and composes music. His compositions range from writing a simple song with piano accompaniment to celebrate the arrival of a new family member to writing an entire choral work for choir and orchestra.

Gary’s accomplishments include:

  • Started a music program at Griffin School and taught K-8 music for 20 years: band (grades 5-8) , choir (6-8), strings (4-8), classroom music (K-6)
  • Currently teaching at Tenino Elementary School – 16 years (and counting) teaching: classroom music (3-5) recorders (4th), guitars (5th) and for the last 6 years taught technology classes (grades 3-5). Continues to write musicals and songs for students.
  • Was choral director for all choirs at the World Music Festival when Masterworks traveled to Sydney Australia to perform at the Festival.
  • Has written two commissioned works for Masterworks and five musicals for youths.
  • Introduced over 1,000 students to band/string instruments
  • Has taught beginning Spanish, puppetry and animation

Past Honorees

1990 Lynn Brunton
1991 Eva and Fred Goldberg
1993 Clara Huffine
1994 Marguerite Agnew
1995 Anton Panowicz
1996 Irv Wright
1997 Ian Edlund
1999 Andy Crow
2000 Ralph & Karen Munro
2001 Jeff Kingsbury
2002 Scott and Linda Whitney
2003 Helen Christopher
2004 Lois Wofford
2005 Eli Sterling
2006 Eric Lee
2007 Dan Lundberg
2008 Bud Johansen
2009 Stan Kildow
2010 Jack Anderson
2011 Stephanie Claire
2012 Troy Arnold Fisher
2013 Diane Gaile
2014 Burt and Di Meyers
2015 Colleen Powers and Kathy Dorgan
2016 Gary Witley