GRAMMY foundation’s first Music Educator Award ☆

Associate Professor of Music Education Being a teacher can be a thankless job. Music teachers in particular have it rough, often finding their programs slashed in an era of budget cuts and high-stakes testing. In this hostile environment, the GRAMMY foundation has chosen to recognize music teachers with this year’s first-ever Music Educator Award. The foundation honored Kent Knappenberger with the award at the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards ceremony on January 26. Knappenberger is a 25-year veteran music teacher who teaches at Westfield Academy and Central School in Westfield, New York.

Teachers College Professor Randall Allsup was on the inaugural selection committee who chose Knappenberger for the award.

“It was such a great honor and responsibility,” said Allsup, who worked with nine other committee members to sort through thousands of applicants. He says he became involved with the project after a conversation at a music conference with David Sears, the Executive Education Director of the GRAMMY foundation.

Kent Knappenberger - First Winner

As the winner of the Music Educator Award, Knappenberger received a $10,000 honorarium along with a $10,000 grant for his school, and was flown to Los Angeles to attend the GRAMMYs and accept the award. Nine runners-up will each receive a $1000 honorarium and matching grants for their schools.

The award has had a “validating effect” on music educators, according to Allsup. “The thing that’s exciting is that this is a very respectable, prestigious foundation throwing its weight behind music education at a time when teachers are not being celebrated,” he said. “At a time when we’re hearing about nothing but cuts and cuts and cuts [to music programs], it was such a good move on the GRAMMY Foundation’s part.”

The contest was open to music teachers who teach in public or private schools, from kindergartens to colleges. Over 32,000 nominations were submitted, and 6000 teachers applied for the award. This group was then na

rrowed down to about 200 quarterfinalists, who each sent in additional materials such as essays, testimonials from students and administrators, and videos of their teaching.

“I spent days watching videos,” Allsup said.

Allsup said the submissions came from all parts of the U.S., from teachers of all ages, and with no obvious bias for any one particular group such as orchestra or band teachers.  Allsup and the other reviewers looked at evidence that the applicants had made a substantial contribution to music education and a measureable difference in the lives of students. Educators also had to demonstrate that they’ve had a meaningful impact on their school and community, and that they are committed to the cause of keeping music education programs in schools.

Based on these criteria, the quarterfinalists were cut to 25 semifinalists. The ten finalists were announced in December.

According to the website, schools with music programs have higher attendance rates and higher graduation rates than schools without music programs. Music instruction is linked to improved reading skills, and students in high-quality school music programs even score better on standardized tests.

Allsup says he hopes the Music Educator Award draws attention to the positive effects of music education. “Let’s bring our focus back to celebrating the impact that music teachers have on their communities,” he said.

Read an interview with Kent Knappenberger here: