As I travel around the country for my work, I meet people every day who share a passion for music -- from young artists just starting out to veteran colleagues in the industry -- and if our conversation turns to "how did you get your start", the answer is usually the same: a teacher.
That's one of the reasons I was proud to stand onstage at last year's GRAMMY Awards with Neil Portnow, the President/CEO of The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation, and Justin Timberlake to announce a new award that was going to be presented during GRAMMY Week this year in recognition of our industry's unsung heroes: music teachers.
It was an honor to be part of a moment that kicked off a genuine grassroots phenomenon and captured the interest of people across the U.S. In the end, we received more than 30,000 nominations, from kindergarten teachers to college professors, from all 50 states.
During this year's GRAMMY Awards, John Legend, Neil and I brought it full circle when we announced Kent Knappenberger of Westfield Academy and Central School in Westfield, N.Y., as the recipient of the first annual Music Educator Award. Kent was flown to Los Angeles to accept the award and he received a $10,000 honorarium and so did his school. Nine finalists received a $1,000 honorarium each, and their schools all also got matching grants.
Nominations are now underway for the second annual Music Educator Award and I would encourage anyone reading this to take a moment today to think back to that influential music teacher in your past, or your child's current favorite teacher, and nominate them for this honor. Anyone can nominate a teacher -- students, parents, friends, colleagues, community members, school deans and administrators -- and teachers are also able to nominate themselves at GRAMMYMusicTeacher.com. The deadline for nominations and completed applications is March 31.
For all of us who truly love music -- from young students to fans, and from veteran music label executives to the artists who have graced the GRAMMY stage -- there were inspirational music educators in our lives who ignited our passion. This is our chance to give back and let our teachers have their moment in the spotlight.