Jared Cassedy of Windham, New Hampshire, received the prestigious 2015 GRAMMY Music Educator Award on February 2. In addition to his music classes, he conducts the New Hampshire Youth Wind Ensemble. He began his career as a band director at Windham Middle School in 2005. While at the middle school, he taught all grade level ensembles, honors concert band, jazz ensemble, and string ensemble.
In 2009, he became Windham High School’s first director of bands when the new school opened. He oversees all instrumental ensembles and teaches a variety of music electives. In 2012, he was appointed as the Dean of Fine, Living, and Technical Arts at Windham.
Cassedy received the New Hampshire Band Directors Association (NHBDA) Outstanding Young Band Director of the Year Award in 2011, and was nominated for New Hampshire Teacher of the Year for 2014. He is an active member of the New Hampshire Music Educators Association (NHMEA) and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).
He took time out of his busy GRAMMY week in Los Angeles to answer some questions about his music teaching career.
Q: Why did you decide to become a music teacher?
This is a great question! Almost everyone in my family is in education. I think this framed my interest in working in schools from the beginning. Ironically, when I told my parents I wanted to become a music teacher, they were definitely concerned, mainly due to job security. As we all know, music and arts programs sometime come under fire when budgets need to be cut and changes need to be made.
With that being said, I had a serious love and passion for making music and wanted to share it with the students that I would someday work with. As I worked through my undergrad, I think understanding music education’s power and realizing how much we need to continue to support the significance of music education is what empowered me to go full-throttle into this profession.
Q: Please describe your music program. What role do you believe your band plays in the overall fabric of the school?
The music program at Windham High School is still in its infancy. Our high school only opened back in 2009 with just freshmen and sophomore classes. Because there was no music program to speak of, it took a great deal of planning and preparation to get to where we are. I remember being so excited to be hired as the first director of bands, but soon realized that this came with a tremendous amount of responsibility—to lay a strong foundation for a comprehensive program.
I worked extremely closely with the students and administration to start laying that foundation out. It definitely was not me making all the decisions, but a collaboration really led by those first students in the program where we were very reflective and conscientious about what our goals and core values were going to be. Because of this, I think that’s why there has been so much ownership from the students and the school about our program in general. This also extends far beyond just our band program.
We have strong choirs and a myriad of music electives here at WHS to cater to the interests of a variety of students. We aim to provide access to music to ALL students! Indeed, the band program has seen great success over these six short years, but I think what I love most is that it’s an all-inclusive ensemble so regardless if you are an advanced student or someone who is literally just picking up an instrument for the first time in September, there is a place for you.
We also have a significant amount of students that are involved in so many other activities and athletic teams. I remember at one time having about 20 students on the football team enrolled in the WHS Concert Band. There is no distinction between different groups and organizations—this is a tribute to the foundation from which Windham High School has been built upon.
Q: How did you feel when you learned you had been nominated for GRAMMY Music Educator Award?
I cannot even tell you how I actually felt because I think there were a million emotions going through me all at one time. From the shock of the news to the realization of what this kind of recognition means; it was overwhelming in such a positive way. I think I literally yelled, cried, and laughed at the same time! I remember just saying, “What? What? Are you sure?” over and over again.
Q: What role do you believe your NAfME membership has played in your career development?
The National Association for Music Education has had a significant, significant role within my career development. From what this organization has stood for to what its aim and focus is—it’s been an extremely important beacon for the profession of music education.
This organization [NAFME] has continued to provide the most meaningful professional development opportunities and has supported our students in a way that both empowers and celebrates their extraordinary talents! I know that one of the proudest moments I have had thus far in my career is when the WHS Concert Band was selected to perform at the NAfME Eastern Division Conference in Hartford, CT, back in 2013. This was an incredible honor, and I absolutely know that my students would say the same!
Q: What does it say about music education that the GRAMMY Foundation has created the Music Educator Award?
It not only shows that music education is important to have in communities and for students everywhere, but it is also a tribute to the thousands of outstanding music educators across our country who are so passionate and inspire so many young minds each and every day. We cannot thank the GRAMMY Foundation and The Recording Academy enough for bringing the importance of music education to the forefront and placing a wonderful spotlight on its capabilities and impact. The fact that such organizations as these recognize this means more to the profession of music education than they will ever know!
Read about Cassedy’s GRAMMY week in Los Angeles, where he used interviews and events to ask for support of school music programs. He received his award on February 8 and also his choice of a car or truck from the Ford Motor Company.Ford is a GRAMMY Music Educator Award sponsor.
Roz Fehr, NAfME Communications Content Developer, February 11, 2015 © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)