A Noble and Important Profession: Music Educator Award™ Finalist Keith Hancock

A Noble and Important Profession

Music Educator Award™ Finalist Keith Hancock


Update: Keith Hancock was named the 2017 Music Educator Award winner.

The GRAMMY Foundation® and The Recording Academy® have just chosen 10 finalists for the 2017 Music Educator Award. The award was established to recognize current educators (kindergarten through college, public, and private schools) who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in schools. Eight out of the 10 finalists are NAfME members, as was last year’s ultimate winner, Phillip Riggs of North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, NC.




Keith Hancock, another NAfME member, is in his 15th year of teaching choral music at Tesoro High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. He has been named as one of the 10 finalists for the 2017 award. Keith answered some questions from NAfME:

Q: What role do you believe music education plays in the overall learning experience of students?

Students in music education learn how to interact and collaborate with those who are different from them which proves to be a valuable life skill. Also, music students are given an outlet for creative thought and expression through their art. For many students, the music classroom is the place where they connect to their campus and to a teacher, and it might be the only time in the day they feel successful and passionate about something. Students learn personal accountability in a group situation, how to deal with setbacks, and how to live their lives with empathy and love. My students know that when we reach a goal, there is always a new goal to set or higher levels of excellence to attain, and this is something they can apply to many facets of their life. One of my students recently told me, “Music went from something I just listened to into something I felt, heard, understood and appreciated under your instruction.”

 Q: Why did you decide to become a music teacher?

I have always believed teaching to be a noble and important profession, and as my passion for choral music grew in high school, I became more and more convinced that teaching choir was the right job for me. The moment I knew for sure was when I was in high school standing on stage at the Hollywood Bowl singing Mahler’s 8th Symphony with a large choir and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I had an incredible musical experience that day, and I wanted to help to create experiences like that for students for the rest of my life. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that teaching music was a small part of our job. We are teaching human beings and they need to know how to live. Music is a perfect avenue to teach that.


Keith Hancock


 Q: Please describe your music program and what role you believe it plays in the overall fabric of the school.

We have about 225 students in five curricular choirs and four extra-curricular ensembles, and I also teach a commercial music class where students learn audio and MIDI recording techniques. In addition to myself, we have two other full-time music teachers that teach a sequential band and orchestra program, AP Music Theory, and Guitar. About one-fourth of the school is involved in a standards-based music class. Since our programs are quite popular, we are not only enriching the lives of the students in our classes, but also the overall school community that is exposed to our ensembles, classes, and performances. There is also a certain sense of pride the overall community feels knowing that we have a music program that is highly recognized.

 Q: Any thoughts on the GRAMMY Educator process?

The GRAMMY name has been associated with the highest levels of musical achievement for many years now. It is fantastic that four years ago, the GRAMMY Foundation decided to honor those of us who are teaching students each day and fighting to make it as important to our society as we all feel it is. It has been valuable to take a step back and evaluate why I do what I do in and out of the classroom. Making the quarter-finalist videos has given me a chance to evaluate my own teaching, clearly articulate my own educational philosophies, and identify strengths and areas for improvement in my pedagogy.

 Q: What role do you believe your NAfME membership has in the professional development aspects of your career?

Looking back at my career, many of the most important things I do in my classroom have been learned from other great teachers. NAfME conferences, in-service days, and articles have all contributed to this.


For more information on the GRAMMY Music Educator Award process, please visit www.grammymusicteacher.com. Nominate a teacher by March 15, 2018. Applications due by March 31, 2018.

Brendan McAloon, Marketing and Events Coordinator, January 17, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)