CMA Foundation Music Teachers of Excellence

Achieving Excellence Together

By NAfME Member Jared L. Cassedy, sponsored by CMA Foundation

“It’s not just music, it’s through music!” These were the words that echoed through the room and were reinforced in my mind and soul by CMA Director of Community Impact Franklin Willis when I attended the CMA Music Teachers of Excellence events this past October. And is it not the case? We, as members of this exceptional profession, work tirelessly each day using the most beautiful vehicle of music to help our students to develop skills that transcend that of just singing, moving, and playing an instrument as a means of accessing so many facets of their lives educationally, vocationally, and personally. This was the core of what being named a Country Music Association Foundation National Music Teacher of Excellence was for me; a distinct and incredible recognition not only for the profound music-making opportunities and experiences we have been so fortunate to have crafted with our students, but for the work we all do as noble members of this profession to support the development of positive change agents and contributors to our society.

CMA Foundation Music Teachers of Excellence

Music Teachers of Excellence hosted by Kix Brooks at Marathon Music Works in Nashville, TN on October 19, 2022.

As I’ve said in many, many interviews and amongst the outstanding professionals I have been given the privilege to work alongside, the Country Music Association Foundation is truly the “real deal.” They are an organization committed not only to the promotion and advocacy of music and music education, but have taken action in ways that one would seldom see from such a large institution. Our time in Nashville was steeped in so much celebration and joy—it was truly unexpected—and a direct spotlight was placed upon our profession that validated what we do especially when support for our programs, whether it be locally, regionally, or nationally, can be brought into question. This experience made our field of music education much less lonely where we felt our voices were heard . . . and that our voices mattered. When the CMA Foundation has arranged to have folks such as US Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona sit down and ask us what we need; what would make a difference to our profession, it speaks volumes . . . or when we see the action the foundation is taking legislatively, and in tandem with the Tennessee Department of Education, to expand their support of music education both financially and programmatically through the lenses of innovation, strategic planning, and partnerships, and how this is an example of how this kind of support can absolutely come to fruition in our own states and hometowns, it’s beyond inspiring . . . and when this kind of recognition is echoed by our state’s governors through citations of recognition, it places our work and our profession at the forefront of educational policy, structures, and programming as a means of advocacy. Indeed, it’s not just about the overarching recognition; it’s about the follow through and investment in the value of music education in all of our communities.

Each of us as music educators has showcased an undying commitment to our students and their families, and our communities. Each of us as music educators has poured our hearts and souls into helping our students find themselves via the musical journey we are helping them along. And each of us as music educators is 110% worthy of being named a CMA Foundation Music Teacher of Excellence. The CMA Foundation is placing a tangible value on this in a way that honors both the educator and the profession that reaches well beyond a label or an award. They have given me supreme hope and optimism that at the end of the day such an organization authentically and genuinely has our back, especially as the landscape of education continues to evolve.

Jared Cassedy in front of step and repeat

Music Teachers of Excellence hosted by Kix Brooks at Marathon Music Works in Nashville, TN on October 19, 2022.

For me, as I reflect on being part of such an incredible experience I find myself exceptionally grateful for being provided the opportunity to have a stronger voice at the table and being connected with a number of influential folks who can help to support future initiatives, gaining momentum and enthusiasm for our performing arts programming at-large in my own school district and community, and helping me to continue being a mouthpiece for the profession of music education at the regional and national level. I feel more empowered because I know that the support from the CMA Foundation is unwavering.

And for folks who are thinking that they would love to apply for the CMA Foundation Music Teacher of Excellence program, but there just isn’t enough time to do so—there is never a more important time to invest in this program because when an organization like this is able to amplify the work we do, it only strengthens our capacity to continue to forge ahead and make the differences we want and need to make for our students. I know that for myself, the CMA Foundation has concretized my own drives and motivations both personally and professionally within the field of music education, with my students and my ensembles, and within the communities I continue to be privileged to serve, and it has given me great strength and pride to move forward each and every day . . . and for that I am forever thankful.

About the author:

Jared Cassedy with CMA Foundation medal award

Jared Cassedy, named a 2022 Music Teacher of Excellence, photographed backstage at Marathon Music Works on Wednesday, October 19, 2022.

Jared L. Cassedy is the K–12 Performing Arts Coordinator and the director of the LHS Wind Ensemble for Lexington Public Schools, Massachusetts. He is also the conductor of the Junior Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble at New England Conservatory and serves as the Chairperson of the Massachusetts Music Educators Association Northeastern District. Before coming to Massachusetts, Jared was President-Elect for NHMEA and previously worked as the K–12 Fine and Performing Arts Director for the Windham, New Hampshire, and Salem, New Hampshire School Districts. Jared is the 2015 recipient of the prestigious GRAMMY Music Educator Award and has most recently been named a 2022 National Music Teacher of Excellence by the Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation. Jared is a greatly sought after conductor for a myriad of regional honor bands across New England, has given a variety of lectures on leadership and best practices in teaching including the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic presenting a session titled “Fine Tuning Ensemble Culture and Why it Matters—Intentionally Creating a Positive Community Through Conversation and Collaboration,” and has participated in TEDx talking about his journey and philosophies through his career in education. Additionally, Jared serves as a Connected Arts Network (CAN) Teacher and on the Equity Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, and Council of Music Program Leaders for the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).

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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

February 9, 2023. © National Association for Music Education (

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