Creating a Place for Students to Belong:
Music Educator AwardTM Finalist Victor de los Santos


Jeffery Redding was named the 2019 Music Educator Award honoree.

 Nominate a teacher by March 15, 2019. 
Applications due by March 31, 2019.

The GRAMMY Museum and The Recording Academy® selected 10 finalists for the 2019 Music Educator Award. Eight of the finalists are NAfME members as was last year’s winner, Melissa Salguero of P.S. 48 Joseph R. Drake in the Bronx, New York. Teachers are encouraged to apply for the 2019 award by March 31 by visiting Participating in the application process makes you part of our overall music education advocacy movement so teachers, apply this and every year.

educator award

NAfME member Victor de los Santos teaches at Santa Ana High School in Santa Ana, California. Recently he shared the vision he has for his music program, and his community, and the role NAfME plays in his profession.

What inspired you to become a music teacher?

I grew up in a very socioeconomically disadvantaged area that was known for gang violence and random shootings. In middle school, I had a great music teacher who pushed me to achieve more both as a human being and as a musician.


Photo courtesy of Victor de los Santos


Unfortunately, I had a different experience in high school. I went through five band directors for more than four years. Many of my friends end up leaving music, and at times I wanted to quit as well. However, I was appointed Drum Major of the program, and I felt as if I were the only one who could keep the program going. I would run rehearsal, sectionals, and even lead the band through competitions. By my junior year, I knew I wanted to become a music teacher, so that no student would have to deal with this many band director changeovers.


What goals do you establish for the music program at your school?

To be 100% honest, I just want to make each ensemble better than the year before. Don’t get me wrong, I have long term goals, but I look at improvement and growth year to year. In essence, my five-year plan is to be five times better than we are right now. I will say that I want to see my program compete on the national level in the future, but more importantly, change the negative stereotype associated with our school and community.


Photo courtesy of Victor de los Santos

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

NAfME builds partnerships, resources, and advocacy for music teachers. We often only have one teacher per school site, making it very hard to collaborate with other teachers. NAfME allows us to the ability to speak our minds and, more importantly, listen to others’ thoughts. It is indeed our sanctuary.


What would you say to students interested in becoming music educators?

I tell students each year that by becoming a music teacher you will never get rich, but you will never go poor. If music and education is your passion, then you will never work a day in your life. However, if these aren’t your passions, I recommend listening to your heart to find the best career path.

If music and education is your passion, then you will never work a day in your life.


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

Music is an outlet for students much like sports, dance, art, drama, etc. Like these other activities, it provides students with a place to belong, a second family. However, through music education, I feel students learn more about life, love, sadness, anguish, and many more feelings we are forced to bear. We also learn to overcome all of these feelings through music.


What would you say to a music educator thinking about entering to win the 2020 GRAMMY Music Educator Award?

I would say go for it; you need to tell your students’ story as well as your own. Be honest and be yourself, but most importunately, know that you are a winner in the eyes of your community and students. This process is giving you an outlet to tell your story, so go out and say it loud and proud.


For more information on the GRAMMY Music Educator AwardTM process – and to enter your name for consideration in the 2020 competition – please visit Nominate a teacher by March 15, 2019. Applications due by March 31, 2019.


Did this blog spur new ideas for your music program? Share them on Amplify! Interested in reprinting this article? Please review the reprint guidelines.

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.

Catherina Hurlburt, Marketing Communications Manager. March 6, 2019. © National Association for Music Education (


April 2024 Teaching Music

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March 6, 2019


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March 6, 2019. © National Association for Music Education (

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