Honoring Music Educators

The CMA Foundation’s Music Teachers of Excellence Program

By NAfME Member Shawna Longo 

The blog is sponsored by NAfME Corporate Member CMA Foundation.

During the 2023 CMA Awards, performing artist Chris Young said it best—“All of us can remember a special person who changed our life, but most of us never get the chance to thank them.” And while that is absolutely true, Chris Young got his chance to thank his high school music teacher, Mrs. Brenda Gregory, on the main stage at the CMA Awards for inspiring him and playing a significant role in where he is today. Despite the fact that most people don’t get that opportunity, the CMA Foundation has found a way to do just that, serving as a voice and advocacy force to acknowledge music educators from across the country.

Choosing to become a music educator is more than a career choice. It is the culmination of years, probably well over a decade or so, of practice and honing of our craft as musicians and translating that into our role as a music educator. It is the merging of our passion and purpose. It is so much more than a “job.” It is who we are and thus closely intertwined with our soul. Every day we give away a piece of who we are to our students and our community through our role as a music educator. Pablo Picasso said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” For me, music is my passion, and teaching allows me to “give it away.”

CMA Foundation 2023 Music Teacher of Excellence Shawna Longo holding a big check for $5000

The red carpet at the 2023 Music Teachers of Excellence at the Belmont Fisher Center in Nashville, TN on Tuesday, September 19, 2023.

As a CMA Foundation 2023 Music Teacher of Excellence (MTOE) recipient, I cannot fully express the amount of gratitude that I have for this program. From the moment you learn that you are being named a Music Teacher of Excellence, the red-carpet level experiences begin! But, beyond the amazing gifts, monetary awards, and support, comes a level of respect, admiration, and recognition for what we as music educators do every day. Their attention to detail for that recognition is truly on another level.

I have never in my career felt so much love and appreciation for what I do as a music educator. And, although most of us don’t do it for the recognition—it still feels nice! The CMA Foundation is truly a champion for music education, and their work doesn’t simply stop once the MTOE Awards Gala is over. I am proud to have witnessed and am in awe of their continual commitment to music education. They utilize their corporate connections, artists, and industry professionals to leverage the impact that music has on students and raise awareness of the power and necessity of music in our schools.

Imagine yourself being treated like the superstar that you are! Now, multiply that by ten—that’s how you feel as a CMA Foundation Music Teacher of Excellence. I encourage all music teachers to take the time to apply. And although the application process is extensive, as it should be, it is well worth the time and effort that you put into it. For me, the application process gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own practice and receive feedback from my community, including colleagues, administrators, students, and parents.

group photo of CMA Foundation 2023 Music Teachers of Excellence

The Music Teachers of Excellence Class of 2023 at the 2023 Music Teachers of Excellence at the Belmont Fisher Center in Nashville, TN on Tuesday, September 19, 2023.

Becoming a CMA Foundation Music Teacher of Excellence also provided me with the opportunity to meet other amazing music educators from across the country! We conversed, compared stories, and lifted each other up so much that we created our own PLC (professional learning community)—MTOE23. I am forever grateful for my cohort. We have a bond that is unique to us which grew organically out of our involvement through the MTOE experience. It is an experience unlike any other, and I hope that every music educator will apply so that they give themself the opportunity to be a part of this amazing experience filled with excitement, validation, and inspiration. It helped fuel my soul when I didn’t even know that I needed it, and now more than ever, we could all use a little bit of that.

About the author:

Shawna Longo seatedNAfME member Shawna E. Longo is the District Supervisor of Visual & Performing Arts and Consumer Education for the Westfield Public Schools in New Jersey with 22 years of classroom experience as a music educator and arts integration specialist. She is also a published author with her book, Integrating STEM with Music (Oxford University Press). Mrs. Longo hosts the “ArtSaid” Podcast with fellow visual art educator, Edric Debos. Additionally, she serves as a Practice Advisory Board Member for The Center for Arts Education & Social Emotional Learning; K-12 Educational Technology & Innovation Through Music Chair for the NJMEA Board of Directors; the Arts Integration & STEAM Specialist for TMI Education; Lead Consultant for Essential Elements Music Class (Hal Leonard); an Ambassador/Consultant for The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, Music First and Jamstik; Coach for The Institute for Arts Integration & STEAM (2018-2022). She is an internationally recognized clinician and consultant for music education, music technology, social emotional learning, arts integration, and STEAM. She is also a recipient of the 2023 CMA Foundation “Music Teacher of Excellence” Award, 2021-2022 Sussex County Teacher of the Year, 2021 New Jersey Arts Educator of the Year, 2021 Governor’s Educator of the Year for Durban Avenue School, 2019 Mike Kovins Ti:ME Music Technology Teacher of the Year, 2019 New Jersey Governor’s Award in Arts Education, 2019 Teach Rock Star Teacher Award from The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, 2018 NJMEA Master Music Teacher Award, and 2016 Governor’s Educator of the Year for Hopatcong Middle School. Mrs. Longo also serves on the Morris Plains Board of Education.

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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.

April 2024 Teaching Music

Published Date

February 16, 2024


  • Lifelong Learning
  • Music Education Profession


February 16, 2024. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)

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