Opening Doors for Students:
Music Educator AwardTM Finalist Mickey Smith Jr.


Jeffery Redding was named the 2019 Music Educator Award honoree. Mickey Smith Jr. was named the 2020 Music Educator Award honoree.

Nominate a teacher by March 15, 2022. 
Applications due by March 31, 2022.

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 Mickey Smith Jr. is the Director of Bands at Maplewood Middle School in Sulphur, Louisiana. He is also the author of a children’s book The Adventures of Little Mickey: Keep on Going. Recently, he shared what inspired him to become a music educator and why he believes music is essential to students’ education.

opening doors

Photo courtesy of Mickey Smith Jr.


What inspired you to become a music teacher?

I grew up in a forgotten community, and music was my opportunity to be the first in my family to go to college and travel the world. Music was my open door, so I wanted to open the door for others to discover their “sound.”

Music was my open door, so I wanted to open the door for others to discover their “sound.”

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

Our goals are to “B.A.N.D. Together.” B.A.N.D. stands for:


The most important of these is N: “Never Settle for Less Than Your Best.” This was instilled into me by my high school band director, and I believe that it is the X-factor for everything you set out to do. In our class we strive to go ALL “N” ALL THE TIME!

children's book

Photo: Elizabeth Medwick

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

It has provided me a reservoir of resources and information since the start of my career. It also has helped me become more aware of leaders in our industry and equipped me with tools for advocacy in my community. 


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

I say teaching music is STILL a noble profession. I would have to be honest and say it can be an arduous journey, but it is definitely a hero’s journey. For anyone interested in becoming a teacher, know that you do not just teach, you reach. You do not just instruct, you inspire. It cannot be simply about the subject matter, but about showing the students that they matter. The “sound” we create as teachers is the greatest sound we will ever perform.

For anyone interested in becoming a teacher, know that you do not just teach, you reach. You do not just instruct, you inspire.


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

I believe music is still an essential element. It is a key component to what it means to be human. In a time where schools, industries, and economies are looking for forward-thinking individuals with the capacity to problem-solve, interpret data, and still communicate, empathize, and synergize, music remains that uniquely essential element that does all that and more for those who understand it [music]. Music opens up an entirely new dimension of understanding.


Photo: Elizabeth Medwick

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

I would say that it can be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your life. Self-awareness is something we all lack to a certain degree, but during this process, as you become more aware of yourself, it forces you to “See Yourself Beyond Yourself.”

For me being a two-time finalist, it has absolutely developed how I see the world and how the world sees me, as well as music education. I thank the GRAMMYs for taking the lead to remind music educators (through this process) that they are LOVED, VALUED, and WANTED. 


For more information on the GRAMMY Music Educator AwardTM process – and to enter your name for consideration in the 2021 competition – please visit Nominate a teacher by March 15, 2022. Applications due by March 31, 2022.


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 9, 2019. © National Association for Music Education (

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