Communication, Collaboration and Discipline
Music Educator Award™ Finalist Henry Miller
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. Nine out of the ten finalists are NAfME members, as was last year’s ultimate winner, Phillip Riggs of North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, NC. Teachers are encouraged to apply by visiting www.grammymusicteacher.com. Teachers participating in the Music Educator Award process by applying makes them part of our overall music education advocacy movement.
Henry Miller, another NAfME member, is the Director of Instrumental Music at Sierra Vista Middle School in Irvine, California, where he teaches three bands, three orchestras, and jazz band. He also annually co-conducts the Fine Arts Summer Music Program in Irvine. He has been named as one of the 10 finalists for the 2017 award. Henry answered some questions from NAfME:
Q: Why did you decide to become a music teacher?
I did not go to college with the intention of having a career in education. But no matter what other direction I tried to turn, I kept returning to music. In my third year of college, I got a job as an assistant director at a local high school and it was then that I was hooked. I discovered I had a passion for sharing music with other people and although I have taught every grade level from third grade to graduate school, I have found the greatest joy teaching middle school kids.
Q: What role do you believe music education plays in the overall learning experience of students?
I think any music teacher could talk all day about the benefits of music education. We can indeed talk about the connection between music participation and higher test scores, better grades, graduation rates, etc.; certainly, there are the important educational goals of creativity, communication, collaboration and discipline; and there are the humanistic needs for artistic expression, to create and be creative, which is oftentimes lacking from other taught disciplines.
I want my kids to be life-long appreciators of the arts, to be intelligent arts consumers, and be supporters of music education when they become the leaders and decision makers of the future. Lastly, I want my students to have fun and create life-long memories. They may not remember the many tests they take in school, but they will remember the feelings they had after a great performance or the other shared experiences they had with their friends.
Q: Please describe your music program and what role you believe it plays in the overall fabric of the school.
At our school, I teach seven instrumental music classes: three bands, three string orchestras, and a jazz band, that comprise over one-third of the student population in grades 7-8. Additionally, we have another music teacher who teaches choir, musical theater, and guitar. Along with her classes, we service more than 50 percent of the student body.
All of my kids perform regularly in various venues throughout the city, but I am most proud of our community outreach. We play at our local elementary schools, for the elderly, for the homeless at food drives, but our most significant outreach is our interactive concerts for the special needs students in our district. My kids consider this event as the most memorable of their middle school years.
Q: Any thoughts on the GRAMMY Educator process?
There is no bigger name than GRAMMY when speaking of music awards and it has been an incredible honor to have my name, in some small way, associated with the GRAMMY Foundation. During the application process, I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on my own teaching. They asked some very thought-provoking questions even though the amount of time to answer them was exceedingly limited. It forced me to be concise and to prioritize what was important to me.
Q: What role do you believe your NAfME membership has in the professional development aspects of your career?
As music teachers, we tend to work in isolation; oftentimes as the only teachers of our subject on campus. When my school has PLC time, I get teamed up with the choir teacher, but also with the art teacher, the librarian, the Spanish teacher, and the technology teacher. Professional associations such as NAfME help us to stay connected and share best practices. Every time I attend a conference or read a publication, I get new ideas that I can incorporate immediately into my classroom, even after 26 years of teaching.