Finding Vulnerability and Authenticity in Music Class

Finding Vulnerability and Authenticity in Music Class:
Music Educator Award™ Finalist Christopher Maunu

Melissa Salguero was named the 2018 Music Educator Award honoree.

Nominate a teacher by March 15, 2018. 
Applications due by March 31, 2018.

The GRAMMY Museum Foundation and the Recording Academy have chosen 10 finalists for the 2018 Music Educator Award. Eight of the finalists are NAfME members as was last year’s winner, Keith Hancock of Tesoro High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. 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.

Christopher is the Director of Choral Activities at Arvada West High School in Arvada, Colorado, since 2006. Since starting his career at Arvada West in 2006, the department has grown from 120 to 340 students and has received national acclaim. An active member of NAfME, CMEA, and ACDA, Christopher also enjoys serving his fellow educators of Colorado through participation on various boards. He currently serves as the High School Repertoire and Resources Chair for Colorado ACDA and on the CMEA Vocal Music Council. Christopher is also the co-founder and co-artistic director of Anima Chamber Ensemble, an elite 16-voice ensemble of choral professionals. He has been named as one of the 10 finalists for the 2017 Music Educator Award™.


What inspired you to become a music teacher?

I didn’t initially major in music in college. Coming from a very small rural community, music wasn’t very highly valued in my high school experience. As in many places, sports reigned supreme. When I went to college as a business major, I signed up for the non-auditioned collegiate chorus just for fun. I discovered a community of people that were SO passionate and unapologetic about their love for music and singing. I instantly fell in love and joined another choir and then another. I became a music major my second semester and never looked back. It’s been my life goal ever since then to provide my students with the experience that I didn’t have in high school—that they can be proud to be in choir.

Christopher Maunu
Photo courtesy of Christopher Maunu

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

The biggest part of what I try to establish in our program is helping my students become vulnerable, authentic people. Singing is one of the most vulnerable activities we do as human beings. We create these sounds from within our bodies and share it with the world, opening ourselves up to judgment and criticism. I work hard to help students become their most real selves. As a teacher, I establish this in students by modeling vulnerability. Not just being emotional in front of them, but by being my most authentic self. We structure our retreats and rehearsals to include a great deal of discussion about what we are all afraid of. Discovering those common fears helps break down walls and creates a stronger supportive community. Musical excellence is a huge focus as well, but we get there through the foundation of vulnerability.

As a teacher, I establish this in students by modeling vulnerability. Not just being emotional in front of them, but by being my most authentic self.

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

My involvement in NAfME has played a huge role in my development in my career. Attending NAfME-sponsored conferences, particularly our state’s chapter CMEA (Colorado Music Educators Association) has been crucial. While NAfME has focused on specific attributes and facets of music education, they’ve always had a wonderful all-encompassing vision for the betterment of our career field as a whole. I’ve had the great opportunity to serve on our Vocal Music Council in recent years. It’s a great joy to give back to the organization that was there for me in my early years as a teacher. Reading articles, attending conferences, and just being a part of such a terrific organization has been so formative for me as an educator.

What would you say to students interested in studying music education?

YES YES YES! We always need passionate and talented people to join our field to make a difference. I would be honest and share that it’s a lot of very hard work. When you are in a giving profession, it’s easy to be a martyr and not take care of yourself. We need to take care of ourselves so that we can give our students what they need. My career in music is intertwined so much with who I am as a person. I would share how much pride I take in coming to work, knowing that I can make a difference in someone’s life every single day.

Christopher Maunu
Photo courtesy of Christopher Maunu


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

Music teaches students how to be human. As I mentioned with my philosophy of developing vulnerability, it’s about becoming truly authentic human beings. Music is a great tool to teach emotional maturity, community, and team work. Music is also a risk that develops courage. We have to put ourselves and our students out there to truly grow. It’s scary to perform without the assurance of success or praise. Developing the confidence to put ourselves out there without that guarantee prepares students for the rest of their lives.

For more information on the GRAMMY Music Educator AwardTM process – and to enter your name for consideration in the 2019 competition – please visit Nominate a teacher by March 15, 2018. Applications due by March 31, 2018.

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