Music Educator Award™ Finalist Keith Hart, Sr.
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 MEA process by applying makes them part of our overall music education advocacy movement.
Keith Hart, Sr., another NAfME member, is currently the Music Director for KIPP Believe College Prep Middle School in New Orleans. He has been named as one of the 10 finalists for the 2017 award. Keith answered some questions from NAfME:
Q: What role do you believe music education plays in the overall learning experience of students?
Music is life. Music is the place where time, sound, space and life meet. I have been all over the state teaching clinics and working with bands and you can feel the difference in a district that has a high quality far-reaching music program. The people who are able to bring together all of the disciplines with music have a more confident and calm community.
Q: Why did you decide to become a music teacher?
Music literally saved my life. I remember my middle school band classroom, with Mr. Herman Jones, and one day he gave a speech about “attitude” and how your attitude and choices define you. Every student in the class listened intently because Mr. Jones had a way of making you feel like you could take on the world. But one student in particular, who had a reputation for knocking people out with one punch, was crying! I couldn’t believe that the toughest boy in the school felt just like me and every person wants the same things. I decided then that I was going to be a music teacher.
Q: Please describe your music program and what role you believe it plays in the overall fabric of the school.
When I began the program 11 years ago, every student in the school was in the band and we had a motto – “One Team, One Sound” – that meant that every student in the school was a part of something bigger than themselves, and that we had a bond that would last a lifetime. I use my constant development in pedagogy to find ways to more deeply teach the critical thinking skills that it takes to decode music and apply that to thinking about conflict resolution, team building, and anger management. That all spills out beyond my classroom walls.
The program is guided by three principles: Making music is very personal and teaching music starts with a connection to the student behind the horn, the family behind the student and the community behind the family; music is academic and we use extensive reading strategies to learn music and make sense of the world; music is subject to the “art of music” – students are given an opportunity to dive deep into the beauty of music as an expression of their humanity.
Q: Any thoughts on the GRAMMY Educator process?
This process has been enlightening for me, as it has caused me to reflect on my philosophy. From the questions to the videos, it was great to hear what parents, teachers and administrators had to say about my program and the impact that it has had on so many people. I have been teaching for over 20 years and my students have gone on to great success and the program has enjoyed fantastic memories and bonds that will last a lifetime. However, after the day is done and the performance or promotion is over, sometimes you wonder if you are really making a difference and this process has really inspired me to continue my work and keep lighting that fire to help my students become the next tradition bearers.
Q: What role do you believe your NAfME membership has in the professional development aspects of your career?
NAfME has been a very valuable resource for me and the other teachers and students that I mentor. The publications have a way of touching the heart of the challenges that I face and they are right on time when I need inspiration, information and laughter. The conferences are amazing and they are a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with other professionals to support each other, push our crafts to the next level and give our students a connection to students nation-wide.