Fostering Empowerment: Music Educator Award™ Finalist Richard Nickerson

Fostering Empowerment

Music Educator Award™ Finalist Richard Nickerson


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


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 Teachers participating in the Music Educator Award process by applying makes them part of our overall music education advocacy movement.




Dr. Richard Nickerson, another NAfME member, is the Director of Choral Activities at Windham High School in Windham, Maine. He has been named as one of the 10 finalists for the 2017 award. Richard answered some questions from NAfME:

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

The study of music is essential to a well-rounded education.

The research is clear and undisputed: students who study music perform better overall. Music study enhances other academic studies through the intrinsic development of creative thinking, problem solving, and language skills. Socially, music ensembles help to develop a stronger sense of teamwork and acceptance. Additionally, the study of music not only boosts self-confidence when students realize defined, concrete goals, but they also experience the wonder of tapping into self-discovery through creative expression.


music educator


Q: Why did you decide to become a music teacher?

I have always believed that teaching music has been my calling. I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t want to be a music teacher. From my days as an elementary student to my graduate studies, I have been blessed to have compassionate and caring teachers who believed in me and fostered feelings of accomplishment and empowerment. My life has been immeasurably enriched because my teachers awakened my passion and fueled my own development. It has been my desire to inspire others with the same enthusiasm and dedication they showed me.

Q: Please describe your music program and what role you believe it plays in the overall fabric of the school.

Our music program is an integral part of our school community. Music is considered of equal importance to all other subject areas. Music students represent a broad cross-section of the student body. The curricular ensembles are open to all students and we have successfully integrated our special needs and life skill students into the program. Elementary and middle level students aspire to be a part of the high school music program as our students are viewed as role models and leaders. Our program emphasizes the importance of community and service well beyond the walls of our school. One unique aspect of our program is the unparalleled support of our alumni, many of who return each year to help raise money for music scholarships.

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 and try and put into words what I have done for the past 30 years. The greatest and most gratifying aspect about this process has been the number of former students who have reached out to me. It has been a true testament to the power and lasting impact of music.

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

My 30-plus year membership in NAfME (formerly MENC) has been one of the most important components of my professional development. It has enabled me to stay up to date with the best practices and the most current research in music education. It has also given me the opportunity to network with other music educators through conferences at the state, regional and national levels.

For more information on the GRAMMY Music Educator Award™ process please visit
Nominate a teacher by March 15, 2018.
Applications due by March 31, 2018.

Brendan McAloon, Marketing and Events Coordinator, February 6, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (