2015 GRAMMY Finalist Huber Smith: Music Has Been Our Vehicle for Healing, Understanding, and Unity in Our Community


Maplewood Middle School Band Director Huber Smith
Maplewood Middle School Band Director Huber Smith


In February 2015, the GRAMMY Foundation named Jared Cassedy of Windham, New Hampshire, the 2015 GRAMMY Music Educator. Cassedy was one of 10 finalists chosen from a pool of 7,000 nominations nationwide. Of the 10 music educators, eight are NAfME members. Each finalist received a $1,000 honorarium, and their schools each received a $1,000 grant from the GRAMMY Foundation.

Glenn E. Nierman, president of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), says the honored teachers represent high-quality music educators everywhere. Read Nierman’s full remarks.


Huber Smith is the band director at Maplewood Middle School in Sulphur, La. He answered questions about his music program, his teaching career, and belonging to NAfME.

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

 I believe music education serves as a catalyst for growth and change for children at a formidable and critical age in their maturation and overall development. Music is essential in and of itself as it is a key component of the human experience but it can also serve as a vehicle for instilling universal principals for success that can serve students for a lifetime. 

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

I decided to teach music because I saw first-hand the impact and power music possesses and I feel that this “gift” called music should be shared and I could think of no better or more noble fashion to share it than in the profession of education. 

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

 My program has grown from 30+ kids to now nearly 50% of our school population.  This award winning band has been recognized both regionally, and nationally.  In addition to the standard music instruction that happens during the school day.  We also have partnered with the local university to offer our students additional Service Learning services.

 In addition to offering a host of ensembles (jazz, concert, percussion, etc) the band also offers affordable after-school tutoring to over 40 students ages 10-16, free instruments via the Music Makers 2 U program where I serve as Vice-President, small group instruction and one on one tutoring through a Service-Learning partnership with McNeese State University. 

I host an annual community cultural concert series called “Music with a Mission.”

 I also present “Jazz In the Grove” as well as “Jazz In the Arts” campaign. But it doesn’t stop there. My students mentor other students in music and provide concerts and demonstrations throughout the year to kids Pre-K to 12th grade.  We’ve done a lot, and music has been our vehicle for healing, understanding, and unity to our community.

 Q: Any thoughts on the GRAMMY Educator process? Was it nerve-wracking or something you didn’t think about very much?

 The GRAMMY Educator process has been an incredible experience.  It was beneficial in the sense that it gave our students a “shot in the arm” so to speak.  It was humbling and rewarding to be able to express to our kids that what we do here in Southwest Louisiana has garnered national attention.  The process was at times time consuming and the wait to find out the selections was at best excruciatingly nerve wrecking but the time I put into the process has made me both a better teacher and a better advocate for the cause of music education and for that I am forever grateful.

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

 As a member of NAfME, I have access to valuable professional insight and professional development opportunities unique to my field.  NAfME also provides access and a professional “home” to a community of music educators across the country. 

Roz Fehr,  NAfME Communications Content Developer, February 27, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).