GRAMMY Finalist Krista Fanning: I Can’t Imagine My Life Without Music and Young People

Krista Fanning with band class
Krista Fanning, Caddo Middle School, Caddo Parrish, Louisiana

Nominations for the 2018 GRAMMY Music Educator Awards are now open at The deadline is March 15, 2017. 

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. 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.

Krista Fanning, who is also a 2017 semi-finalist, answered some questions from NAfME:

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

It is no secret that the great teachers and thinkers throughout history have touted the necessity of music in the development of a young person, and they all indicated that it should be part of the educational process. What is not so easy is articulating exactly WHY. A massive amount of research is readily available that articulates what physically happens when a student plays an instrument and how the brain is “awakened” to a state that helps in other classes, however we are constantly fighting that battle of state mandates and a generation of teachers, parents, and administrators who have not experienced music in public education. Those of us who grew up in a musical household or with musical experiences in school completely understand that a good music class teaches so much more than just how to read the notes or when Mozart was born: in a good music class, students learn appreciation for differences (in musical styles as well as cultures), self-discipline, cooperation, problem solving, striving, imagining, and they develop an awareness of who they are as well as who they can be! What I want for my own students to experience an awareness of life through music!

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

I was fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged me to explore my interests to figure out what to do with my life. Scholarships allowed me to be creative in college, and I studied music performance, music therapy, and art. Music Education wasn’t on my ‘short list’ of careers, but my decision to teach happened the exact moment I stood in front of a band and had to lead a warm up as part of a required music education class: I was absolutely struck with the thought that I could help these young people understand the wonder of how music fits in with life! It is a moment that I will never forget! I absolutely love what I do and can’t imagine my life without music and young people.  

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

Our music program provides a wealth of opportunities for students:  We offer Band, Orchestra, Choir, Piano, Guitar, and Music Appreciation, with various levels of each offering. What I really enjoy at this school is that our staff of five music educators work together and present group performances twice a year in addition to our own individual concerts and recitals. 

Many of our school festivals involve our music department, such as Renaissance Faire, Mardi Gras, and Colonial Days, and all of our performing groups are active in the community, which provides students the opportunity for civic involvement. As a music teacher, I work hard to collaborate with “core” teachers to present material that will reinforce what is learned in their classes, and I provide materials and ideas that the “core” teachers can use in their lessons to enhance the material being presented. While my school is an academic magnet, the importance of the arts is understood as an integral part of the development of a young person.

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

I love the reflective aspect of the GRAMMY Educator process! Having gone through National Board Certification a few years ago, I was well versed in how and why I do what I do, which readily applied to the GRAMMY requirements. The main difference came in thinking about how we, as teachers, have an impact on our school, our community, and the music education world in general. It struck me more this year than ever the number of former students working in the music world as well as the number of student teachers who are teaching!  

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

What I appreciate most about my NAfME membership is the access to resources and materials. Even though I have taught for 25 years, I am always thinking about the changing landscape that is education and how I can best present the material to my students, so having ideas and research readily available is awesome! 

 Photo Courtesy of Krista Fanning

Roz Fehr, NAfME Communications Content Developer, February 26, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (