Hope through Music: Music Educator AwardTM Finalist
The GRAMMY Museum and The Recording Academy® selected 10 finalists for the 2019 Music Educator Award. Eight of the finalists are NAfME members as was last year’s winner, Melissa Salguero of P.S. 48 Joseph R. Drake in the Bronx, New York. Teachers are encouraged to apply for the 2019 award by March 31 by visiting GRAMMYMusicTeacher.com. Participating in the application process makes you part of our overall music education advocacy movement so teachers, apply this and every year.
NAfME member John Weatherspoon teaches at Lake Worth Community High School in West Palm Beach, Florida. He recently shared his thoughts on what inspired him to become a music educator and the role of music in students’ lives.
What inspired you to become a music teacher?
My love for music began with a phone call from my junior high school chorus director, Portia Loper, who simply said, “I think you have a nice voice, and I’d like you to join my chorus.” I immediately thought that someone outside of my family felt that I had value and wanted me to be a part of them. I said YES! She showed so much care for me as a person and treated me as she did all of her students.
As a junior in high school I realized that this was my field and I wanted to give to others what was given to me; hope through music.
I was at a majority white junior high school on the other side of town and was shocked that I was welcomed just as everyone else was! That sense of belonging and community carried into high school with Dr. Brenda Walker who helped me discover that not only did I have a gift to sing but to lead and conduct. Chorus was a family made up of different personality types and people from everywhere, and all of us were made to feel that our role mattered to the degree that the group would not be the same without one of us. As a junior in high school I realized that this was my field and I wanted to give to others what was given to me; hope through music.
What goals do you establish for the music program at your school?
Because of the makeup of our school (Title I, 90+% free and reduced lunch, kids from all over the globe, mostly single parent, etc.), the main goal I have for my students is for them to realize that they could use the lessons learned in music to overcome all of the negatives in their lives and make a better way for their future and that of their posterity. Those learned lessons include discipline, care for others, being present, enthusiastic participation, community, preparation and practice, LOVE, thinking of others when making decisions, etc.
What role do you believe your NAfME membership has had in the professional development aspects of your career?
NAfME has given me an opportunity to grow as a music educator mainly through connecting with experienced and peer educators at conferences and workshops. Connecting with others in our field is like iron sharpening iron. These conferences re-energize me during the year and help me to stay focused on the help I am giving to my students in the very difficult area where I teach.
What would you say to students interested in becoming music educators?
If a student has an interest in becoming a music educator, I would say to them what my mom would say to me, “Go for it baby.“ I would caution them not to lose heart when things don’t go as smoothly as planned and that if things are not happening in a positive way because of all the outside influences, stay the course. Someone will need what you have in those moments like none other. If you have a heart to share with others and give to them what’s been given to you, then absolutely do it wholeheartedly!
We need students who are prepared to build community. We teach community, and we teach it like no other subject can!
What role do you believe music education plays in the overall learning experience of students?
I believe that practically every single American student engages in music somehow on a daily basis. Studies show that kids who actually study music in school do far better on all of the standardized tests that are given out there. I think that music education should be a part of every student’s experience! Some people might say, “Well, that’s not their interest.” My response to that is that most students aren’t interested in English, but they need it to graduate from high school. I believe music is needed to prepare students for real life because of the lessons listed above! We need students who are prepared to build community. We teach community, and we teach it like no other subject can!
What would you say to a music educator thinking about entering to win the 2020 GRAMMY Music Educator Award?
I would say fill out the application from your heart and see where it goes!
For more information on the GRAMMY Music Educator AwardTM process – and to enter your name for consideration in the 2020 competition – please visit GRAMMYMusicTeacher.com. Nominate a teacher by March 15, 2019. Applications due by March 31, 2019.
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.