A Passionate Advocate for Music Education:
Music Educator AwardTM Finalist Scott Sheehan
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.
Scott R. Sheehan is the NAfME Eastern Division Immediate Past-President. A Penn State alumni, Mr. Sheehan is the director of bands and the music department chairperson at the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. He recently shared his vision for music education at his school and around the country.
What inspired you to become a music teacher?
I remember the exact day that I wanted to teach music. It was a Tuesday, and I was a junior in high school. The band was rehearsing David Holsinger’s “On an American Spiritual,” and I was playing my trumpet just like any other day. However, this rehearsal was different somehow. As the band approached the climactic moment, where the music crescendos and the texture builds, I was transported to a place I had never experienced before with music. The feeling I had was the most expressive, beautiful sensation and connection with music, and it was more than a rush. Truthfully, to this day, I still can’t exactly describe the feeling. I knew it was amazing; and I knew that I loved it, and I wanted to feel it again! I tell people that music chose me that day, I didn’t choose music. It’s been nearly 30 years since that Tuesday, and I can honestly say that I have continued to love music every day, and I strive to share that passion and love with my students.
It’s been nearly 30 years since that Tuesday, and I can honestly say that I have continued to love music every day, and I strive to share that passion and love with my students.
I’ve also had many amazing teachers, mentors, colleagues, students, and friends who have inspired, guided, and shaped me into the music educator that I am today. I’ve truly been blessed by all of the folks who have supported me on my musical journey.
What goals do you establish for the music program at your school?
One of the great things about the music program at Hollidaysburg is that we have a wonderful team of music educators who work very closely together toward the best interests of our students. We are committed to ensuring our students have creative and meaningful experiences as part of their music education, and we’ve worked to expand the reach of our music program for all students. In the past four years we have added two levels of guitar classes at the high school and an elective course called “Rock, Rap, and Revolution!”. We regularly collaborate with guest artists and composers and have commissioned several new works for a variety of ensembles and genres. Currently, we are in the process of developing more diverse ensemble experiences for students in the elementary and junior high levels and hope to expand and integrate more opportunities for music technology at all levels.
In addition to these goals, our music department has a belief statement where we outline our goals. Our statement reads:
Through quality music instruction, we:
- Encourage artistic individualism and camaraderie through study, practice, performance, technology, and musical experiences.
- Develop an aesthetic understanding both intellectually and emotionally which leads to an appreciation of music of all styles and cultures.
- Foster a sense of pride in our music programs throughout our schools and communities.
- Promote music as a lifelong study and vocation.
I can honestly say that we are all committed to achieving these goals through a sequential, standards-based curriculum, and we strive to ensure all students in our school district have access to an authentic, meaningful music education.
What role do you believe your NAfME membership has had in the professional development aspects of your career?
NAfME has been a huge part of my professional development over the past several years in a variety of ways. I have attended conferences and workshops, participated in online professional development, and enjoy the new membership platform, Amplify. Although, these experiences have been valuable, the opportunity to develop my leadership skills through service to NAfME, PMEA, and music education has had a profound impact on me as a music educator. I have been very fortunate to serve music education in several capacities, and I have been active in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) for more than twenty years, highlighted by serving as State President from 2010–2012. I also served as the NAfME Eastern Division President from 2015–2017. These leadership experiences have allowed me to grow in many ways and greatly broadened my capacity to develop strong communication skills and understand the value of diverse perspectives. I am a passionate advocate for music education for all children, and I am extremely committed to finding solutions to the varied challenges that are faced by our associations.
What would you say to students interested in becoming music educators?
Music education is an extremely rewarding career. The benefits of using your own musical and creative spirit to spark the creativity and musicality within your students is amazing! I find music education to be very symbiotic. The more effort I put in, the more my students put in; the more I grow, the more my students grow; the more musical I become, the more musical they become; the more excited I am, the more excited they are. Seeing the students achieve musical challenges and expanding their creative minds beyond what they ever thought possible is absolutely incredible. I’ve never doubted that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do—teach music to children!
Music, by its very nature, is essential for a student’s development. It belongs in every school and should be accessible for every student.
Although music education is critical to the development of children and part of a well-rounded education as defined in the Every Student Succeeds Act, there are also challenges. The pressures of today’s high-stakes testing and emphasis on STEM can impact budgets, scheduling, and staffing. There may be coopetition with other non-tested subjects for students’ time, and resources can be limited. It is important to be an advocate for your program and your students and to build a coalition of parents, administrators, colleagues, etc. who value the difference a music education makes.
What role do you believe music education plays in the overall learning experience of students?
Music, by its very nature, is essential for a student’s development. It belongs in every school and should be accessible for every student. Research shows that studying and performing music engages the brain in ways that no other subject does. It cultivates the creative spirit and enhances critical thinking. Music is collaborative and has many diverse ways of communicating messages. Part of how we identify ourselves in the world is through our experiences in music. Schools need to recognize there are many unique forms of music and ways to make music, and each one has value because of the culture and intent from which it was created. We must continue to advocate, not just to ensure everyone has access to music education in school, but also to ensure that education represents authentic, relevant, and appropriate opportunities for all children to grow musically.
What would you say to a music educator thinking about entering to win the 2020 GRAMMY Music Educator Award?
I have been extremely honored and feel very humbled to have been selected as a finalist. The efforts that The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Museum are doing to recognize the importance of music education is very exciting. For a long time, there has been a disconnect between music education in schools and the music industry. I am very excited to see the connections being made between these two entities. These collaborative efforts will strengthen music in the schools and shine a spotlight on the impact that music teachers are making in their classrooms.
To quote Diana Ross at the 2019 GRAMMY Awards, “I believe in music and its power.” Through music, we have the power to change lives. Together, we need to lead the way in harnessing this power towards building the musical and creative future our country so desperately needs.
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.