Pride, Passion and Rockin’ Recorders: Music Educator Award™ Finalist Elizabeth Hankins

Pride, Passion and Rockin’ Recorders

Music Educator Award™ Finalist Elizabeth Hankins


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 10 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.




Elizabeth Hankins, another NAfME member, directs five orchestras at Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Ohio. She has been named as one of the 10 finalists for the 2017 award. Elizabeth answered some questions from NAfME:

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

Music education is the great equalizer in education. Music education requires the participation of all students, despite their gender, race, religion, income level, or academic achievement. Students from all backgrounds come together to create, celebrate, explore, connect, and share their pride and passion for life and each other. Music education provides students a way to balance the academic rigor with artistic expression. It encourages individuality as well as unity. Music education can allow students to explore different cultures by experiencing music that those cultures cherish. Music education can provide people with the ability to express, share, and appreciate music for a lifetime.


music educator
Elizabeth Hankins



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

I graduated from an incredible high school orchestra program in Okemos, Michigan. I was inspired to pursue a career in music by my high school orchestra director, Marilyn Kesler. Upon arriving at Oberlin Conservatory as a viola performance major, I realized that something was missing; I had a strong desire to interact with people, especially children. I wanted to inspire them, the way Ms. Kesler inspired so many. I met Priscilla Smith, Catherine Jarjisian, Herbert Henke, and John Knight (Oberlin Music Education Faculty), and I knew that becoming a school music teacher was my calling. In addition to the support of the music education faculty, I was strongly encouraged and inspired by my viola professor, Jeffrey Irvine, who continues to guide and inspire me to this day.

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

Lakewood is the first suburb west of Cleveland. The Lakewood City Schools system has a diverse population of approximately 5,100 students, and music education is central to their overall education. Music is offered to all students K-12 and taught by a music specialist. Music educators provide dedicated music courses for our students with disabilities, who represent 13 percent of the student population. Music ensembles and general music courses are offered to our English Language Learners, who represent 8 percent of the school population, originating from 36 countries and speaking 25 languages. Performing opportunities in grades K-8 include band, orchestra, choir, musical theater, strolling strings, jazz bands, “rockin’ recorders,” guitar and ukulele ensembles, as well as a variety of chamber ensembles.

Lakewood High School offers the following curricular ensembles: 5 orchestras, 3 bands, and 4 choirs. Extracurricular ensembles include “The Lakewood Project,” an alternative rock orchestra; the Four Seasons string quartet; an a capella pop choir; female and male barbershop quartets; chamber choir; marching band; pep band; and jazz band. The high school music curriculum also includes music theory, AP music theory, music history, history of popular music and piano class (two levels, one for beginners and one for students who wish to test out of their piano class requirements in college).

Q: Any thoughts on the GRAMMY Educator process? 

The GRAMMY Educator process is quite thorough. It has provided me with a chance to hear what my students and alumni think and feel about their participation in our music program as well as my teaching. Hearing their reflections has provided me with the opportunity to ponder their words and continue to improve my teaching.

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

My membership in NAfME has provided me and my students with a number of opportunities to grow and learn. My students have participated in All-State ensembles as well as the NAfME National Honors Orchestras since the late 1990’s. Being exposed to high quality conductors, sectional coaches, clinicians, as well as other highly motivated young musicians only raises their excitement and commitment to the art of music making. When they return from the All-State or National Honors Orchestra experience, they share this fervor with our program, which in turn allows every student to grow because of these NAfME-sponsored experiences.

As a music educator and graduate student, I have benefited from my NAfME membership in a wide variety of ways. As a graduate student, I have been privy to the most current and exciting developments in our profession through the NAfME journals and conferences. I have had the opportunity to interact with music education researchers as a presenter, author, and audience member. These opportunities have led to relationships that have been central to my development as a teacher. In addition to my interaction with the research community, my students and I have benefited from our attending sessions, meeting vendors and networking as well as presenting our own clinics and performances at state and national conventions. NAfME has provided us with a platform to share our ideas with others and to grow as individuals because of these interactions.


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, January 30, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (