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The Grammy Foundation names the winner of its first Music Educator Award

Neil Portnow speaks at a 2013 Recording Academy press conference
PHOTO by PHYLLIS POLLACK, 2013

By Phyllis Pollack

Yesterday, in conjunction with the Grammy Foundation, The Recording Academy announced that the first ever recipient of the Music Educator Award will be Kent Knappenberger of Westfield Academy and Central School in Westfield, N.Y.

The award will be presented at the Special Merit Awards Ceremony and Nominees Reception on Friday, January 25. The event is part of Grammy Week 2014, which began yesterday.

The Special Merit Awards will take place just prior to the evening's annual 2014 Grammy Salute to Industry Icons hosted by Clive Davis, which this year, will salute record executive Lucian Grainge.

Knappenberger will also be recognized at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.

While Knappenberger is the recipient of the Music Educator Award, nine other music teachers from nine cities thorughout seven states are finalists for the award.

The new award has generated much interest and immense response. Since the inclusion of the new award was announced at last year's Grammy Awards by Grammy Foundation and Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow, so much enthusiasm has resulted, that more than 30,000 initial nominations were submitted from virtually all 50 states.

In a Grammy first, the general public was allowed to submit nominations.

A total of nine music teachers from nine cities across seven states are finalists for the award. In total, more than 30,000 initial nominations were submitted from all 50 states.

The Music Educator Award was established to recognize current music teachers (kindergarten through college, public and private schools) that have made a significant and lasting contribution to music education and that have shown a commitment to the quest of maintaining music education in the schools in the face of government cutbacks supporting the arts.

Portnow issued a statement noting, "The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation created this award to highlight the extraordinary influence of music teachers on their students in and beyond the classroom. Many musicians would not be expressing their gift for creativity had it not been for the dedication and encouragement of a music teacher who inspired them to pursue a professional career."

Knappenberger has taught music and served as choir director at Westfield Academy and Central School for 25 years. He received his bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at Fredonia and achieved his master's degree in music education, harp performance and literature from Eastman School of Music.

A member of the National Education Association, he has also done volunteer work, teaching music to students at the Ana Gonzaga Methodist Institute in Rio de Janeiro.

Knappenberger says he believes the new award will help inspire other music educators. He responded, "I am extremely humbled and honored to be the recipient of the first-ever Music Educator Award. I believe that this award has already been and will continue to be a tremendous encouragement to all music educators."

He also pointed out another benefit of the award, stating, "Besides the attention it has brought to many fine teachers, it brings attention to the importance of music education in general."

Each year, one recipient will be selected from 10 finalists. The winner will be recognized for his/her remarkable impact on students' lives.

Knappenberger will be flown by The Recording Academy to Los Angeles to accept the award, attend the 56th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, and he will receive a $10,000 honorarium from the Grammy Foundation.

Finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium, and additionally, the schools of all 10 finalists also will receive matching grants.

The honorariums and grants provided to the finalists and schools are made possible by donations and financial support of the Grammmy Foundation's Education Champions Box Tops For Education, Converse, Ford Motor Company Fund, Journeys, Microsoft Surface, and Universal Music Group.

Applications for the second annual Music Educator Award are now online. Readers may nominate a teacher at GrammyMusicTeacher.com. Nominations must be completed by March 31, 2014.

Just as the Grammy categories change with the times, the application process will be adjusted yearly, in order to include the broad span of successful teaching styles and methodology employed in music education.

America's schools have received more than $600 million from the Box Tops for Education program since it began in 1996, including $80 million in the 2012–2013 school year alone.

More than 90,000 schools use these much-needed funds to buy including computers, library books, art supplies, and playground equipment.

Schools can earn up to $20,000 by clipping Box Tops from 250 products and can earn eBoxTops by shopping online through the Box Tops Marketplace. For more information, plus a list of eligible products, visit www.btfe.com. Facebook at www.facebook.com/BoxTopsforEducation, Twitter at www.twitter.com/BTFE and Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/Boxtops.

To see more about the Grammy Foundation's support of schools, please see "Grammy in the Schools" on Facebook at www.facebook.com/grammyintheschools and follow the Grammy Foundation on Twitter @GrammyFdn and on Instagram.

A major supporter of the program, Converse Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nike, Inc. Converse, which was founded 115 years ago, is known for its legendary shoes, such as the Chuck Taylor All Star shoe. Converse's brand includes a wide range of shoes that include lifestyle men's, women's and children's footwear, as well as apparel and accessories.

Another crucial supporter of the Grammy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund & Community Services works with various entities to advance communities. Ford Motor Company Fund has operated with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company for over six decades.

Innovation in education is encouraged through its national programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 25,000 Ford employees and dealers work on projects each year to help their communities.

Another corporate supporter of music and the Grammy Foundation, Journeys is a popular brand in the teen retail spectre, with more than 800 stores in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. The company specializes in fast-paced footwear and accessories for 13- to 22-year-olds, both male and female girls. Its trendy brands attract teens that seek the hottest new styles.

A great amount of support for the Grammy Foundation's support of music education also comes from Universal Music Group. A major powerhouse in the music business, a few of its labels include A&M/Octone, Blue Note Records, Capitol Records, Capitol Records Nashville, Caroline, Decca, Def Jam Recordings, Deutsche Grammophon, DEMI Records Nashville, Fonovisa, Geffen Records, Interscope Records and MCA.

Other UMG labels include Island Records, Machete Music, Manhattan, Nashville, Mercury Nashville, Mercury Records, Motown Records, Polydor Records, Republic Records, Universal Music Latino, Verve Music Group, Virgin Records, and many other record labels that are either owned or distributed by its record company subsidiaries around the world.

The following is a list of the winner and runners-up of the first annual Music Educator Awards.

Winner
Kent Knappenberger, Westfield Academy and Central School, Westfield NY

Finalists
Lisa Bianconi, Kurn Hattin Homes for Children, Westminster, VT
Charles Cushinery, Ed W. Clark High School, Las Vegas, NV
Andrew DeNicola, John P. Stevens High School, Edison, NJ
Vivian Gonzalez, South Miami K-8 Center, Miami, FL
Kathrine Kouns, Horizon High School, Scottsdale, AZ
Glen McCarthy, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Steve Vutsinas, Grassfield High School, Chesapeake, VA
Jo Wallace-Abbie, Plano West Senior High School, Plano, TX
Mary Jo West, George Mason High School, Falls Church, VA

The 56th Annual Grammy Awards will take place live on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, at Staples Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network from 8 – 11:30 p.m. (ET/PT).

Phyllis Pollack will be covering the Grammy Awards live from Staples Center.

Follow Phyllis on Twitter.