Not Your Typical Music Class: Five Innovative Music Educators Receive Grants

Connexeo - 04/24/2018

Music is, by nature, innovative, so why shouldn’t music education be as well? Five music teachers nationwide who have demonstrated their innovative tendencies were recently honored when they received the 2018 Music Education Innovator Awards from the Give A Note Foundation.

The awards, which carry with them $4,000 grants, are earmarked for “school music programs led by creative music educators using innovative and sustainable strategies in non-traditional or traditional secondary music courses,” according to a Give A Note Foundation statement. “These programs needed to show they were designed to attract students not typically enrolled in music education courses.”

The Country Music Association Foundation is the founding sponsor of the grants, part of the $20 million-plus it has raised for music education since 2006.

The honored programs range from introducing students to the business of music to creating a Mariachi choir in a high school. They were chosen from a multitude of applications received from throughout the country.

The 2018 recipients are:

  • Ethan Chessin, Camas High School, Camas, Wash. – Chessin’s submission, “The Business of Music,” is an annual program in which he commissions a commercial musician or rock composer to write a full-length concert performance for the school’s choirs to perform. This year, it’s indie-rock musician Kelly Pratt and his Bright Moments project. The students also learn about various aspects of the business side of the industry:

    • A talent buyer discusses the job, and the students pick the opening act for their final performance.
    • A publicist talks about news releases, and the students writes a release and shares in with the media.
    • Record-label executives help students design the album.

This year, the student focus is on digital recording and marketing, so they’re filming and editing music videos and developing a website to market the recording.

  • Ginny Coleman, Tuscaloosa County High School, Northport, Ala. – Coleman’s program, “All Together Now: Including Children with Severe Disabilities in Choir,” centers on the third-year TCHS Wildcat Choir, in which students with and without disabilities work together to learn and perform. Some of the students are non-verbal, and the disabilities range from mild to severe. "Instruction is specifically designed to meet the needs of all students," Coleman said in a statement.

  • Brian Gallagher, Ramona High School, Riverside, Calif. – Gallagher created his submission, “Mariachi de la dinastia Ramona,” out of his desire to include more students in his instrumental music programs by establishing the school district’s first mariachi program. He said that program allows students to work with local musicians to perform and enhance their music-making and music-business skills. The band also performs in and engages with the community.

  • Chris Gemkow, York Community High School, Elmhurst, Ill. – Gemkow’s three-tiered “Music Production Program and the York Album Project” involves three levels of music production in which students learn how to create, compose and record a wide variety of music. Each student who progresses through the three levels eventually writes, records and releases an EP of three to five original songs. Many of these students also participate in the extracurricular York Album Project, in which they collaborate each year to write, record and release an album of all original material. The fourth edition of the project, reflecting work done in the 2017-18 school year, has just been released.

  • Warren Mize, East Central High School, San Antonio, Texas – Mize established a two-year course, “Music Business and Industries,” after recognizing that the school was not reaching independent student musicians, composers, technicians, producers and the like. The course was created to prepare these students to navigate the ins and outs of the music industry. Mize wrote that the first year introduces the industry and the careers within it, and explains how the various segments operate on a daily basis. Students are encouraged to think as entrepreneurs and marketers. The second year is an internship/practicum, aligned with a student’s particular interests, in which they learn the structure of and relationship between recording, publishing, marketing and live performance.

The winners will be invited to two events: The upcoming CMA Foundation Music Teachers of Excellence event in Nashville and the National Conference of Music Education conference in November in Dallas, the latter of which will feature a presentation of their programs.


Javascript is not enabled. This may affect content rendering. You can enable Javascript in your Settings Menu.