And the Grammy goes to … Kent Knappenberger of Westfield Academy in Chautauqua County.
That’s right. Mr. K won! And not only is the small town of Westfield beaming with pride, but so should all of Chautauqua County and Western New York.
This was the first year the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation honored the finest of the country’s music educators.
Knappenberger, who teaches music students in sixth through 12th grade at Westfield Academy, made it to the final elimination rounds for the Music Educator Grammy Award last week. The community waited with bated breath until Tuesday morning, when Knappenberger was announced as the winner during the “CBS This Morning” show.
What seemed like the longest of long shots – a teacher from a small town vying with 30,000 other nominees from all 50 states – came in first. The award is a testament to the impact he has had over the years on the lives of his students in this school of roughly 300.
Knappenberger is so respected that he was nominated three times, twice by former students and once by the parent of a former student. News Pop Music Critic Jeff Miers chronicled the deep emotions expressed by those he has affected: “Mr. K always says to us, ‘Don’t just skim the surface,’ ” said senior Chris Kelley. “He always encourages us to go deep into things, and he always makes us feel that we can do whatever we set our minds to.”
For his part, Knappenberger talked about music being very important in forming the definition of self. “Music becomes a place to learn music, but also a place to figure out who you are, a place to belong, and a place to get some help in interpreting life.”
He will receive the award and its $10,000 honorarium in Los Angeles during the Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees reception later this week.
Administrators who decide on curriculum and taxpayers who decide on school budgets should take note. Music education, just as other often so-called “expendable” school courses, impacts lives.