After being among more than 7,000 teachers nationwide nominated for a music educator Grammy earlier this year, Jared Cassedy, director of fine arts for the Windham School District, is now one of 10 finalists for the award.
This is the second year the Grammys has handed out that award, which is meant to honor music teachers who’ve made an impact on students’ lives.
Cassedy spoke with Rick Ganley on Morning Edition.
What’s your reaction to being one of the ten finalists for this honor? Were you surprised?
I’m so surprised. It’s truly a dream come true. It’s been a pretty drawn out process. It’s a pretty involved process, and to finally have it come to this point is truly exciting. I’m overwhelmed, truly overwhelmed.
Tell us a little bit about that process.
Back in March of this past year, I had students who nominated me, a student and his mother nominated me for the award. Then what happens is I had to fill out an application process that was scored based on a weighted point system. It was an electronic survey that I had to take with several questions talking about different modalities for teaching and teaching philosophies. Eventually, the top scorers went on to be quarter finalists. And so now we are where we are now in the top ten that just got announced.
It’s little nerve-wracking right now.
One of the criteria for the award is a teacher who has worked to maintain music education in schools. Why do you feel that’s been such a challenge for schools across the country to keep the arts going? Why is it important to keep music in schools?
I think that music, just like the others arts as well, truly allows students to express themselves and be creative and have free license to express themselves. I think when it comes to our educational system today, there’s so much pressure placed on test scores and maintaining annual year progress that sometimes the arts tend to be pushed aside to allow for more time and energy to be put in those things. Ironically, what I feel is that music education and the arts in general allow for students to be creative. If you look at our job market today, there’s a lot of engineers and a lot of science-based professions that you’ve got to be creative, you have to be collaborative. You have to be able to work with one another in many capacities. The music and the arts in general really help with that.
You’ve now been teaching for a decade in Windham. What have you learned about teaching over that time that’s maybe led you to change or improve your method of teaching?
One thing that’s really changed over the last ten years for me is that it’s become so much more of a collaborative. Not that it wasn’t collaborative before, but moreover I think I keep at the root of my teaching philosophies by students and to always remain truly student-centered.
If you win this award, you’ll actually be going to the Grammys in Los Angeles, but you’d also get a $10,000 check. How would you plan to spend that money?
I have not even thought about it. I think I’m just kind of like being superstitious. I know we get $10,000 as an honorarium as well as a $10,000 grant for our music program. I know what I’d do with the money for the music program. We’re traveling to the National Band Festival this year in Indianapolis. It’s really prestigious festival we got into. So that $10,000 would help. I would definitely direct that right toward those efforts to get all the students out there in that performance this coming March.