Westfield Academy and Central Schools teacher Kent Knappenberger has been announced as the recipient of the first-ever Grammy for Music Educator Award.
The announcement was made Tuesday morning on the CBS Morning News followed by a four-minute segment on Knappenberger, Westfield Academy Central Schools and his family.
"When I found out, I cried," he said in the CBS segment. "The people I teach and what I do is very important to me. ... I know there is a country filled with very talented educators. As much as I learned about the other finalists, I'm just so glad to be part of something that they do.
Photo by Samantha McDonnell
Westfield Academy and Central Schools teacher Kent Knappenberger, at podium, has been announced as the recipient of the first-ever Grammy for Music Educator Award.
Knappenberger was one of ten finalists initially selected from among more than 30,000 nominees. Nominations were submitted from all 50 states.
Knappenberger and his family will fly to Los Angeles to accept the award at the Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees Reception on Jan. 25, attend the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards ceremony and receive a $10,000 honorarium. Each of the nine finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium and the schools of all 10 finalists will receive matching grants.
According to the Grammy in the Schools website, the Music Educator 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 the schools. Each year, one recipient will be selected from 10 finalists, and will be recognized for his/her remarkable impact on students' lives.
In the CBS Morning News story, several of Knappenberger's students praised the teacher for inspiring them and helping them achieve their goals.
Former WACS student Emily Parker commented in the interview with CBS, "You get to know him and he goes from this crazy abstract guy to someone who nourishes everything you care about in yourself. I realized that I actually did have this gift that I could use to help people and that's made all the difference in my life."
Sophomore Luis Quinones, who came to America from Puerto Rico this past summer, credited Knappenberger with helping him realize a lifelong dream to play the violin.
"I just came here the first time I was like dreaming about how I was going to play the violin. He has been the best teacher in the whole wide world. He's the first class I love and the music just gets inside my heart. (He has helped) make my dreams come true," said Luis Quinones to CBS Morning News.
Knappenberger was honored as a finalist last week during an assembly at Westfield Academy. Students and staff were dressed in their best black tie attire and the school's auditorium was decorated for a red carpet affair.
Knappenberger, who teaches sixth to 12th grade music, thanked everyone for dressing up, saying it was "overwhelming" to see the middle school choir students in suits and tuxedos. He thanked his family, the school community and especially the students who appeared in the teaching video submitted to the Grammy Foundation.
"I picked them for the teaching video because they would try anything," he said. "I am so glad to represent our school community because of everything that happens here every day. ... We make the most of our big resource every day and that is people.
Lon Knappenberger, middle and high school science teacher and Knappenberger's brother, served as master of ceremonies for the afternoon. He shared the spotlight with his brother by accepting an award from the district for being named a New York State Master Teacher. Superintendent David Davison said the assembly would be similar to the Grammy's award show with musical performances, speeches and awards. Knappenberger was also presented with a "rammy," a statue of a gold sheep.
Various students were among those praising Mr. K, as he is known by his students, throughout the afternoon. Senior Mackenzi Habig and junior Chris Cockram presented the top 10 life lessons as taught by Knappenberger. The lessons were: don't consider yourself above or below a situation; when singing make sure you show off talents to the world; don't be afraid to fail; everyone needs someone, no matter how important they are; have standards; be early to any flight; don't waste precious time; it's OK for men to sing; and be a swimmer instead of an ice skater. The number one life lesson was to see the good in the world with eyes full of wonder.
"Mr. K once said, 'If I could give you one gift, it would be to look at the world with wonder.' ... Try to see the beauty in all the things you're doing ...," Habig said.
During the event, there were several awards presented to Knappenberger including a certificate of recognition from SUNY Fredonia Dean for College of Visual and Performing Arts Ralph Blasting and Dr. Karl Boelter, director of the School of Music; two certificates were presented, one to the district and one to Knappenberger, from Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES; and Knappenberger was given the key to the village.
"The key to the village is only bestowed upon distinguished persons and honored guests of the village of Westfield. ... In Westfield giving the key is symbolic since the village has no gates to unlock. We have all observed Kent's love for music and his passion to share that with his students. He has turned that love and passion into lessons of self esteem and life-learning experiences," Westfield Deputy Mayor Robert Cochran said.
In addition to students, fellow teachers spoke during the ceremony. Helen Ihasz, instrumental teacher, praised Knappenberger for being a great teacher and helping the music department become close like family. She said he is "selfless, humble and kind hearted" and encourages her to strive to be a better teacher. Middle school music teacher Douglas Tramontana said Knappenberger has been a mentor at WACS.
"I've gone to school for 8 or 9 years to become a teacher and I can honestly say that I have learned so much more by being in the same classroom and watching Mr. K," Tramontana said.
Nate Hanes, senior, said he was surprised, but not shocked to hear Knappenberger's selection as a finalist adding he is worthy and well deserving. Senior Damian Lyon said everyone was excited to find out the news of his selection as a finalist, which Knappenberger shared to students while in class.
"When we heard he was a finalist, we're weren't all that surprised. He's that kind of teacher," Hanes said.
Musical performances throughout the ceremony were by The Ape Men, seventh- and eighth-grade boys chorus, the high school band, McClurg Street Band and Choir of Wolverines.