WESTFIELD - The recognition kept on coming Tuesday for Westfield Academy and Central School music teacher Kent Knappenberger, the first-ever GRAMMY Music Educator Award recipient.
Representatives from the GRAMMY Foundation and Recording Academy visited the area to present a $10,000 check each to Knappenberger and the school during a schoolwide assembly. The Ford Motor Co. Fund, a partner of the foundation, helped supply the money.
Knappenberger called the money "almost a little miraculous" and said he was very grateful for it.
OBSERVER Photos by Greg Fox
Top: As part of music teacher Kent Knappenberger’s Music Educator Award, the GRAMMY Foundation and Recording Academy presents a check for $10,000 to Westfield Academy and Central School at a schoolwide assembly Tuesday. Left to right are: Secondary School Principal Ivana Hite, Superinten-dent David Davison, Director of Community Development for the Ford Motor Co. Fund Pamela Alexander, Senior Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation Kristen Madsen and Knappenberger.
Above: Students in Jaime War-dell’s fourth-grade class pretend they each are Knappenberger by holding up pictures of his face in front of their own faces.
"I love being a part of our community. Our school's amazing; I've worked with incredible colleagues and the kids I teach are wrapped around my heart," he said. "I love being able to see and hear kids study music, and in the process, grow as people to find themselves and learn to see themselves in new and exciting ways. This monetary gift will help facilitate the ultimate educational goal: To open doors for kids."
The music teacher said his portion of the money will help reimburse costs for his family traveling with him to receive his award, as well as a mandolin, saxophone and investments into his dairy farm.
It will also help install a kitchen in his house, which he currently does not have since it was torn out.
"The money for Westfield is going to three different things: Maintaining instruments, there's some instruments and sheet music we're looking to purchase, and experiences for kids," he added. "We took some students to New York City to see 'Newsies' and this is going to help pay for that opportunity."
During the assembly, a video highlighted the day Knappenberger received his award at the GRAMMY Special Merit Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles and the nationally televised awards ceremony in January, as well as the GRAMMYs on the Hill music advocacy event in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. At that event, various high-profile personalities honored Knappen-berger, including rock group Los Lonely Boys, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and country group Lady Antebellum.
"I think we all feel it's incredible individuals like Kent that all of us are here," Lady Antebellum singer Hillary Scott said at that event. "Educators like him are the ones that help cultivate and nurture our passion for music."
Out of 32,000 nominations, Knappenberger, who has taught at Westfield for 25 years, stood out from the pack, according to Senior Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation Kristen Madsen.
"He's the kind of teacher we all would like to have teach all our students," she said. "I think what made Kent stand out had everything to do with how he is a high-quality, first-rate music teacher, but on top of that, the passion he has for what he does and the inspiration he showed us through the testimonials that he instills in each one of these kids, all day, every day. It's a part of who he is, and that took him over the top."
Madsen added Knappen-berger would always have a special place in the foundation, because while there will be more award recipients in the future, he would always be the first.
"Mr. K has a way with his words, wisdom, talent and his ways of helping students find their voices to reach heights in musicality never imagined," Secondary School Principal Ivana Hite said. "We all know his reach goes far beyond the walls of this school."
The Music Educator Award recognizes current educators, kindergarten through college at both public and private schools, who 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 nation's schools.
"The music class is the main reason some kids actually walk in the front door of their school in the first place," Madsen said on the importance of funding music programs. "If they know they have to take math and English to stay in those classes, that's a good incentive for them to be there."
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