Music Education Takes Center Stage at GRAMMYs

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The big winner at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards, “Music’s Biggest Night,” was not necessarily Justin Timberlake making his triumphant return to the music scene or the spectacular opening performance of Taylor Swift. The moment really belonged to music education.

With 28.4 million people watching the live broadcast themed “The World Is Listening,” Sunday’s GRAMMY Awards used its star-studded spotlight to make a significant cause-related announcement. Did you catch it?

A GRAMMY for Music Educators Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy and GRAMMY Foundation, TV and radio host/producer Ryan Seacrest and multi-GRAMMY-winning artist Justin Timberlake announced that the GRAMMY Foundation and The Recording Academy have partnered to present their first-ever Music Educator Award.  The newly created GRAMMY Award will be presented in 2014 and recognize music educators for their contributions to our musical landscape and their positive influence on their students' musical experiences.

What makes this significant?  More than one award to one educator, this award is meant to rally an entire industry; an enormous, eclectic, diverse and highly influential industry.

The Future of Music Is At Risk In recent years, the music industry has gone through a very visible transformation. Fans experience and consume music in markedly different ways than ever before. Content moves from physical products to the readily available digital realm as part of our connected life. Yet while technology has helped drive consumption to an all time high, the future of music, ironically, is at risk.

Recognizing this risk, the GRAMMY Foundation works in partnership with The Recording Academy to focus national attention on the importance, value and impact of arts and music education.  As funding for public school music programs is slashed, music teachers are losing their jobs, instruments and related materials not purchased.  The problem extends to almost every school district in the United States.  The challenge is enormous and the stakes are high. Children deserve the type of quality education that includes the many documented benefits of keeping music a vital part of the school curriculum.

To those in the industry, music is power and music educators often hold the keys to unlock this power. Thus the industry is rallying to take charge.


A Connected Global CommunityThroughout GRAMMY Weekend, leadership of the Academy shared the news of this new award and pointed to music’s rich history of sharing music from village to village, town to town, artist to artist, fan to fan.  Today, the global community can come together fueled in part by the very technology that is leading this transformation in the industry.

The televised moment included the announcement that Ryan Seacrest is the new GRAMMY Foundation Honorary Board Chair, further stating his commitment to the cause.  “For every GRAMMY winner on this stage tonight, there are thousands of great music educators, working behind the scenes to provide the inspiration, the passion, and the skills our young musicians need.”

Timberlake and Seacrest are leading a growing roster of stars advocating for music education.  “I will forever be thankful to those who taught me so much along the way.  Teachers really are the unsung heroes of our creative community,” said Timberlake.

Corporate Partners to Join Effort In addition to celebrity talent, the key to this effort’s success will be to activate the entire community. This includes artists, record labels, managers, agents, publishers, radio programmers, and concert promoters all leaning in to join forces, lending their voice, time and talent to the cause. Currently plans are underway to engage a group of Corporate “Founding Partners” in cause marketing efforts to raise awareness about the program and highlight the issue of music educators' struggles today.

This simple award idea has the potential to profoundly impact the entire industry and the GRAMMY Award will immediately become the most prestigious recognition a music educator can receive.  Indeed The World is Listening.  The Recording Academy and GRAMMY Foundation are seizing the moment to bring the collective music community together to authentically rally for the cause of music and music education for the benefit of young people across the country.

Anyone can nominate a current teacher.  Submissions are being accepted now through April 15 at

Photo credit:  Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images