Encore Tours recently had the pleasure of meeting with Jared Cassedy, the 2015 recipient of the GRAMMY Music Educator Award and Director of Bands at Windham High School, New Hampshire. During our dinner date, we discussed our mutual passion for music education, the challenges music educators face and how we can continue to inspire and motivate aspiring musicians. We thought we’d share a bit of what Jared had to say – and just in time for Music In Our Schools Month! Encore: Hi, Jared! Thanks for meeting with us today. We are excited to learn more about your recent award and about your experience as a music educator. Let’s get started! How did it feel to not only be nominated as GRAMMY Music Educator but to also win the award? Jared: It was a pretty incredible and surreal experience all around. I was just so honored to have one of my students and his mother take the time to nominate me. To me, this means so much more to me than just the actual award, but moreover a representation of what my colleagues and I are so passionate about each and every day – our students and music education. Encore: Why do you think you ultimately won the award? What qualities as a music teacher set you apart from the rest? Jared: Honestly, so many of my colleagues in New Hampshire and across the nation could absolutely have been selected as the recipient of this award. It’s truly a representation of our field, craft, and passion for music education. With that being said, it has always been stated that I have lots of energy in my classroom. I focus first and foremost on the relationships and connections I make with my students and the community that I collaborate with. Our program is not run as a dictatorship, but is firmly rooted in working together and supporting common core values and a common vision. Encore: What do you think is the most important quality for music educators to have in order to be successful? Jared: There are so many outstanding music educators out there that have very different personalities and approaches to their roles in the classroom. However, I think it comes down to the availability to remain open-minded and cognizant of their students. I believe that great teaching is founded on connections, relationships, and safety. Having this at the forefront of your mind each day you teach will encourage trust, motivation, and ownership between both your students and you. Encore: Do you have any inspirational, moving or funny stories from your years of teaching that you’d like to share? Jared: There are so many stories that I have gained from my experience all inspirational, moving, and humorous. One moment that clarified my love for what it is I do happened after we had performed at Carnegie Hall last year (2014). We had just finished performing and though it was an extraordinary experience on that stage and the students performed so well, it was the moment we got back to the hotel. As I walked into the lobby area, my students were already all lined up and the room literally erupted into such an amazing applause. It was in that moment that all the walls were totally down and we shared an extremely connected moment. It was about family, respect, and celebrating the amazing journey we have had together. It completely transcended the music itself! Encore: That’s incredible! We’re lucky to be able to see those types of interactions on a regular basis with our touring groups and it’s certainly one of our favorite parts about the job! Since it is Music In Our Schools Month, let’s talk a little bit about that. Why do you think music is important in our schools? Jared: There are so many reasons why music is important in our schools. In this day in age with the pressure for high standardized test scores, making annual year progress, and students feeling like they need to invest in something that will be able to provide to them a suitable lifestyle and living, the arts tend to get pushed aside. Ironically in this 21st century job market, members of society need to be creative, they need to be able to collaborate and work together in a variety of ways. Music, as in the arts in general, enable students to develop these skills that are going to be necessary to be successful in whatever it is they do – and to also find passion in what it is they do. Regardless if you’re a musician, an artist or a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, you need to have these skills. As music educators, we teach beyond the notes and rhythms on the page and instead provide the students a forum to take risks, expand their potential, and set goals in a way that no other content area truly can. Encore: We couldn’t agree more! But, for those who think music isn’t an important part of the core curriculum, what would you say to them? Jared: This goes along with the importance of music in the schools. It’s a matter of developing and scaffolding the entire child. The experiences students have in our music classes transcend our performances, festivals, and accolades. It does something so much more important, which is provide our students that opportunity to become positive contributors to a community. Without music in schools, we would be depriving our young minds of the necessary skills needed in order to move our culture and society forward. Encore: So, how can we all help support music and music teachers in our communities? Jared: We are always looking for advocates for our field of music education! It’s a matter of being involved! Come to our concerts and events. Encourage your school boards and school administrators to take part in music related events. Speak up on behalf of music educators and programs when it comes to budget and district initiatives. Keep the dialogue open. It’s a matter of taking that first step and standing strong for what it is we do. Otherwise, no one else will step forward and support us! Encore: I’m sure musicians and music educators out there would love to hear your advice. If you could give one piece of advice to students studying music, what would it be? Jared: Be determined and ask for help! The career of education is and should always be rooted in collaboration. You will run into many challenges in your first years as a music teacher – do not be afraid to talk with your colleagues and peers for guidance and support! We have all been there! Encore: What would you say to young musicians who are considering becoming a music teacher in the future? Jared: Always remain passionate! Passion will drive you; it will enable you to overcome the many challenges you will face as you begin your journey. I remember when I was in my undergrad as a music ed major and feeling like I had such pressure on me to perform the best and to be the best musician. Ironically, I almost felt as if my pure love and appreciation for music was diminishing because I constantly felt judged and compared. It wasn’t until I uncoupled that anxiety from my love of music that I realized that music isn’t about being the best, but it’s about what power it has beyond the performance. Again, it’s about passion! It’s about sharing and celebrating self and collaborative expression. This is what makes music programs so important in schools! Encore: And finally, if you could give one piece of advice for music educators out there, what would it be? Jared: Always remain true to yourself and stay student-centered. The decisions you make and the reactions you have come down to what is truly going to be the best for your students. They deserve the absolute best educational experiences possible – this includes their experiences in the arts. And it’s not matter of performing at Carnegie Hall or placing first in a competition. Instead it’s about the victories you have in your classroom with your student that is finally able to play over the break on the clarinet or improvise their first blues solo. We’re opening doors each and every day and though we have a tremendous amount of administrative responsibilities aside from rehearsing with our students, we must continue to focus on our students at all times! Encore: Jared, you have been such an inspiration and we really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. Good luck with the rest of your concert season and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for you and your students!