Tom: Well, the biggest night in music is this weekend. Of course, I am talking about the Grammy’s. And Demetrius is here with more about a new face on the red carpet.
Demetrius: That is right, Tom. Of course, we will have everybody’s favorite celebrities – Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, even Justin Timberlake. But there will also be a high school music teacher holding a Grammy this year. He is the first-ever Grammy Music Educator Award winner announced this week.
If you spend just a day watching Kent Knappenberger teach music, it is easy to see why the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation think he is so exceptional.
Mr. K: For this art form, you know, there’s this synergy of living that takes place.
Demetrius: He has been teaching for 25 years at Westfield Academy, in Westfield, New York.
Mr. K: Sit up tall. Excellent! You look so healthy.
Demetrius: He teaches sixth through twelfth grade. The students call him Mr. K.
Mr. K: I think it’s my job to try to approach children in a way that I can try to find something musical in them. And sometimes in the kid you think shouldn’t have some musical gifting, if you start looking, wow, it’s there! And amazing things happen.
Demetrius: Mr. K’s current and former students agree he is no ordinary teacher.
Nick: When I met Mr. K, I just got used to singing. Like, it became a part of me.
Mackenzie: Mr. K is always making you love music. Even if you did previously, it just grows.
Emily: You get to know him and he goes from this crazy abstract guy to someone who just nourishes everything you care about in yourself. I realized that I actually did have this gift, kind of, that I could use to help people and that’s made all the difference in my life.
Mr. K: If I were you, I’d play it like this.
Demetrius: Luis Quinones moved here from Puerto Rico this summer. It was his lifelong dream to play the violin, but he never had the opportunity until he met Mr. K.
Luis Quinones: When I just came here the first time, I was just dreaming about how I was going to play the violin.
Mr. K: So he asked me if he could play the violin, and we don’t really own a violin here at school but I had one I bought at auction for 75 bucks. So I thought, ‘well, I could bring that in’.
This is the last note. People are going to remember this.
Luis: 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.
Demetrius: But music plays a roll outside the classroom as well. Mr. K’s dedication to children is reflected in his own family. He and his wife Nannette have nine kids, eight of them adopted from Brazil.
Mr. K: We have three girls that are still home, and they’re very involved in all this crazy music stuff.
Demetrius: And this weekend, they will be there in Los Angeles to watch proudly as Mr. K accepts the first-ever Grammy Music Educator Award.
Mr. K: When I found out, I cried. The people I teach and what I do is very important to me. And I know there is a country filled with very talented educators. And as much as I’ve learned about the other finalists, I just am so glad to be, you know, part of something that they do.
Demetrius: Very inspiring! Now, Mr. K had to beat out over 30,000 other nominees across the fifty states to win this award. And not only is he going to get a cool little trophy, he is also going to be walking away with $10,000.
Tom: Wow! Very cool. Thanks, D.