Musical Student Wins Grammy Award
By Hattie Bernstein
During Grammy Week, held in early February in Los Angeles, COCE graduate student Jared Cassedy got a hug from Paul McCartney, waited in a TV station holding room with Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, and brushed elbows with Lady Gaga, Nick Jonas, Meghan Trainor, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Billy Ray Cyrus and other music industry stars.
The 32-year-old Cassedy, who directs the Windham, New Hampshire, high school concert band and serves as the school district’s fine arts administrator, was attending the 57th annual Grammy Awards as an honoree — the 2015 Music Educator of the Year.
The award, given for the second year by The Recording Academy and The Grammy Foundation, included a trip to Los Angeles for Cassedy and a group of family members, colleagues and friends; a $10,000 honorarium; a matching award for his school district’s music program; and a new Ford.
The band director was nominated for the Grammy by a former student and his mother. He was one of 10 finalists from a national field of more than 7,000 music teachers.
“I was completely and utterly floored,” said Cassedy, who is enrolled in SNHU’s Master of Education program.
Cassedy is pursuing his master’s degree with the goal of one day teaching at the college level, where he wants to mentor future music educators. He says he’s already applying what he learned in his first two courses, Ethics and School Law and School and Community Relations with faculty member George Edwards.
“The best part is, it’s so practical. It directly relates to what I do,” Cassedy said.
Cassedy is the son and grandson of teachers. Two of his three siblings have also pursued careers in education.
“It was ingrained in us but, ironically, when I told my parents I wanted to be a music teacher, they were dead set against it,” he said. “They were worried about job security and budget cuts. But I went for it anyway.”
Early on, Cassedy recognized that music education offered something even more important than playing and performing.
“I saw music as a vehicle for empowering students, educating the entire child,” he said. “I saw (by watching Marty Claussen, his high school band director) that the full, undivided attention of a teacher will help you get through.”
Parents and students say Cassedy’s enthusiasm is infectious: His first year, 40 students signed up for band; last year, 87 of the high school’s 800 students were involved, including one who had never played an instrument. Cassedy, who doesn’t believe in auditions, insists that every student who wants to play in the band should have the opportunity.
“Music education helps to develop the entire student — socially, emotionally, intellectually,” he said. “It’s a way of getting them to know who they are; it enables them to take risks, be tolerant of multiple perspectives and be creative.”
Cassedy believes the arts, which he says often get pushed aside for science, mathematics and technology, are essential for success in the 21st century. They prepare students to solve problems, make discoveries and persevere through difficulties, he pointed out. They also produce responsible citizens.
The band also has been recognized. In 2012 the Windham High School concert band took first place at the Heritage Festival of Music in New York City. In 2013 it was recognized at the Heritage Festival in Chicago. In April 2014 the band performed at Carnegie Hall. But the 2015 Music Educator of the Year says what matters more is the synergy between student and teacher, the ensemble learning, and the feeling of community that fills the band room every day.
“It (music) really needs to be part of the curriculum or we deny students the opportunity to learn about themselves,” he said. A music education is “not just for fingers and mouths, but also for the psyche. I want them to find passion in what is interesting to them, to be excited about life.”