The Country Music industry came together Wednesday evening to honor 31 music educators as the 2017 CMA Music Teachers of Excellence. Five-time CMA Vocal Group of the Year Little Big Town hosted the event at Nissan Stadium, and more than a dozen other artists attended the ceremony, as well as CMA and CMA Foundation Board members, community leaders, and CMA Foundation beneficiary programs.
CMA Music Teachers of Excellence, now in its second year, honors music educators and their indelible impact on students and school communities through the power of music. The program was created in partnership with Metro Schools’ “Music Makes Us” initiative, which was formed as a result of a 2015 study that highlighted the challenges of local music teachers.
Twenty-five Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) teachers were recognized. Additionally, six recipients from other cities were acknowledged by Give a Note Foundation’s “Music In Our Schools Tour” presented by Radio Disney. Each honoree receives a stipend from the CMA Foundation in recognition of their commitment.
“These educators are building and inspiring a generation, equipping students with tools they will continue to use throughout their lives,” said Joe Galante, CMA Foundation Chairman.
“Music City is Music City because of the Country Music Association,” said Dr. Shawn Joseph, MNPS Director of Schools. “[The CMA Foundation] has set the bar high and established new standards for public/private partnerships between Metro Schools and business partners in Nashville and Davidson County.”
In addition to Little Big Town members Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet, and Jimi Westbrook, Country artists and songwriters Kix Brooks, Chase Bryant, Kristian Bush, Lindsay Ell, Seth Ennis, David Fanning, Chelsea Gill, Hunter Hayes, Olivia Lane, Dustin Lynch, Scotty McCreery, William Michael Morgan, Jerrod Niemann, and Corey Smith were in attendance.
CMA Foundation funds are generated by CMA Music Festival ticket proceeds and presented on behalf of the artists who donate their time. Nissan Stadium is home to the Festival’s Nightly Concerts.
“We are living proof that dreams do come true. Our teachers always reminded us that anything is possible with hard work, dedication, and patience,” said Little Big Town’s Schlapman.
“Learning music gives students the ability to achieve success, build self-esteem and self-confidence, while teaching them the importance of working as a team,” added Little Big Town’s Sweet.
In a surprise, emotional pre-event gathering, Little Big Town was reunited with their childhood music teachers Sarah Glover and Jim Walker of Alabama (Westbrook), Billy Jack Green of Georgia (Fairchild), and Julia Lansford of Arkansas (Sweet). Earlene Rentz of Kentucky and Robert Ivey of Georgia, who taught Schlapman, shared heartfelt video and written messages in their absence. Fairchild serves on the CMA Foundation Board of Directors.
The City of Nashville showed its support by lighting up downtown landmarks Ascend Amphitheater, Bridgestone Arena, Korean Veterans Boulevard Bridge, Omni Hotel, and Westin Hotel in CMA blue lights, in honor of the event.
“Nashville is a city that is committed to our music teachers and values the impact that they have on our Metro Nashville Public Schools students,” said Nashville Mayor Megan Barry in a video message. “CMA has worked alongside our school district in an effort to provide the best music program for our community, our state, and the country.”
Throughout the evening, videos of well-wishes were shared from entertainers Cam, Brad Paisley, Cassadee Pope, Darius Rucker, Zac Brown Band, and ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” announcer Dicky Barrett and musical director Cleto Escobedo III.
Other video clips featured “CMA Fest 2017” co-host Kelsea Ballerini re-connecting with choir teacher Beckye Thomas at her Knoxville, Tenn. high school; Jazmon Tate, a former John Overton High School band student, reflecting on the healing power of music; and Vanderbilt executive Dr. Charles Wright Pinson, Dr. Frank Fish, MD, and Dr. Suzanne Brown Sacks, MD discussing music education’s lasting impact on their careers.
Performance painter and philanthropist David Garibaldi brought the room to its feet as he created an original Albert Einstein portrait in minutes, working to a rousing soundtrack.
CMA created the non-profit 501(c)(3) CMA Foundation in 2011. Guided by the generosity of the Country Music community, the CMA Foundation focuses on improving and sustaining music education programs everywhere while supporting worthwhile causes important to the Country Music Association. In 2017, the CMA Foundation earmarked a record-setting $3.1 million to support 44 in- and after-school programs. To date, CMA and the CMA Foundation have donated over $17.5 million to support this worthy endeavor.
For more information on the CMA Foundation, visit CMAfoundation.org