Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

The Grammys Go to High School

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

The Grammys Go to High School

Article excerpt

Jeffrey Haas, the band director at Ridgewood High School, has a long roster of students who have gone on to high-profile music careers. But the one who makes him most proud is also his competition.

Gary Bernice, Ridgewood High class of 2001, went on to become a high school band director in Springfield, Mass., and was recently nominated as a quarterfinalist for the Grammy Music Educator award.

And so was Haas.

"Nothing could make me more proud than to know that the values instilled in me by my great teachers have been now passed to the next generation," said Haas, who has taught music at Ridgewood High for 25 years. Ridgewood's music program today has more than 200 students participating in three bands.

Another North Jersey music teacher who was nominated is West Milford High School's director of bands, Dr. Brian McLaughlin, fondly known as Dr. Mac. In all, 217 teachers were named nationwide, 17 from New Jersey.

Announced during the 55th Grammy Awards last February, the prize seeks to recognize the contributions of music educators nationwide who have had a lasting impact on their students -- from those who go on to become professional artists to those who become lifelong music appreciators.

After submitting video applications this week, the quarterfinalists will learn in August whether they've been chosen as semifinalists. The winner will be announced during a special ceremony leading up to the Grammy Awards in February 2014 and receive up to $20,000 in grants and cash prizes.

At a time when financial support for arts and music education is waning, Haas and McLaughlin both recognize they're in positions of privilege, teaching in communities where the arts are still highly regarded.

"Folks value what we do," said McLaughlin, a Texas native who received his doctorate in French horn performance and pedagogy from the University of Iowa. "The support we get from them is tremendous. Nobody is at the concession stand during football games at halftime because they're watching the band."

At Ridgewood High, Haas says he has worked to make the music program a sanctuary for his students. "I'm trying to make it a haven from the high stress levels they experience in the rest of the building," he said. …

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