Meet The 2022 Music Educator Award Recipient: Stephen Cox On His Philosophies & Strategies For Teaching
Stephen Cox, the newly announced 2022 Music Educator Award recipient, shares his tried-and-true philosophies and strategies for reaching and nurturing his students
The Music Educator Award, presented by the Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Museum, recognizes current educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the music education field and demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools. The recipient will be recognized during GRAMMY Week 2022. Below, 2022 Music Educator Award recipient Stephen Cox, who is the band director at Eastland High School in Eastland, Texas, shares his tried-and-true philosophies and strategies for reaching and nurturing his students.
This interview is taken from the 2022 GRAMMYs program book, your ultimate guide to navigating Music’s Biggest Night and its 86 categories and hundreds of nominees.
Teaching today, in 2022, is relationship teaching. You have to get to know the students, you have to get to know what they’re interested in, and you have to relate to them.
I think people had this sense for a long time that being there — being the teacher, the authority person — meant that everyone would listen to what you said. That may have been true 50 or 70 years ago, but now, more than ever, connection and relevance are far more important than authority.
You can’t stop a student that wants to learn and you can’t teach one that doesn’t.
It’s important to take an interest in what students care about. A lot of times, kids bring me music they like. And it may not be music I like, but if there’s any way we can incorporate it in the class, we do it.
You have high expectations, and you have to have high expectations. Whatever the expectations are for your students, it sets a standard in their mind for what is possible.
By setting high expectations for performance, attendance and all these different things, the students will do it because that’s the expectation. But while you have those expectations, you also need to have fun with them.
An example: We programmed a concert once at a historic theater here in town. This is when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was coming out. It coincided with a holiday concert. We did a mix of holiday music and Star Wars music at the theater and performed at the local premiere of the movie.
The kids had a great time going to the movie together, but we also got to nerd out about the music of Star Wars leading up to that. Try to find ways to tie in relevance to things they’re interested in and program it.
It’s really important that we get students outside of the campus. Most school concerts are held at school auditoriums, gymnasiums or cafetoriums, but we try to get the students out around town, performing at nearby venues. Performing at the park, nursing homes or anywhere where the students and community can interact in a way they might not have expected to opens doors for the students.
In any community — especially when it’s small like ours — there’s going to be people that would really love and be excited about the music programs as soon as it’s brought to them. But they’re never going to show up for a concert on campus because it never crosses their radar.
We try to tie specific performances to the history of the town. Sometimes, we’ll find people who have been in the band program before or were connected to it and learn about them.
Then, when we program our regular concerts, we’ll dedicate a piece to them: former students, directors, local musicians, or businesses. That’s been a lot of fun. It creates an extra layer of relevance to everything we’re doing.
Teaching in a small town can feel really limiting. You don't have the same access to resources and culture. By engaging the community, you open up the door to the resources you do have: human resources. Small town people are incredible and an engaged community can amplify the educational opportunities for students.
One benefit of band is that it requires a lot of help. Especially in marching band — there’s loading up trucks and all these things you have to do. There’s a lot of people, and therefore, a lot of work.
We try to get the students to take over — if not the whole process — every single part of it that they can. I think that really, really matters: letting the students have some of the control. This can feel terrifying for the educator, but it can be life-altering for the students.
Students need to know you care, they need to know what’s possible, and they need the resources to accomplish it. It’s our job to provide this to them. This next generation has to be better than us, that’s the only way that humanity progresses.
See a complete list of the finalists for the 2022 Music Educator Award.
Nominations and applications for the 2023 Music Educator Award are now open.
As told to Morgan Enos
Photo: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage.com
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Take Over The GRAMMY Museum
Hip-hop duo discuss their career beginnings and creating their GRAMMY-nominated album The Heist
Current seven-time GRAMMY nominees Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, along with their manager Zach Quillen, recently participated in an installment of the GRAMMY Museum's A Conversation With series. Before an intimate audience at the Museum's Clive Davis Theater, the hip-hop duo and Quillen discussed the beginning of the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' career, having creative control over their work and recording their GRAMMY-nominated Album Of The Year, The Heist.
"I met somebody [who] had the same dedication as me, [who] put everything into the music, everything into the craft," said Ben Haggerty (aka Macklemore) regarding meeting Lewis. "I wanted a career and Ryan was somebody [who] had the same discipline and sacrificed everything."
"I think it took a little while before it became clear to me who [Macklemore] was going to be," said Lewis. "I think the first indication of that was with the song 'Otherside' from the VS. Redux EP]. … That song … embodied so much. It was a story nobody was telling. … It was just somebody who was dying to be on the mike and to say something."
Seattle-based rapper Macklemore and DJ/producer Lewis have been making music fans take notice since they released their debut EP, 2009's The VS. EP. They followed with VS. Redux, which reached No. 7 on the iTunes Hip-Hop chart. The duo made waves in 2011 with the release of their hit single "Can't Hold Us" featuring Ray Dalton. The next year Macklemore was featured on the cover of XXL Magazine's coveted freshman class issue, and Rolling Stone dubbed the duo an "indie rags-to-riches" success story.
Released in 2012, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' debut studio album, The Heist, reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200, propelled by the No. 1 hits "Can't Hold Us" and "Thrift Shop," the latter of which reached multi-platinum status and remained on top of the charts for six weeks. The album garnered a nomination for Album Of The Year and Best Rap Album at the 56th GRAMMY Awards, while "Thrift Shop" earned a nod for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. The duo's Top 20 hit "Same Love" featuring Mary Lambert earned a nomination for Song Of The Year and has been adopted by some as a pro-equality anthem. The duo garnered additional nominations for Best New Artist and Best Music Video for "Can't Hold Us."
Upcoming GRAMMY Museum events include Icons Of The Music Industry: Ken Ehrlich (Jan. 14) and A Conversation With Peter Guralnick (Jan. 15).
Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures Exhibit Will Showcase The Surf-Rock Icons' Impact On Pop Culture
The exhibit, opening Dec. 7, will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run" and more
Influential instrumental rock band The Ventures are getting their own exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles that will showcase the band's impact on pop culture since the release of their massive hit "Walk, Don't Run" 60 years ago.
The Rock Hall of Fame inductees and Billboard chart-toppers have become especially iconic in the surf-rock world, known for its reverb-loaded guitar sound, for songs like "Wipeout," "Hawaii Five-O" and "Walk, Don't Run." The Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures exhibit opening Dec. 7 will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run," a Fender Limited Edition Ventures Signature guitars, rare photos and other items from their career spanning six decades and 250 albums.
“It’s such an honor to have an exhibit dedicated to The Ventures at the GRAMMY Museum and be recognized for our impact on music history,” said Don Wilson, a founding member of the band, in a statement. "I like to think that, because we ‘Venturized’ the music we recorded and played, we made it instantly recognizable as being The Ventures. We continue to do that, even today."
Don Wilson, Gerry McGee, Bob Spalding, and Leon Taylor are current band members. On Jan. 9, Taylor's widow and former Fiona Taylor, Ventures associated musician Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and others will be in conversation with GRAMMY Museum Artistic Director Scott Goldman about the band's journey into becoming the most successful instrumental rock band in history at the Clive Davis Theater.
"The Ventures have inspired generations of musicians during their storied six-decade career, motivating many artists to follow in their footsteps and start their own projects," said Michael Sticka, GRAMMY Museum President. "As a music museum, we aim to shine a light on music education, and we applaud the Ventures for earning their honorary title of 'the band that launched a thousand bands.' Many thanks to the Ventures and their families for letting us feature items from this important era in music history."
The exhibit will run Dec. 7–Aug. 3, 2020 at the GRAMMY Museum.
Scott Goldman and Julia Michaels
Photo: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage.com
Julia Michaels Deconstructs "Issues," Writing Songs | "Required Listening" Podcast
Go inside the bright mind of one of pop's most promising singer/songwriters and learn about her songwriting process, her transition to the spotlight and the three female artists she admires
Julia Michaels' career has soared within the past year. Already a talented songwriter with writing credits such as Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Ed Sheeran, and Fifth Harmony to her name, Michaels took a leap of faith with the release of her third solo EP, 2017's Nervous System.
Though Michaels has admitted to being nervous about moving to the forefront as an artist in her own right, the gamble paid off. The single "Issues" went gangbusters all the way to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and her EP cracked the Top 50. Plus, the Davenport, Iowa, native scored two nominations for the 60th GRAMMY Awards: Song Of The Year for "Issues" and Best New Artist.
What makes Michaels tick musically, how did she overcome her trepidation and why does she rely on feelings to guide her songwriting?
"It depends on the person. A lot of the times I'll just talk to them [first]," said Michaels regarding collaborating with other artists. "I mean we're all human. We all cry the same. We all bleed the same. So I try to make people feel as comfortable as possible to be able to tell me things, even if the artist that I'm with doesn't write, just having them talk is lyrics in itself. You know, them explaining their day or expressing how they feel. It's like, "That's amazing ... if that's how you're feeling we should write that.'"
As a matter of fact, Michaels told the host of "Required Listening," GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Scott Goldman, that she lets her feelings pilot her songwriting instead of traditional conventions — a process that has yielded gems such as "Issues."
"I'm not that calculated when I write," said Michaels. "I'm all heart when I write so I don't think about the algorithm of a song or the mathematics of a song. I just think, 'This feels good to me,' and just kind of go with that."
When peppered by Goldman with a question about coming into the limelight as a recording artist, Michaels was quick to point out that she has benefitted from plenty of help and encouragement.
"I think a lot of people have helped me get there," said Michaels. "My manager, Beka Tischker, she's been with me for six years. She's always believed in me. … And this year a lot of people have come into my life. I mean even my band — Dan Kanter, who's my guitar player … he's been with me since the beginning of the artist transition. I can't even do it without him at this point. ... There's a lot of people in my life, especially this year, that have made me feel comfortable and confident."
Speaking of confidence, Michaels has taken cues from plenty of her self-assured peers. She cited three artists, in particular, who have inspired her career path.
"I'm not that calculated when I write. I'm all heart." — Julia Michaels
"[Pink is] a bad***," said Michaels. "I love Fiona Apple. I love a lot of artists that are not afraid to say what they want to say. I love artists that write their own music. Laura Marling — she's very much from her point of view, very much whatever she wants to do. And plus her voice is so haunting and beautiful."
"Required Listening" launched on GRAMMY Sunday, Jan. 28, with the first episode featuring an in-depth conversation with GRAMMY winners Imagine Dragons and the second detailing "The Defiant Ones" with Allen Hughes and Jimmy Iovine.
GRAMMY Museum To Launch Cheap Trick: I Want You To Want Me! Sept. 12
Exhibit to feature artifacts from the private collection of the iconic power-pop band
On Sept. 12 the GRAMMY Museum will launch Cheap Trick: I Want You To Want Me! — a one-of-a-kind exhibit offering visitors an in-depth look at the more than 35-year career of power-pop progenitors Cheap Trick.
Located in the Museum's Mike Curb Gallery on the fourth floor, artifacts on display will include guitars played by Rick Nielsen, including his 1952 Fender Telecaster used during a performance at Budokan in Tokyo; costumes worn on the album cover of 1979's Dream Police; and original lyrics, photographs, and tour ephemera, among other items.
In conjunction with the launch of the exhibit, on Sept. 12 Cheap Trick will visit the GRAMMY Museum's Clive Davis Theater to participate in a question-and-answer session and perform a brief set as part of the Museum's An Evening With series.
Cheap Trick: I Want You To Want Me! will be on display through June 2014.