5 Music Teachers Share The Transformative Power Of Music Education

PHOTO: picture alliance / Contributor


5 Music Teachers Share The Transformative Power Of Music Education

Music education draws passionate instructors — who are often multi-disciplinary musicians themselves — into a rewarding field. Five music teachers detail the importance of and challenges around music education, as well as opportunities for innovation.

GRAMMYs/Apr 11, 2022 - 08:41 pm

For centuries, music education has been noted for positively increasing students’ greater holistic learning and lifestyle outcomes, yet music education across the United States in public and private settings has faced a stark decline in the past several decades.

Bearing witness to this, a new wave of music entrepreneurs, performers, content creators and instructors are taking the music education space by storm. These instructors are leveraging various forms of technology and their personal social platforms to tell inspiring stories about their journeys and share their best practices within the field. Their work has inspired a new wave of learning in-person, virtually and through hybrid methods.

Below, five artists-turned-educators discuss their inspiration for becoming teachers, the importance of music education, challenges they have witnessed within the field, and innovative ways that music education can evolve in the future.

Darlene Machacon: Elementary general music teacher, choir director, podcaster

Practicing: 20+ years

Teaching: 10+ years

Instruments: Piano, general music, choir

Location: Garden Grove, CA

Darlene Machacon was inspired to teach music by the train scene in the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: "The film composer scored a beautiful musical moment that instantly inspired me to want to make music for the rest of my life," she told Today, she teaches elementary general music for kindergarten through sixth grade, and directs fifth and six grade choir. 

Machacon believes "music is essential because it is all around us," and aims to dismantle the idea that music education is limited to learning how to read traditional notation. "Our youth deserve music education that connects them to what they experience outside classroom walls and challenges them to make a positive impact in their communities," Machacon says.

While this journey has been enjoyable, Machacon notes that music educators are often expected to work beyond contract hours and experience a lack of work-life balance. They often take on larger class sizes, earn lower pay and encounter the perception that music is not a "real" subject. Despite these challenges, Machacon sees a shift in elementary general music classes away from "singing from old school textbooks and reading notes" to creating immediate and relevant connections to keep students interested outside of school performance ensembles.

These connections could include opportunities to play in rock and pop bands, Machacon suggested. While classes for music production and design could pave the way for sound designers, music producers, video music creators and their peers.

Ian Levy: Assistant professor, hip-hop scholar

Practicing: 20+ years

Teaching: 10 years

Instruments: Trumpet, emcee

Location: New York, NY

Ian Levy recalls being introduced to hip-hop and emceeing as a tool for self-expression and emotional development in college. He then turned to hip-hop-based interventions as a school counselor, using lyric writing, recording and performing as therapeutic tools. In youth-created recording studios, Levy’s students share emotional experiences and systemic injustices by writing and releasing songs, and creating album artwork and music videos.  

And while this work creates a culturally sustaining counseling service, helping youth develop stress coping skills and emotional self-awareness, Levy's methodology has often come into question. Some faculty perceive these courses as the students "just having fun."

"Education tries to define how youth should sound and develop, often in misalignment with who they truly are," Levy says in rebuttal. "A challenge for hip-hop in school counseling is supporting youth in trusting their ways of knowing and being able to live authentically in a world that limits self-actualization."  

In the long run, Levy believes music education must transcend beyond purely teaching music and be leveraged as a counseling and teaching tool in various subject matter classrooms.

Ashley Keiko, Music school owner, performing/recording artist

Practicing: 20+ years

Teaching: 15+ years

Instruments: Piano, saxophone, flute

Location: Queens, NY

Ashley Keiko ventured into music at the behest of her parents, educators who owned a martial arts studio. Keiko was heavily involved in the studio and, one day, her mother encouraged her to provide piano lessons to a student. Word spread quickly, and Keiko's student population increased. By age 25, Keiko owned and ran her own school, Keiko Studios in Jamaica, New York. 

Keiko's work has evolved dramatically over the years. "For many years I taught private piano/saxophone lessons to students of all ages and recalled being hands-on with my teaching style at countless schools, concert and jazz bands, general music ed, choir and more," she says. "Now, I oversee 14 instructors with over 130 students and focus on big picture projects." 

Yet Keiko is challenged by the lack of others understanding the value of music educators' time and music education as a whole. She hopes that having more conversations about music education will change its perceived value. She finds resolve through creative means, incorporating more accessible technology into the music education experience. With countless music websites, apps, and software, Keiko believes the learning process for students can be more enjoyable and productive.

Brandon Toews, Content Director at Drumeo

Practicing: 15+ years

Teaching: 5+ years

Instruments: Drums, percussion

Location: Abbotsford, British Columbia

Brandon Toews' private music instructors inspired him to branch into music education. When he began working for an online drum education company, Drumeo in 2014, Toews witnessed the exponential global impact music education could have at scale. For the past seven years, Toews has filmed educational content for Drumeo, working with many of the world’s top drummers including Dennis Chambers, Simon Phillips, Jay Weinberg, Hannah Welton and Steve Smith.

While he believes that "music education is key in creating more musicians around the world and helping them find their unique voices," Toews has been challenged to create content that serves and connects those with different learning styles.  

Each of Drumeo's approximately 30,000 students learns differently, he notes. To this end, the platform utilizes "step-by-step video courses to conceptual videos focused on creativity and musicality, or digital tools and technology for practicing exercises with notation." 

Toews finds that music education can be innovative by becoming more engaging, fun and increasing the practice tools and applications available for musicians. "Information is so widely available, but effective practice tools are still few and far between," he says.

Kate Warren, Freelance performer, educator

Practicing: 15 years

Teaching: 4 years

Instruments: French Horn, trumpet

Location: New Haven, CT

"Growing up, regular lessons were not something my family could afford," Kate Warren says. "Because of that, anything I learned outside of the classroom came from pedagogy books, blog posts, podcasts, and YouTube." Using those resources increased her interest in giving back to the field. 

To date, Warren has maintained a private studio, written a book on french horn pedagogy, run a music-education focused social media page and taught marching band. Her most recent project is a beginner french horn video series for students through a partnership with instrument manufacturers Conn & Selmer.

Warren has found that music education can provide students with "healthy outlets, lifelong friendships, and critical life skills." However, she’s witnessed that gender representation is still an issue in music — especially in brass playing.  

To provide an informed solution she is conducting research to help institutions diversify their hiring processes. Warren has also found social media to be influential in changing the way young people interact with and seek learning experiences by disseminating creators’ knowledge and experiences more freely.

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Kent Knappenberger To Receive Inaugural Music Educator Award
Kent Knappenberger


Kent Knappenberger To Receive Inaugural Music Educator Award

New York music teacher and choir director to be honored at the Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees Reception during GRAMMY Week

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Kent Knappenberger of Westfield Academy and Central School in Westfield, N.Y., has been announced as the recipient of the first annual Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation.

A total of nine music teachers from nine cities across seven states are finalists for the award. In total, more than 30,000 initial nominations were submitted from all 50 states. The nine finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists also will receive matching grants.

"I am extremely humbled and honored to be the recipient of the first-ever Music Educator Award," said Knappenberger. "I believe that this award has already been and will continue to be a tremendous encouragement to all music educators. Besides the attention it has brought to many fine teachers, it brings attention to the importance of music education in general."

View a complete list of Music Educator Award finalists

"The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation created this award to highlight the extraordinary influence of music teachers on their students in and beyond the classroom," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the GRAMMY Foundation and The Recording Academy. "Many musicians would not be expressing their gift for creativity had it not been for the dedication and encouragement of a music teacher who inspired them to pursue a professional career."

Knappenberger has been a music teacher and choir director at Westfield Academy and Central School for 25 years. He holds a bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at Fredonia and a master's degree in music education, harp performance and literature from Eastman School of Music, and is a member of the National Education Association. Knappenberger has taken his passion for teaching abroad by serving as a volunteer music teacher at the Ana Gonzaga Methodist Institute in Rio de Janeiro. He currently resides in Westfield with his wife and children.

The Music Educator Award was established to recognize current educators (kindergarten through college, public and private schools) who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools. Each year, one recipient will be selected from 10 finalists, and will be recognized for his/her remarkable impact on students' lives.

Knappenberger will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award at the Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees Reception on Jan. 25, attend the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards ceremony, and receive a $10,000 honorarium.

Applications for the second annual Music Educator Award are currently online at The deadline to nominate a teacher is March 31. The application process will be adjusted each year to allow the broad array of effective teaching styles and methods used in the discipline to be recognized and awarded.


Red Bull Music Academy Closes, Shares Over Two Decades Of Lectures

Questlove at RBMA event in 2013

Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images


Red Bull Music Academy Closes, Shares Over Two Decades Of Lectures

You can now watch lectures from GRAMMY winners D' Angelo, Questlove, Bootsy Collins and others on Red Bull Music Academy's online archive

GRAMMYs/Nov 2, 2019 - 03:40 am

Yesterday, Oct. 31, the Red Bull Music Academy officially ended after hosting 21 years of lectures, showcases, concerts and content with forward-thinking artists across the globe. Now, all of their content—over 500 lectures, as well as deep-dive features, interviews and other videos—is available for free on their website.

In the rich database of lectures alone, you can find conversations with GRAMMY winners D' Angelo, Questlove, Bootsy Collins, Boi-1da and GRAMMY nominees BjörkPusha T and Robyn, to name a few.

The archive showcases the extensive content library organized by categories like "Chicago: House and hip-hop, footwork and Frankie Knuckles: Examining the abundance of talent born and bred in the Windy City." Here you can find a feature examining the influence of Chicago and Detroit's underground house scenes on current-day techno, as well as Chicago house legend Larry Heard's 2018 RBMA lecture.

Other archive categories include "Beat-Making: The stories behind our favorite beats and beat-makers," "Afrofuturism: Reimagining black history and exploring black features in music" and "DIY: Stories and lectures showcasing resourceful creativity."

The company will continue to offer music programming and events in a more decentralized, locally focused fashion with their Red Bull Music arm. Back in April, they announced their plan to discontinuing RBMA and Red Bull Radio and split with Yadastar, the creative and marketing agency that led the two programs.

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Launched back in 1998, RBMA tapped hundreds of emerging and established avant-garde musicians, producers and more to share their music, stories and knowledge, giving them a well-regarded platform to connect with other creatives and fans.

The main event was the annual "Academy," where "artists from around the world came together in a different host city to learn from musical luminaries—and each other—and collaborate in custom-built studios," according to the website. In addition to the annual event, RBMA hosted their own festivals, stages at other events, club nights, workshops and Red Bull Radio.

As Pitchfork pointed out, "acts including Flying Lotus, SOPHIE, Objekt and Nina Kraviz benefitted to various degrees from a broad infrastructure that included international concerts and festivals as well as access to high-end equipment and studios."

You can visit to dive into the archive.

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The Loog Fest Livestream Is Here To Get Your Kids Playing Guitar & Staying Creative During Quarantine

Darryl Jones in 2018

Photo: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images


The Loog Fest Livestream Is Here To Get Your Kids Playing Guitar & Staying Creative During Quarantine

Beginning this weekend and continuing through June, Loog Guitars will be sharing free lessons, live music and other fun content for kids, from Darryl Jones of the Rolling Stones, Fabi Reyna, Lucky Díaz, Chris Ballew of Caspar Babypants and others

GRAMMYs/May 2, 2020 - 02:56 am

Loog Guitars, creators of the innovative three-string guitar designed to teach kids how to play, are launching a star-studded, educational and fun livestream festival for kids. Loog Fest, as the company describes it, will be made up of "concerts, music lessons, science projects, cartoons, interviews and simply random interesting stuff… [led by] designers, musicians, teachers, guitar people."

The family friendly party launches this weekend with music from Nashville's "cosmic country" guitarist Daniel Donato on Saturday and a Q&A with three-string guitarist Chris Ballew of GRAMMY-nominated children's music group Caspar Babypants on Sunday.

Each livestream event will each feature guitar-related content from a musician/creative and be held twice per weekend for all of May and June. Saturday sessions will be held at 5:30 PM EST and Sundays will be at 4:00 PM EST, all on Loog Guitar's Instagram, offering kids and their parents something exciting to enjoy together during quarantine.

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Other guests include legendary Rolling Stones bassist Darryl Jones, "kindie" artist Lucky Díaz, alt musician and She Shreds magazine founder Fabi Reyna and 2018 GRAMMY Music Educator Award winner Melissa Salguero.

Jake Johnson will offer a lesson on recording music on an iPad, Rebecca Feynberg will teach electronic music production for kids, Dave Sharp will demonstrate experiments that explore the science of music and iconic designer Paul Frank will share a D.I.Y. guitar strap tutorial.

All of the playful content will be livestreamed on IGTV via Loog's account—the latest updates for who is up next will be found there as well.

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Linda Perry To Be Honored At 2019 GRAMMY Museum Gala

Linda Perry


Linda Perry To Be Honored At 2019 GRAMMY Museum Gala

Get ready for 'Linda Perry & Friends: A Night At The GRAMMY Museum' 2019 gala benefiting music education

GRAMMYs/Apr 23, 2019 - 10:24 pm

The GRAMMY Museum has announced Linda Perry as the special honoree for their annual gala. The accomplished songwriter, producer and activist will take center stage at Linda Perry & Friends: A Night At The GRAMMY Museum on Saturday, Jun. 29 at the GRAMMY Museum and The Novo at L.A. Live in Los Angeles.

Perry will be recognized for her considerable creative accomplisments as a music producer and songwriter, as well as her longtime support of a number of charitable causes through We Are Hear, her combination record label, publishing house, management company and production entity she launched with multiplatinum producer Kerry Brown in 2017, which recently raised $1 million for Woolsey Fire recovery with their One Love Malibu Festival benefit concert. Perry also recently participated in GRAMMYs On The Hill, where she joined a group of GRAMMY winners and nominees in meeting with lawmakers in our nation's capitol to discuss policy and issues impacting the livlihood of music creators.

"Linda Perry is one of the greatest influences on modern pop music, having worked with some of the most successful artists of this generation, which is why we are incredibly grateful to be able to honor her at Linda Perry & FriendsA Night at the GRAMMY Museum," said Michael Sticka, Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum. "She has been deeply influential as both a songwriter and producer, showcasing the legacy one can create not only on stage, but behind the scenes, and is an exemplary artist for the students in our music education programs to look up to."

An inductee of the Songwriters Hall Of Fame, Perry has worked with such as P!nk, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, and Adele, and was also nominated last year for the GRAMMY Award for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical, making her the first woman in 15 years to receive a nod in the category.

"I am excited and honored to be a part of Linda Perry & Friends: A Night at the GRAMMY Museum," said Perry. "It's even more special knowing the gala benefits music education, something I'm incredibly passionate about. I can't wait to celebrate with some of the great artists I've had the pleasure of working with during my career."

The gala event will commence with a reception that takes over all four floors of the GRAMMY Museum and a silent auciton, offering guests a chance to bid on luxury items, VIP experiences, and one-of-a-kind celebrity memorabilia, all for a the good cause of raising funds for music education. Following the reception and silent auction, the festivities will move over to the Novo for the gala dinner, a live auction and a tribute concert featuring renowned musicians and the award presentation.

Proceeds from the event will provide essential support for the GRAMMY Museum Foundaion, a nonprofit dedicated to music education and preservation initiatives. For information on sponsorship and ticketing, please

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