Ready for the Red Carpet

MANCHESTER - If all goes according to plan, a music teacher from the Manchester Elementary Middle School may be joining the likes of Adele and Taylor Swift on the red carpet for next year's Grammy awards.

She might not be the lead singer of or the featured instrumentalist in some chartbusting recording, but Susan Schiffman, a member of the school's music department, could come away with one of the trophies, thanks to a couple of her students who thought she deserved one.

Better known for recognizing the best in music across several different categories from popular recordings to classical, the Grammy's also have a category recognizing music teachers. During the awards night earlier this year, a pair of the members of the MEMS performing band, seventh graders Cory Mack and Riley Vogel, followed a suggestion that popped up on a television screen and nominated her for an award, which would be handed out during next year's show.

"(They) went online and searched for the Web site where you could nominate a music teacher and put my name in and bingo! - it registered and then I got this congratulatory letter from the Grammy Foundation," Schiffman said. "It's a Grammy that recognizes music education in the schools and a program that is doing well, and we are."

The music department is a growing one at MEMS, Schiffman said, with more students getting involved in the program now than in recent years. The instrumental program offers two band opportunities for its students interested in performing. One is the symphonic band, which has about 60 students involved in it. Another is the school's jazz band, something of an honors program in a way for those who are showing a serious interest in musical performing. There are about 14 students in that group; Vogel and Mack take part in both ensembles, Schiffman said.

Riley Vogel plays flute and Cory Mack is a drummer. Vogel has been one of Schiffman's students since the 4th grade; Mack arrived last fall.

It was with a bit of a surprise bordering on shock when Schiffman opened and read the letter which came as an e-mail. After verifying that it was indeed from the genuine, authentic Grammy Foundation, she replied.

Formally known as the Grammy Music Educator award, the honor recognizes the instructors who gave a push or encouragement to someone who pursued an interest in music. Ten finalists will be selected, according to the, the Web site which describes the award and the process.

Each of the 10 finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium. The winner will receive a $10,000 honorarium and will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award and attend the ceremonies.

The award recognizes teachers who have made a measurable difference in the lives of their students, made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and have made a commitment to the broader cause of music education, among other criteria.

The Grammy Foundation will sift through the applications and if the nominees are picked for the quarter-final round, they will be asked to submit additional materials, such as videos or written essays, describing their work. If they pass this screening and move on to the semi-final round, nominees will go through a series of interviews with the committee that will pick the eventual winner. Out of this process will emerge the 10 finalists, according to the Web site. Any current teacher in a public or private school, kindergarten through college are eligible, so Schiffman will be up against some formidable competition.

"We'll see where this goes - it's very exciting," she said. "I've never been nominated for a Grammy before."

She did, however, study flute with someone who was later nominated for a Grammy, but that's been her closest brush with Grammy glory so far, she said.

Schiffman has been a music teacher for the past 32 years. She has been at MEMS for the past 12 years, she said.

Nominations closed on April 15, and now it's a waiting game, Schiffman said.

"It's just an honor to be thought of and honored at that level," she said.


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