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Alumnus Knappenberger wins Grammy's first-ever Music Educator Award
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Alumnus Knappenberger wins Grammy's first-ever Music Educator Award

Kent Knappenberger, ’87, a 25-year veteran music teacher at Westfield Academy and Central School, has won the first annual Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation. He was one of more than 30,000 music educators from all 50 states nominated for the award.

Kent Knappenberger, ’87, a veteran music teacher at Westfield Academy and Central School, made history today by being named the recipient of the first annual Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation.

Mr. Knappenberger, one of 10 finalists for the award and the only one from New York State, was announced the winner on this morning’s broadcast of “CBS This Morning.” He was one of more than 30,000 music educators from all 50 states nominated for the award.

“I am extremely humbled and honored to be the recipient of the first-ever Music Educator Award,” he said. “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.”

The Music Educator Award was established to recognize current educators (from Kindergarten through college in both public and private settings) 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. Nominees presented a four-minute teaching video, two detailed essays and a six-minute video about their teaching philosophy.

Knappenberger, who has taught choral and general music in grades six through 12 in Westfield for 25 years, will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award at the Special Merit Awards Ceremony and Nominees Reception on Jan. 25. He will also attend the 56th annual Grammy Awards ceremony on Jan. 26, and receive a $10,000 honorarium. His school will also receive a $1,000 honorarium, as will each of the nine other finalists and their schools.

To show its appreciation for “Mr. K.,” as he is known by his students, Westfield will host a community reception for their prized teacher in the school cafeteria on Friday, Jan. 31, from 6 to 8 p.m.

School of Music Director Karl Boelter (right), and Dean Ralph Blasting of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, congratulate Knappenberger at Westfield's "red carpet" Grammy finalist ceremony.

He could not have asked for a better warm-up for the Grammys. Over 300 Westfield students gathered on Jan. 15 in their auditorium, where a red carpet was literally rolled out to celebrate his selection as a finalist. The Grammy-modeled ceremony featured performances by several ensembles that he directs along with numerous tributes from fellow teachers, Westfield School Superintendent David Davison, High School Principal Ivana Hite, members of SUNY Fredonia’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, and former students. Outside the auditorium hung mock covers of Time, Entertainment, Rolling Stone and other magazines, depicting Knappenberger in assorted Grammy Award settings.

Two Fredonia representatives — School of Music Director Karl Boelter, and Dean Ralph Blasting of the College of Visual and Performing Arts — presented Knappenberger with a certificate of recognition.

“Kent’s viewpoint is that all students need the opportunity to participate in music, regardless of their background, prior skills, what they play, and even their innate talent.  Rather, his approach seems to be that music has the ability of getting students to focus, be better learners, and exercise their collaboration with others,” Dr. Boelter said.

“This is an ambitious set of goals, and I know that not everybody can do what he does, but it is a valuable example of what music education should try to accomplish whenever and wherever possible,” Boelter added.

"Kent has been able to get an amazingly large portion of the student body involved with his classes and ensembles. He is capable of putting together whatever ensemble will help him reach his students, and then is able to create arrangements that challenge them," Boelter explained. "That Knappenberger has also been able to get as many boys interested in music as girls is a major achievement that any choral director would quickly applaud."

Knappenberger also received the key to the village of Westfield from Deputy Mayor Robert Cochran and a certificate from Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES.

“Grammy Awards sing praises of Westfield educator” beamed a front-page headline in the Jan. 16 edition of The Buffalo News. The story, which consumed more than half of page 2 as well, touted the achievements of “Mr. K.,” whose district enrolls about 730 students.

The tuxedo-clad Knappenberger shared the spotlight with his younger brother, Lon, a science teacher in the same school, who was honored as a New York State Master Teacher and served as emcee of the afternoon program, while their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lyston Knappenberger, along with Kent’s wife, Nanette, ’91, and several of their nine children, looked on with pride.

The surprise presentation of a “Rammy” award — a statue of a gold sheep made entirely at the school and a nod to Knappenberger’s farming background — concluded the ceremony. Knappenberger was raised on the family dairy farm and initially enrolled at SUNY Fredonia to study Dairy Science, but later chose to focus on music. Knappenberger, who still lives on a farm with Nanette and their children, earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Education at SUNY Fredonia. He learned the harp from Professor Emeritus Mario Falcao, a founder of the International Harp Society, and went on to earn a master’s degree in Harp Performance and Literature, and Music Education from the Eastman School of Music.

“I believe that music can be very important in forming the definition of self,” Knappenberger was quoted in The Buffalo News article. “Just as entire cultures can be defined by the arts, so can the individual. Music becomes a place to learn music, but also a place to figure out who you are, a place to belong, and a place to get some help in interpreting life.”

To see today's "CBS This Morning" story which profiles Kent and interviews him shortly after he learned of this honor, click here

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