Kent Knappenberger, a music teacher at the Westfield Academy and Central School in Westfield, New York, was honored with the Grammys' first-ever Educator Award, presented by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation. One of nine finalists, Knappenberger was chosen out of an initial pool of 30,000 nominees, generated by online submissions. Each of the nine finalists will receive cash honorariums ($10,000 for Knappenberger, and $1,000 to each finalist, as well as matching grants), with support and resources from the Grammy Foundation’s Education Champions Box Tops For Education, Converse, Ford Motor Company Fund, Journeys, Microsoft Surface and Universal Music Group. Holding a Bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Fredonia and a master’s degree in music education from Eastman School of Music, Knappenberger has been getting the A-list treatment this week, jetting to Los Angeles to attend the 56th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony Sunday night and to spotlight the need for music education support across the country.
First of all, congratulations! Did you ever expect it to be you? What has the reception been like in your community?
The kids have just -- if they were already wrapped around my heart, they’re really wrapped around me now! [Laughs] They did not know that I won. We flew out on Tuesday morning -- I said I had an appointment in Buffalo, but it was an appointment with an airplane!
Were you at school when you found out?
I actually found out earlier in December, [as] I was about to do a concert with my wife and our daughters. I was pretty nerved up about the concert and then, after I got off the phone with Neil Portnow, I was not nerved up anymore about the concert -- it gave us time as a family to adjust to the idea, but I don’t think there’s anything that could have prepared me for this week. It’s very exciting to be here and as I learn more about what the Grammy Foundation does, [it seems to me that] they really care about what’s going on.