When Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow was about 7 years old, he saw an Elvis Presley performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” that changed his life. “It kind of blew my mind,” Portnow recalls. “The day after, I told my mom and dad that I wanted to play guitar like that.”
Soon after, Portnow started receiving guitar lessons from Stan Solow, who introduced him to influential guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Raney and Andrés Segovia. During his address at the 55th annual Grammy Awards in February, Portnow noted Solow’s influence on his musical career when announcing the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation’s first Music Educator Award, an honor that recognizes the positive influence of music teachers on their students.
“As I said on the telecast, ‘I never became a guitar god, but he certainly changed my life forever,’” says Portnow, who announced the award alongside Ryan Seacrest and Justin Timberlake.
Through April 15, U.S. music educators from kindergarten through college (in public and private schools) can be nominated for the Music Educator Award at grammyintheschools.com. Nominated teachers will be notified and invited to fill out an application. The winner will be flown to Los Angeles and presented with the award during Grammy Week 2014 and receive a $10,000 honorarium. Nine other finalists will be given a $1,000 honorarium. Matching amounts will go to the schools of the winning teachers.
A panel including representatives of the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation, as well as music educators, will choose the finalists. The honorariums were made possible by a grant from Converse, the Ford Motor Co. Fund, General Mills’ Box Tops for Education and Journeys.
“It’s a natural fit with our overall focus on keeping music in the schools,” says Kristen Madsen, senior VP of the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares, “because we wholeheartedly endorse the idea that music education is part of a well-rounded education in a civilized society.”