Over 1,200 Grammy nominations for the 2023 Music Educator Award were narrowed down to 10 teacher finalists, and two of them happened to be former Florida State University Marching Chiefs band members.
FSU alumni Ernesta Chicklowski — a music teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Tampa, Florida who goes by “Mrs. Chick” — and Jack Eaddy — director of athletic bands and director of the Pride of the Mountains marching band at Western Carolina University — were in the final round as the nation waited to find out if one of them would be the Grammy Award winner for the best music teacher in the country.
Ahead of Sunday’s 65th annual Grammy Awards at 8 p.m. in the Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles, California, the winner was revealed during GRAMMY Week 2023 — Pamela Dawson, director of choral music at DeSoto High School in DeSoto, Texas.
But the announcement didn’t take away from Chicklowski and Eaddy’s ecstatic reactions to being chosen as two of the nation’s elite music educators.
“I was very surprised because it feels like I’m being acknowledged for something I do without much effort,” said Chicklowski, 47, who graduated from FSU in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. “Looking at the list of other finalists, I was just shocked and excited to be included, but I’m definitely very honored.”
The 2023 Music Educator Award is presented by the Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Museum.
Although one of the pair did not take home the Grammy Gold, it isn’t the first time a music educator with FSU ties made it that far in the competitive event. In 2019, Jeffery Redding, who holds degrees from Florida A&M and Florida State universities, won the 2019 Grammy Music Educator Award. Redding is choral director at West Orange High School in Winter Garden. He has conducted choirs and lectured internationally.
More recently, during the 2021 Grammy Awards, three College of Music alums were winners — former doctoral student Adam Luebke received a Grammy for Best Choral Performance, former master’s student Ryan Speedo Green received a Grammy for his performance in the role of Jake in the opera recording of “Porgy and Bess” and the performance of a composition by FSU alumna Ellen Taaffe Zwillich also won a Grammy.
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“It’s an opportunity to share more about music education,” Chicklowski said. “It’s a significant milestone for children to make gains in music, so it’s wonderful to acknowledge how we do that every day.”
Chicklowski has been teaching for over 20 years and is also the former president of the Florida Elementary Music Educators Association.
Her musical talent goes as far as being director and owner of Studio of South Tampa, a performance studio she founded in 2018 to offer piano and guitar lessons, musical theater classes and vocal training.
During Chicklowski’s time with the FSU Marching Chiefs, she played the French horn for two years and was a drum major during her senior year.
“Marching was one of the most special things about my college career at Florida State,” Chicklowski said.
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Similar to Chicklowski, 2002 FSU graduate Eaddy also earned a bachelor’s degree in music education after being a part of the band.
The Orangeburg, South Carolina native went on to earn his master’s in music from the University of Georgia in 2016 and a doctoral degree in musical arts from the University of North Texas in 2019.
“Finding out I was nominated was kind of surreal, and the whole process has been amazing,” said Eaddy, 42. “What’s coolest about it is that the people who reviewed the material saw something special in what we bring as educators.”
“I’ve always wanted to be an educator, I’ve always wanted to help people and music has always been a passion of mine that I want to share with all my students,” he added.
Prior to being WCU’s director of athletic bands in Cullowhee, North Carolina for the past two years, Eaddy has had experience as an assistant director of band at the University of South Carolina and McNeese State University between 2018 and 2020. He was also a middle and high school director of bands for 12 years combined.
As a former FSU Marching Chiefs saxophone section leader and drill assistant, Eaddy says being a part of his alma mater’s band was “fundamental and instrumental” in his life as it taught him how to achieve excellence while having a good time.
“I wouldn’t be the director I am without my experience at FSU,” Eaddy said. “I had people there who really make sure I hold honor to the traditions and principles of being a music educator, and I take that with me every day.”
FSU professor of music and director of bands Patrick Dunnigan is just one of those people who played a role in both finalists’ music journeys while they were students at the university.
Dunnigan had both Eaddy and Chicklowski as students, and he says it “fills his heart up with joy and pride” to see them reach new heights.
“I’ve been following their careers closely since they left FSU,” Dunnigan said. “They are fully dedicated to their students, the cause of promoting music and making America more musical. I understand fully why they would be finalists for this prestigious award.”
Eaddy, Chicklowski, and the other seven Music Educator Award finalists after Dawson’s win will receive $1,000 along with matching grants for their school’s music programs. As the winner, Dawson will get $10,000 and a matching grant.
The Grammy Awards airs live on CBS Sunday and will also stream on Paramount+ at 8 p.m. EST (5 p.m. PST). Ahead of the ceremony, a “Live from the Red Carpet” livestream is also scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. EST (3 p.m. PST) on the Grammys website.
Contact Tarah Jean at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter @tarahjean_.
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