Barham among quarter-finalists for new Grammy educator award

June 8, 2013 7:57:35 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


First there were more than 30,000 nominees. And now there are 217. When that narrowed list of quarter-finalists in the running for the first-ever Grammy Award honoring a music educator was 


released May 23, Dawn Barham's name was on it. 


Barham, who last month completed her 20th year on the faculty of the Mississippi School 


for Mathematics and Science in Columbus, is the driving force behind the school's choir and 


orchestra, jazz band and guitar program. She has taught drama and creative movement and 


can rock the house on any given night with her venerable band, the Juke Joint Gypsies. 


The new Grammy is designed to recognize educators -- kindergarten through college, in 


public or private schools -- who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field 


of music education. Its debut was announced at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards in February 


by Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation President and CEO Neil Portnow, TV host and 


Grammy Foundation Honorary Chair Ryan Seacrest, and six-time Grammy winner Justin Timberlake 


"I was shocked and honored when I got the notification that I was a quarter-finalist," Barham 


said Thursday. "I know that there so many amazing, amazing music educators out there, so 


to be on this list is so humbling." 


Exacting process After advancing to quarter-finalist out of thousands nominated by former students and fellow educators, Barham was impressed to discover how thorough the Grammy Foundation's 


criteria is for narrowing the field of nominees further. 


"They've found a system that really concentrates on the teacher teaching. What they ask from us makes us really focus on what we do in the classroom and what we're doing with our students," she shared. 


"It makes me value the honor even more." The initial application was developed using best practices from respected practitioners and other sources and were electronically scored using a weighted point system. 


Top scorers were named quarter-finalists. Those candidates now must prepare additional materials in the form of videos and essays. These submissions will be reviewed and scored by a screening committee comprised of music educators and other music professionals. Top scoring teachers will become semi-finalists. Their videos and essays will be reviewed by a Blue Ribbon Committee consisting of music education professionals, Grammy Foundation Board members and members of 


The Recording Academy to determine the top 10 finalists. Semi-finalists will be announced in 


August; finalists will be notified in December. 


Barham remarked,"They really want to see you in the classroom, they want to see the 'dirty work.' To understand what they were looking for when they waded through all those nominations made it very 


significant to me." 


Preparation Barham is in the process of preparing video clips that, as requested, illustrate her philosophy of teaching, its implementation and effectiveness, as well as its impact on the community 


and music education. 


She has been moved by former students' testimonials, and even animated clips, that are coming in. 


"And Chris Jenkins has been very gracious and generous with his time and expertise," Barham emphasized, praising the photographer and video producer from the MUW Office of Public Affairs who is lending his talents to the clips. 


Fellow musicians like veteran bassist Mike Chain are sounding their support as well. He's performed and recorded with Barham for many years and is a fellow Gypsy. 


"It's such a pleasure to play with someone like Dawn who has so much heart about the music -- not only what she writes and performs but in teaching the kids coming along behind 


her, teaching them the heritage of music and where it comes. She's so patient and kind in helping them. She cares about it, she really does, from top to bottom." 


The first annual educator award will be presented during Grammy Week 2014, at the Special Merit Awards Ceremony and Nominees Reception honoring recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustee Award and Technical Grammy Award. 


The winner will be flown to Los Angeles to attend the Grammy ceremony and receive a $10,000 honorarium. The other nine finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists will receive matching grants. 


In the meantime, Barham continues to teach, sharing her energy and enthusiasm for now with students attending the Mississippi Governor's School at Mississippi University for Women. 


"(As educators) we just stay with our heads down and nose to the grindstone; we just keep 


plugging away every day," said Barham. So this distinguished recognition by the Grammy 


Foundation and Recording Academy for doing something she loves is especially meaningful. 


"It's just all very humbling, it really is," she said. 


For more information about the inaugural award, visit

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.