Grammy-Winner Jared Cassedy of Windham High School

And the Grammy goes to ..... Jared Cassedy of Windham High School

It was sweet music to his ears when the dean of fine arts for the Windham School District and the high school’s band director heard his name called as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science’s 2015 Music Educator of the Year. Cassedy, who played the clarinet in the Salem High School band and earned his summa cum laude degree in music education at UNH, was selected from 7,000 nominees nationwide and was the only New Englander to be a Top 10 finalist. After being flown to Los Angeles to accept his award and attend the nationally televised 57th Grammy Awards ceremony on Feb. 8, he was still hitting all the right notes.

Were you stunned when you were chosen as the best music teacher in America? I would never say that I am the best. There are thousands and thousands of music educators all across the country who are doing an extraordinary job every day. It’s really a testament to music education and the significance of what we all do as educators. It’s amazing that the Grammy Foundation recognizes that this is a pertinent part of their plan.

What was it like to walk the red carpet? It was a fabulous experience. I showed up before the big celebrities and it was awesome to see all of the TV personalities from “Entertainment Tonight,” The E! Network and the other entertainment and celebrity channels. I met hosts Kelly Osbourne and Guiliana Rancic. People were talking to me about music education and asking me questions why it’s important. It was all really positive.

Did you get to meet with the stars backstage? Meet is an understatement. I was in a holding room with Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, and then I followed Kayne West and Kim Kardashian down a stairwell to the stage. I hung out with David Grohl, and I got a picture with LL Cool J. I also hung out with Taylor Swift and Prince, and so many other stars. It was incredible.

So, who impressed you the most? Paul McCartney. Meeting him was the pinnacle of my life and I’ll remember it all my life. He was such a warm guy. He talked to me for a while and said so many positive things about music education and how important my role is. To hear that from one of the biggest pop stars ever was unbelievable. He’s the nicest guy in the whole entire world.

Who are your favorite artists? Popular-wise, I love Sia, Sam Smith, and Taylor Swift. But I have to go back to classical. I love Rachmaninoff, Hayden and Beethoven. When it comes to music, I run the gamut and have an appreciation for everything.

You won a $10,000 honorarium for your school and another $10,000 for yourself. How will you spend them? For the school, my students and I are going to Indianapolis for a big music festival. For my own money, I haven’t decided yet. I think I might give it back to the school or give it to the students. I’m getting married in October to my partner, and it might go to the wedding. I thought about buying a new car but Ford, one of the sponsors, just gave me a new car of my choosing up to $40,000. I have no idea whether to get something practical like a truck or SUV, or something impractical like a Mustang. I got a trip to Disneyland and Disney World too.

What will you do for an encore? I loved LA, the whirlwind and the whole experience, but being back here with my students and the community is what’s truly wonderful. It made me realize how much I appreciate everything and everyone here. I want to have a wonderfully positive impact on the students I teach. I am so proud and excited to be representing the community of Windham and the state of New Hampshire.

Categories: Q&A