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2 Alle-Kiski Valley teachers in quarterfinals for Music Educator Award

Emily Balser
| Friday, June 6, 2014, 1:01 a.m.
Ian Hughes, of the Riverview School District, has made it to the quarterfinals in the Music Educator Award contest by the Grammy Foundation and the Recording Academy.
Photo courtesy of Ian Hughes
Ian Hughes, of the Riverview School District, has made it to the quarterfinals in the Music Educator Award contest by the Grammy Foundation and the Recording Academy.
Chaz Shipman, of the Freeport Area School District, has made it to the quarterfinals in the Music Educator Award contest by the Grammy Foundation and the Recording Academy.
Chaz Shipman, of the Freeport Area School District, has made it to the quarterfinals in the Music Educator Award contest by the Grammy Foundation and the Recording Academy.

Two Alle-Kiski Valley teachers have surpassed thousands of others to advance to the quarterfinals in a national contest for music educators.

Chaz Shipman, from Freeport Area School District, and Ian Hughes, from Riverview School District, were nominated for the Music Educator Award from the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.

Out of 7,000 nominations, Shipman and Hughes were selected as two of the 222 quarterfinalists.

“We want to find examples of fine music educators across the county and shine a spotlight on those folks,” said David Sears, executive education director for the Grammy Foundation.

Sears said any music teacher in the country can be nominated by themselves or someone else. Once nominated, the teachers are asked to submit more information about their bands and classes in order to give the selection committee a better idea of the impact they are making at their schools.

The news of being a quarterfinalist was a shock to Hughes.

“I was surprised because there are so many great music educators out there,” he said. “It was really gratifying.”

Hughes was quick to share his spotlight, saying he doesn't do it all on his own.

“I have great colleagues and a lot of administrative support,” he said.

Hughes has been a music teacher in the Riverview School District for seven years. He teaches elementary band, junior/senior high band and jazz band. He also teaches fourth and sixth grade general music classes. He splits his time among three schools in the district.

Hughes said he loves being able to teach music and views it as one of the best subjects for students to take.

“I think that every kid deserves the chance to play in a really exceptional musical ensemble,” he said. “That's the best way to experience music.”

Tiffany Nix, principal at Riverview Junior/Senior High School, said she was proud and excited to hear Hughes had been nominated for the award.

“He is 110 percent dedicated to the music department,” Nix said. “He's always willing to go above and beyond.”

Nix said Hughes often stays after school to help students practice their instruments. He does extra performances to ensure they are getting the best music education they can get.

“He's so deserving of the award,” she said. “We're very lucky to have him.”

Hughes was nominated for the award by a parent of one of his students. Nix said many parents express their gratitude to him.

“I get emails all the time from parents praising him,” Nix said.

It was a parent who encouraged Shipman's nomination. Brittany Kolek, 15, got the idea to nominate Shipman for the award from her mom.

Kolek will be a 10th-grader at Freeport Area High School and is in the percussion section of the school band. She has had Shipman as her band director for three years.

“He's just a really kind of fun and upbeat guy,” Kolek said. “He always brightens our day.”

Kolek said she nominated Shipman because he is always willing to stay after school to help students practice and works hard to get his bands noticed.

She said that she knows how difficult high school students can be, and he still does a good job with them. “He puts up with us, and I just really wanted to let him know we do appreciate him, even though we don't always show it,” she said.

Shipman is flattered to be nominated by Kolek and was surprised to find out that he's a quarterfinalist.

“I was just really shocked and really humbled by it,” Shipman said.

Shipman, 28, has been teaching in the Freeport Area School District for three years. He teaches seventh and eighth grade band, high school band, seventh grade general music and high school music technology. He splits his time between Freeport Junior High School and Freeport High School.

Shipman said he tries to have a good working relationship with students, showing them that he cares about them not only as musicians, but as people.

“I really think that if there isn't the personal connection in the relationship with the student, you aren't going to get the quality work out of students,” Shipman said. “I really think it's my job to help bridge that gap with all of them.”

Shipman attributes his success to having a support system made up of students, parents and administrators.

“It's a great community,” he said.

Freeport Area Senior High School Principal Jeffrey Lesko said Shipman is completely dedicated to his work and can be found helping students at any time during the day.

“He is the one person in the building who is here more than I am,” Lesko said. “He is always here doing something band related.”

Lesko said Shipman is humble, but is appreciated by everyone he works with.

Since Shipman began as band director, Lesko said the program has flourished.

“I never have to worry about anything in the music wing, ever,” he said.

Semifinalists to be announced

The next round of the contest will be to select 25 semifinalists about September. From there, 10 finalists will be selected.

One winner will be selected and will receive a $10,000 award. The winner will be flown to Los Angeles to receive the award and attend the Grammy Awards. The other finalists will receive a $1,000 award for their schools.

Sears, with the Grammy Foundation, said the program's goal isn't to find the best music teacher, but to find music teachers who are making a difference in their communities.

“The Grammy Foundation and the Recording Academy want to bring attention to the great work that's being done by tens of thousands of music educators across the country,” Sears said.

Emily Balser is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-7710 or

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