The CMA Foundation, a national music education nonprofit and the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association, held its fourth annual Music Teachers of Excellence event on Tuesday, April 30, honoring 30 music educators from across the country for their exemplary work. The invite-only program was livestreamed from Marathon Music Works in Nashville. 
Hosted by three-time CMA Awards winner Dierks Bentley, the event honored 10 music educators from Metro Nashville Public Schools, 10 from districts across the state of Tennessee and 10 from across the United States. Honorees were selected for their dedication to bringing a high-quality music program to their students and the impact they’ve had on their school community through music.  
The celebration included dinner with 26 artists from the Country Music community and several performances from Bentley – opening the evening with “I Hold On” and closing the event with “Burning Man.” Mid-way through the program Bentley was joined onstage by music students from CMA Foundation grantee Granbery Elementary School (Brentwood, Tenn.) to provide vocal accompaniment during a performance of Bentley’s current single “Living,” which concluded with a standing ovation. Bentley also brought his children’s music teacher Bakari King as his special guest for the evening, acknowledging what a positive impact King has made in both the classroom and the community.  
“Without effective, innovative, and talented music teachers – and the support of their principals, superintendents, parents and the greater community – successful music programs would not be possible,” said CMA Foundation Executive Director Tiffany Kerns. “It has become increasingly obvious that investing in teachers is vital to the well-being and success of our students and helps to strengthen the ecosystem of arts education. This event is our way of showing our support as you overcome some pretty steep challenges to change lives in your classrooms every day. We see your strength. We hear you. We celebrate you.” 
Rex Yape, Jr., a graduate of Metro Nashville Public Schools, whose first oboe was purchased thanks to the CMAFoundation, spoke at the event, sharing how music education played a formative role in his life and led him to attend the Curtis Institute and later graduate school at Temple University in Philadelphia 
Other special guests included students Bella Selley and Zion Brown, whose teachers are 2019 Music Teachers of Excellence honorees. Selley’s class performed at Nissan Stadium during CMA Fest in 2018, with more than 50,000 people enjoying her lead solo. Brown has flourished in and out of the classroom thanks to his music class – specifically what he’s learned through songwriting.  
Videos played throughout the evening as various parents of music students spoke about the powerful influence of music in their children’s lives, made possible through programs funded by the CMA Foundation.  
Immediately following the program, teachers and special guests enjoyed an after-party complete with a DJ, dancing, photo booth and donut bar.  
In addition to Tuesday’s celebration, the CMA Foundation has invested a total of $5,000 to each recipient – $2,500 for each teacher’s music program to help drive forward their commitment to high quality music education for all children and $2,500 to use for whatever they’d like, with past winners using their award earnings for down payments on homes, continuing education, to record their own music and more. 
U.S. Bank is this year’s Music Teacher of Excellence Awards supporting partner, continuing its ongoing partnership with the CMA Foundation. 
2019 Music Teachers of Excellence Tennessee Award Recipients 
  • Bryant Adler, Alcoa Intermediate School, Alcoa City Schools – Alcoa, TN 
  • Kathryn AffainieGranbery Elementary School, Metro Nashville Public Schools – Brentwood, TN 
  • Josephine Cappelletti, Coulter Grove Intermediate School, Maryville City Schools – Maryville, TN 
  • Benjamin Easley, Nolensville High School, Williamson County Schools – Nolensville, TN 
  • Carole Smith Grooms, Freedom Middle School, Franklin City Elementary School District – Franklin, TN 
  • Sherie Grossman, Mt. Juliet High School, Wilson County School District – Mt. Juliet, TN 
  • John Hazlett, McGavock High School, Metro Nashville Public Schools – Nashville, TN 
  • Michael Holland, Nolensville High School, Williamson County Schools – Nashville, TN 
  • Trey Jacobs, Nashville School of the Arts, Metro Nashville Public Schools – Nashville, TN 
  • Kevin Jankowski, W.H. Oliver Middle School, Metro Nashville Public Schools – Nashville, TN 
  • Robbin Johnston, Clarksville High School, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System – Clarksville, TN 
  • Spencer Nesvick, Houston Middle School, Germantown Municipal School District – Germantown, TN 
  • Denise Rives, Barksdale Elementary School, Clarksville-Montgomery County School System – Clarksville, TN 
  • Matthew Taylor, Meigs Academic Magnet Middle School, Metro Nashville Public Schools – Nashville, TN 
  • Alice Asako Walle, Waverly Belmont Elementary School, Metro Nashville Public Schools – Nashville, TN 
  • Susan Waters, W.H. Oliver Middle School, Metro Nashville Public Schools – Nashville, TN 
  • Anna Laura Williams, Siegel Middle School, Rutherford County Schools – Murfreesboro, TN 
  • Franklin Willis, Andrew Jackson Elementary School, Metro Nashville Public Schools – Old Hickory, TN 
  • Frank Zimmerer, Antioch High School, Metro Nashville Public Schools – Antioch, TN 
  • Ben Zolkower, Hillwood High School, Metro Nashville Public Schools – Nashville, TN 
2019 Music Teachers of Excellence National Award Recipients 
  • Kevin Brawley, Torrence Creek Elementary School, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools – Huntersville, NC 
  • Sheldon Frazier, North Cobb High School, Cobb County School District – Kennesaw, GA 
  • Robyn Starks Holcomb, Roosevelt High School, Sioux Falls School District – Sioux Falls, SD 
  • Jeff Horenstein, Meadowdale High School, Edmonds School District – Lynnwood, WA 
  • Theresa Kennedy, Jamestown Middle School, Guilford County Schools – Jamestown, NC 
  • Chris Maunu, Arvada West High School, Jefferson County R-1 School District – Arvada, CO 
  • Henry Miller, Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine Unified School District – Irvine, CA 
  • Amy Rangel, Glendale High School, Glendale Unified School District – Glendale, CA