PHOTOS: CMA Music Teacher of Excellence award program celebrates music educators in Nashville


The CMA Music Teacher of Excellence honors were held Tuesday, April 26 at City Winery in Nashville. The event was hosted by CMA Award-winner Brett Eldredge, who is also a member of the CMA Board of Directors.

Each Teacher of Excellence received a $2,000 grant from the CMA Foundation.

The $100,000 in teacher grants comes from the CMA Foundation’s $1 million donation to Metro Nashville Public Schools, which brings giving to the school system to $10 million in the past 10 years. The honors program was created in partnership with Metro Schools’ Music Makes Us initiative as a result of a study released in 2015 that focused on the needs and challenges of music educators in the district. CMA and the CMA Foundation have supported Metro Schools since 2006 providing funding for more than 9,000 instruments.

The foundation is also supporting a new professional coaching program for music teachers, subsidizing private instrument lessons for students in grades 5-12, and supporting an advocacy initiative that will bring industry leaders into Metro Schools to see music learning in action.

“We are proud to recognize these educators and their unique contributions to public education in Music City,” said Interim Director of Schools Chris Henson. “Our music teachers are an invaluable asset to the educational opportunities available to Metro Schools students, who benefit from the dedicated efforts and commitment these educators demonstrate.”

“To be chosen made me feel like what I do is worth it,” said Franklin Willis, Choral Director of Madison Middle Prep. “To have someone look into my classroom, invest in me, and show me, ‘Franklin, we see what you’re doing with the kids and it is important.’ “Because many times, we have a thankless job, but it is so much more than that. It gives the kids self-esteem. It provides them confidence – not only to sing a song, but to go take that test, to stand up and give that speech, to be your own person. This makes me feel like I’m in the game. Thank you for recognizing what I do – it is important – and to keep me moving forward.”

“I have taught elementary music in Metro Nashville Public Schools for almost 14 years, and over the years I have seen new instruments come into my classroom made possible by CMA,” said Josh Wright, a music teacher at McGavock Elementary School. “This year [CMA] has gone above and beyond by providing outstanding professional development and community recognition. I was selected as a CMA Music Teacher of Excellence this year, and I feel almost as if I had won a CMA Award! I am a better teacher because of you.”

To date, CMA and the CMA Foundation have donated more than $13.68 million to 30 music education initiatives across the country, reaching 1 million students. Studies show students who participate in the arts are more likely to graduate, have better attendance rates, and higher GPAs than students not enrolled in arts classes. The CMA Foundation recognizes the importance of music education in keeping kids engaged and in school as well as providing access to higher education through scholarships.

Read the full news release from CMA here and see photos of the event below:

 John Esposito, President/CEO, Warner Music Nashville and CMA Board Chairman; Nashville Mayor Megan Barry; Brett Eldredge; Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer; Joe Galante, CMA Foundation Board Chairman. Photo Credit: Kayla Schoen / CMA

Brett Eldredge, host of the CMA Music Teacher of Excellence, welcomes his own childhood music teacher, Judy Carroll, as his special guest at the inaugural honors evening at City Winery Tuesday in Nashville. Photo Credit: Kayla Schoen / CMA

CMA Music Teacher of Excellence Franklin Willis, Choral Director at Madison Middle Prep (center), with Dr. Nola Jones, Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts, Metro Nashville Public Schools, and Jon Loba, Executive Vice President, BBR Music Group and CMA Board member, at the CMA Music Teacher of Excellence honors at City Winery Tuesday in Nashville. Photo Credit: Kayla Schoen / CMA


The inaugural recipients of the CMA Music Teacher or Excellence grants are:

  • Kate Affainie (Granberry Elementary)
  • Ronda Armstrong (Stanford Montessori)
  • Jennifer Barnes (Lockeland Design Center)
  • Rita Black (Eakin Elementary)
  • Christopher Blackmon (Thomas Edison Elementary School)
  • Michael Currie (A.Z. Kelley Elementary)
  • Benjamin Easley (John Overton High School)
  • John Feltt (Hermitage Elementary School)
  • Kim Marie Folsom (Dan Mills Elementary)
  • Lisa Forbis (Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School)
  • Mandy Funderburk (Bellevue Middle School)
  • Laura Gabriel (Nashville School of the Arts)
  • Janelle Ganske (Hillsboro High School)
  • Katie Harrah (W.H. Oliver Middle Prep)
  • Kathy Hart (Harpeth Valley Elementary)
  • Daniel Hayes (Granberry Elementary)
  • Kathy Hull (Hull-Jackson Montessori School)
  • Melissa Husebo (Andrew Jackson Elementary)
  • Ira “Trey” Jacobs III (Head Middle Magnet)
  • Lisa Kemp (Haywood Elementary)
  • Steven King (Tom Joy Elementary)
  • Laura McAfee (Glenn Elementary Enhanced Option)
  • Melissa McClaran (Cane Ridge Elementary)
  • Kimberly McLemore (Antioch High School)
  • Anna Maria Miller (Hume-Fogg/Martin Luther King)
  • Eleni Miller (John Overton High School)
  • Ila Nicholson (John Early Museum Magnet Middle Prep)
  • Franklin Norris (Meigs Academic Magnet)
  • Jennifer Partridge (Cumberland Elementary)
  • Sean Patrick (Cole Elementary)
  • Catherine Pratt (Goodlettsville Elementary)
  • Holly Rang (Pennington Elementary)
  • Richard Ripani (Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School)
  • Tracy Roberts (Dodson Elementary)
  • Alaina Schwartz (Crieve Hall Elementary)
  • Todd Shipley (Martin Luther King, Jr. Academic Magnet School)
  • Marilyn Smith (W.H. Oliver Middle Prep)
  • Nita Smith (Creswell Middle Prep)
  • Alexander Snyder (Two Rivers Middle Prep)
  • Michael Walton (DuPont Hadley Middle Prep)
  • Karen Waters (Park Avenue Enhanced Option Elementary School)
  • Paul Waters (Bellevue Middle School)
  • Susan Waters (W.H. Oliver Middle Prep)
  • Richae Williams (J.E. Moss Elementary)
  • Franklin Willis (Madison Middle Prep)
  • Chad Witemeyer (Maxwell Elementary)
  • John Womack (McGavock High School)
  • Joshua Wright (McGavock Elementary)
  • Frank Zimmerer (East Nashville Magnet High School)
  • Ben Zolkower (Hillwood High School)