Next Sunday, Feb. 12, music superstars like Beyoncé, Rihanna and Kanye West will be among those at the 59th annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Joining them may be a face more familiar to many New Orleans students: Keith Hart, music director at KIPP Believe College Prep Middle School in the Hollygrove neighborhood.
Hart is one of only 10 music educators in the country to be named finalists for the Grammy Music Educator Award. Created by the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation in 2014, the award is designed to recognize the role music educators play both in creating the musical talent celebrated each year and in the daily lives of students in the U.S.
Hart, who founded the KIPP music program 11 years ago, said it was designed to focus on teaching both “the fundamentals of music and the fundamentals of being a good human being.” His goal: to transform lives through music.
As Hart helps students tackle the challenges of learning to read music and play an instrument, he's also helping them to see the parallels in tackling the challenges in their lives, whether that's a parent who was killed or is in jail, or just the daily pressures and struggles of middle school life.
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When Hart was nominated for the honor last March, he was one of more than 3,300 educators hailing from all 50 states under consideration. That list is now down to 10 finalists, and Hart is the only one from Louisiana.
If he wins, he not only gets to attend the Grammys to receive his prize but he also walks away with $10,000 for his school. The final decision will be announced next week.
“That is money that could really be useful in broadening the impact of music education in the school,” Hart said.
A New Orleans native, Hart said he loves working with middle school students, as it was in middle school that he fell in love with music.
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