Semifinalists for the 2017 Grammy Music Educator Award revealed

Grammy Music Educator of the Year Award recipient Phillip Riggs speaks onstage during the 2016 GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends at the Dolby Theatre on April 23, 2016 in Hollywood, California. 

Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

Twenty-five music teachers have been selected for the 2017 Music Educator Award, created by the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation to recognize “current educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education.” 

Last year’s winner, Phillip Riggs, has displayed his award on his living room mantle, where he can see it every day. It’s undeniably made him a celebrity among his students at the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham, North Carolina, but it’s an honor he shares with all music educators.

“It was very humbling, just knowing how many great music educators there are out there doing real stuff... to think that I was elected really to represent all of us,” Riggs said. 

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Phillip Riggs

Riggs became the third recipient of the award given by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation. Riggs said it has helped him “cast a wider net,” opening up opportunities “I didn’t know I’d be able to do.” He’s since collaborated with fellow music teachers, students, civil leaders and politicians nationwide to spread the importance of music education. 

Riggs said winning the award has also allowed him to take his vision to mentor new music teachers -- a program he helped establish in North Carolina -- to other states. 

“The average music teacher stays in the classroom less than three years and typically isolated in a rural school, they may be the only music teacher in the school,” Riggs said. “It feels like you’re spinning your wheel or you’re not getting as far down the road as you want to, but learning about more of these people and seeing them do what they do, I think it renews all of our passions and interests in continuing to fight for something we think is important for kids to have in their lives.” 

Still, there’s more to do, Riggs said. As the music industry evolves with new technology, he hopes the Grammy Foundation will also help expose “kids to the many music careers that are out there in addition to being a performer,” like digital editing and recording. 

Now, Riggs wants to welcome the next winner of the Music Educator Award into join the “group that continues to grow.”

“You know, we’re only three years in, but really, the hope is that we can collectively — Kent, Jared and myself, whoever the future winners are — we can work together to increase the awareness of the importance of music education and we can be resources for those younger teachers,” Riggs said. 

This year’s 25 semifinalists come from 25 cities across 16 states. The lucky winner will be flown to Los Angeles to be recognized during Grammy Week, and will attend the 59th Grammy Awards ceremony, as well as other Grammy Foundation events. 

The list of 10 finalists will be announced in December. Nine of them nine will receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists will receive matching grants. And for the first time in the award’s history, the 15 semifinalists will receive a $500 honorarium with matching school grants. 

CBS News is happy to announce the semifinalists of the 2016 Music Educator Award:

Erica Breitbarth

Reagan IB High School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Charles Cushinery

Ed W. Clark High School, Las Vegas, Nevada

Darnella Davidson

San Pedro Senior High School, San Pedro, California

David Dehner 

Monte Vista Christian School, Watsonville, California 

Jose Diaz 

MacArthur High School, Houston, Texas

Krista Fanning

Caddo Middle Magnet, Shreveport, Louisiana

Chris Gleason

Patrick Marsh Middle School, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin

Roosevelt Griffin

Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, Harvey, Illinois 

Keith Hancock

Tesoro High School, Rancho Santa Margarita, California 

Elizabeth Hankins

Lakewood High School, Lakewood, Ohio

Keith Hart Sr.

KIPP Believe College Prep, New Orleans, Louisiana 

Michael Henderson

Chase High School, Forest City, North Carolina 

Judy Hilliard 

Easley Year-Round Magnet Elementary School, Durham, North Carolina 

Kathryn Malin Iwanusa 

PS 11, Brooklyn, New York

Brandi Jason 

Liberty High School, Eldersburg, Maryland 

Nick Lenio 

Basalt Middle School, Basalt, Colorado 

Pamela McClain

Parkersburg High School, Parkersburg, West Virginia 

Henry Miller 

Sierra Vista Middle School, Irvine, California 

Richard Nickerson 

Windham High School, Windham, Maine 

Ulli Reiner 

Bernardo Heights Middle School, Poway, California 

Melissa Salguero 

PS 48 Joseph R. Drake, Bronx, New York 

Nathan Sletten 

Earlham Community Schools, Earlham, Iowa 

Jason Smith 

Newton High School, Covington, Georgia 

Nicole Thompson

Taylor Road Middle School, Johns Creek, Georgia 

Linda Versprille 

Cane Bay High School, Summerville, South Carolina