Johansen High music educator makes Grammy contest quarterfinals

naustin@modbee.comJune 5, 2014 

Johansen High School’s Brad Hart has made the quarterfinals of the Grammy Music Educators contest, one of 222 music teachers still in the running out of 7,000 nominees nationwide, and the only Central Valley entry to make the list.

Johansen’s department chairman for the visual and performing arts has brought highbrow musical selections to football halftimes, musical play days to Creekwood Park and new life to school rallies at the Modesto campus. Reached by phone Thursday, Hart called his nomination by a student touching and humbling.

“I can only do what I do because they put in the work,” said Hart, a fourth-year teacher at Johansen.

Make no mistake, Hart also puts in the work.

“If there’s anybody around here that puts in more hours than I do, it’s him,” said Johansen Principal Nathan Schar. Besides giving a fresh twist to traditional band and orchestra activities, Schar said, Hart works history and other course content into musical performances.

“He’s definitely trying to develop the all-around student when it comes to the arts, so it’s very impressive,” Schar said.

“To have so many other faculty in the process means so many other people have a buy-in,” Hart said. Reaching out means pulling in the audience, he explained. “Otherwise, we’d just be playing concerts in an empty room, performing in a vacuum.”

Even with school out, Hart is working with students, preparing to play at the Modesto Nuts game June 22 and march in Modesto’s Fourth of July Parade.

“(July Fourth) marks the end of my school year. Then I get two weeks off,” he said. Plans for his time off? He’s meeting with an expert on American composer Charles Ives to “talk music.” As he put it, “ I get to be a nerd on my vacation.”

The school year that just ended included:

• A tribute to the 1960s, with music covering themes of civil rights, the space race and the première of a commissioned work on Cesar Chavez by Brett Abigaña. “That was really, really great for the students, to talk with a living composer about a piece he wrote for them,” Hart said. Teachers schoolwide got involved, linking lessons to the Profiles in Courage fundraiser themes.

• The football halftime show came from “Les Misérables.” “It’s great music. It’s a great story to tell,” he said. The drama department helped out with costumes. “We looked at what was available, what would be fun, but also has a teachable component,” Hart said.

• A spring concert with food vendors and free activities for kids at Creekwood Park, done in collaboration with Neighborhood Watch and the Modesto Police Department for two years.

• Two “March Around the Town” events in December, around the east Modesto neighborhoods by Johansen, are part fundraiser, part caroling. “We play happy-sounding music and have a lot of fun doing it,” he said.

 Going to a première performance of Hart’s composition “Dreams Haunt Me,” performed by the San Francisco State University Wind Ensemble and conducted by Hart. “To have my students there to share in that moment, students that are really my extended family,” meant a lot, he said.

Hart said he gets his energy from his pupils. “In reality, they’re inspiring me more than I could even attempt to inspire them,” he said.

His submission for the next level of the Grammy contest is due soon. Ten finalists will earn $1,000 honorariums, as will their schools. The winner of the Music Educator Award will receive $10,000 and take a bow on the 2015 Grammy Awards telecast.

The award, supported by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation, recognizes “educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools,” notes the website. Nominees include kindergarten through college teachers, public and private schools.

See a video of Brad Hart’s composition “Dreams Haunt Me” at www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF9OoIm2DXg. See more on the contest at www.grammy.org/news/quarterfinalists-announced-for-music-educator-award. Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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