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Little Big Town, Lauren Daigle and others perform at CMA Foundation event

Lauren Daigle, Little Big Town, Caitlyn Smith and The War and Treaty perform at annual event that honors and funds music educators.

The CMA Foundation honored 30 music teachers from across the country Tuesday night at its annual Music Teachers of Excellence event held at Belmont’s Fisher Center for the Performing Arts.

Teachers got the opportunity to get glammed up and be celebrated by artists such as Lauren Daigle, Little Big Town, The War and Treaty, Caitlyn Smith and the CMA Foundation Youth Choir, who all performed at the event.

The CMA Foundation has invested $1 million into the Music Teachers of Excellence program since its inception in 2016. Tiffany Kerns, the foundation’s executive director, said the driving force behind the program is that music teachers are all too often unsung heroes.

“The whole reason this event even exists is music teachers told us they were often overlooked, not appreciated or seen as important when it comes to the academic subjects,” Kerns told The Tennessean. “Our industry wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for music teachers that developed incredible musicians. We need to bring the music industry and the artists together and highlight these incredible music teachers.”

Musician Tyler Filmore told The Tennessean he is a huge fan of supporting music education because without it, he doesn’t think he would be where he is today.

“Music education is very underfunded in my opinion,” he said. “There are so many schools where teachers are paying out of pocket for field trips and stuff. With the CMA Foundation stepping in it allows them to have better opportunities for more people to love music, better instruments in schools. I’m a huge fan of this. Its amazing. Think about what we spend on sports for our kids. Imagine if we did more of that for music.”

Other CMA news: 2023 CMA Awards nominees announced: Lainey Wilson, Jelly Roll top list

Celebrating unsung heroes

Dajuanna Hammonds teaches music at Hull-Jackson Montessori School in Nashville and said it was her music teachers growing up that implanted in her a joy of music. They are the heroes in her story, she said.

“This really means everything,” she continued. It reminds us that we are doing the right thing. When you hit a wall sometimes and you are feeling burned out or you don’t get the recognition from your school or your district —because a lot of times arts take a back seat to academics — to know that you are making the difference in the lives of children, which is something we see everyday, but to know that someone else notices and wants to appreciate us for that means so much.”

Elaina Gallas teaches music at Edmonson Elementary in Brentwood and said she thinks music speaks to the whole student.

“There’s something inside everybody that music can identify to,” Gallas said. “I tell my students if they want to grow up to be the next Taylor Swift, that’s great, but really all I want them to do is learn a love of music so they can one day be a patron of the arts, or maybe be in their middle school choir.”

Musician Lindsay Ell said she didn’t think she would be in music today if it weren’t for “Mrs. Patterson.”

“There is a special quality to music teachers,” she said. “The dedication and the passion for what they do. Their desire to go above and beyond is so wonderful. Mrs. Patterson would come early and she’d stay late. She’s the one who helped me learn that music is fun and music is such an important element when life gets stressful. I think music has the opportunity to change a person’s life.”

Melonee Hurt covers music and music business at The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee. Reach Melonee at mhurt@tennessean.com or on X @HurtMelonee.

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