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Tuesday, Nov. 28
The Indiana Daily Student

arts jacobs school of music

Jacobs School professor earns Grammy award nomination


Recognition of legendary proportions may be on its way to one IU faculty member.

The Jacobs School of Music’s Brenda Brenner, an associate professor of music education, has been nominated to receive the Grammy Foundation’s Music Educator Award as part of the Grammy in the Schools initiative.

This is the first year the foundation has offered the award.

Three other nominees hail from Indiana schools including J. Scott Cooksey of Jeffersonville High School, Tiffany Galus of New Prairie High School and Peter Sampson of Whiteland Community High School.

Earlier this year, a group of Brenner’s graduate students surprised her with the nomination and a request to fill out a self-application.

“I used to never be able to picture myself as a teacher,” Brenner said. “Now I might receive this award, and it could really benefit what I’m trying to do.”

What she’s trying to do is teach the violin to first-graders.

Brenner said it’s “more like herding cats,” but the effort is an attempt to create a more musically literate world.

And a number of her graduate students get real-world experience helping her teach the first-graders at Fairview Elementary.

Brenner feels this classroom time will lend her graduat students the experience needed to field a real classroom later in their careers.

“I want my IU kids to work with students from the get-go,” Brenner said. “That way I don’t let a bunch of brand-new teachers get hired to a school to discover they don’t like working with kids.”

Thirty-six of those teachers-to-be work alongside Brenner with children who attend Fairview Elementary, a Bloomington grade school where 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch programs based on low family income levels.

Amanda Guinn, a first-grade teacher at Fairview, said Brenner’s violin lesson project is a service to the kids at Fairview.

“Having Brenda at the helm of this program has developed many children, who would otherwise not have the opportunity, into wonderful young musicians,” Guinn said.

But music isn’t the only thing the students are learning during their tri-weekly lessons.

“Having stamina and learning to stick with something are lessons that translate perfectly into our classrooms,” Guinn said. “It helps the children to become better readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists and friends.”

Brenner’s work across all grade levels was the basis of her self-application for the award.

IU Chair of Music Education Brent Gault said it’s something that makes Brenner stand out.

“She goes out of her way to create meaningful artistic experiences for both her pre-college students and our music education students,” Gault said. “Brenda Brenner is, quite simply, the finest string educator I know.”

But helping create and inspire talented violinists like herself is only secondary.

“My university students are from all over the world,” Brenner said. “My real hope is that they go back to where they’re from or different parts of the world to teach an appreciation and knowledge of all the arts.”

More than 30,000 educators from all 50 states were nominated for the unprecedented award.

As one of the 217 quarterfinalists, Brenner will find out if she made it to the final 10 in August.

Nine of those finalists win an honorarium of $1,000 while the award winner receives $10,000.

“If I won I’d use the award as a soapbox to further my message,” Brenner said. “And that’s that we need to fill the world with people who will make a commitment to

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