From a field of over 3,300 applicants, narrowed down to a group of 189 quarterfinalists, the 2020 GRAMMY Music Educator Award contenders have now been thinned down to the top ten. Within that top ten list is Eastland High School’s own band director, Stephen Cox.
The GRAMMY Museum® and The Recording Academy® partnered to present the Music Educator Award to bring attention to the excellent and impactful work being done by thousands of music teachers across the U.S.
The award is open to current U.S. music teachers from kindergarten through college in public and private schools. Anyone can nominate a teacher. Cox was nominated by high school student and EHS band member, Heath Slavens.
Making the top 10 guarantees Cox will receive $1,000 and the Eastland Band Boosters will receive a matching $1,000. The soon-to-be-announced 1st place winner will receive a a $10,000 grant along with a matching grant for their school. The winner will also be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award and attend the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards.
Although Cox had plans out of high school to major in music, being a band director was something he was determined not to do. His plans at that time were to delve into the performance realm of the music world. Fortunately, he was told “by some very smart people” that if he wanted to major in music he should go into music education. He would then have the certification and the ability to get a steady job as an educator. The more Cox got involved in the requirments for teaching music, the more he realized these were the things he really liked to do.
Stephen Cox has been the Eastland Band Director for eight years and a teacher for ten years. He attributes the success of the band program to the team they have and the long-term commitment of that team. Middle School Band Director, Jett Lowrance has been part of the team for six years and Juan Hernandez, Percussion Director is in his third year with the EHS Band program.
Cox emphasized, “The band program success has been entirely dependent on the team we have put together. Jett is as good as I am and he doesn’t get as much credit because he is the middle school director, yet his job is more important than mine. If the middle school program crashed, there is no way we would have the high school program we do.”
“The best decision I ever made was getting Jett Lowrance to come out and do this job with me.” Cox said.
Cox has no plans to leave Eastland anytime in the near future. “I don’t know if there’s a secret to life, but if there is, I think it’s to know when you’ve got a good thing going.” He continued, “I like my job, I like the people I work with, my family is
Cox has hobbies which include video editing and playing the ukulele. He incorporates those hobbies into his job. At the beginning of each year Cox makes a corny, fun, yet informative welcome video for the students. A segment of last year’s welcome video was used in one of the videos he submitted to the award committee. Cox said he wanted it to include his students and to be different. “Nobody else is going to have a zombie lizard in their video.”
During the band banquet at the end of each year, each senior has the opportunity to speak about what the band program has meant to them. Even though they have all learned a lot about music, it is their personal growth through the program that they speak more often about. Stephen Cox is making a difference not only in the performance level of the band, but in the lives of these students as they pass through the program.
Congratulations, Mr. Cox and good luck!