He knew since December, but wasn’t allowed to say anything.
Last week, on Wednesday to be exact, Tesoro choral music teacher Keith Hancock finally was able to let it out.
Out of more than 3,300 nominations nationwide, The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation selected Hancock as the Grammy Music Educator of the Year. On top of the recognition, Hancock and Tesoro High were each awarded $10,000.
Hancock was told by Neil Portnow, president and chief executive officer of The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation, that he had been chosen.
“I started crying,” Hancock said. “It’s a huge honor and I think it’s a validation of the hard work to build the choir program. It’s a tribute to the edcuation I’ve received in my life and I get to share this with my students.”
Hancock will be at tonight’s event at the Staples Center and his award will be announced on stage by a presenter.
It’s the culmination of what has been a busy week for the 36-year old choral music educator.
Since he was announced as the Educator of the Year on a CBS morning news segment, Hancock has had a handful of interviews, some with media outlets from China and Uruguay.
“As music teachers, we’re fighting for our own importance,” he said. “Congress realizes our importance, but decisions on the budget are not the same. It’s been great to speak on the importance of the issue.”
He’s also had the chance to attend Grammy events and meet two of his contemporary heroes, Dave Matthews and Jason Mraz. He attended a nominee reception last night and will walk three red carpet events today.
Hancock was also on hand to see Tom Petty honored as the 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year, a ceremony that included performances by the Foo Fighters, Regina Spektor and Norah Jones, among others.
“It’s been amazing,” Hancock said. “We’ve seen some amazing performances already.”
While this is Hancock’s first Educator of the Year award, it’s not the first time the Grammy Foundation has recognized his work. Hancock was also nominated last year and was selected as a Top 10 finalist.
Henry Miller, director of instrumental music at Sierra Vista Middle School in Irvine, was also selected as a finalist this year.
In 15 years of teaching choral music at Tesoro High School, Hancock has grown his program from 35 students to 225 and from two choirs to nine.
His teaching philosophy goes beyond the notes on the page. Hancock wants his students to emote the text and tell a story on stage and, he said, that starts with him.
“I feel like the students are going to be a reflection of what I show them,” Hancock said in December. “We’re storytellers more than anything. We have to tell a story in the most compelling way possible.”
Getting his students emotionally engaged starts by providing tools and events to help his students bond early in their high school careers. The walls in his room on campus are lined with thousands of photos of students that have participated in his program, along with the words “We Are Family.”
Those bonding moments are what help turn individual singers into a choir, he said.
“When your kids join the Tesoro High choral department, they gain another family,” said Tina Green, a parent who nominated Hancock for the award and had two children learn in Hancock’s program.
“He’s everything to the kids.”
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