Fanfare and cheering erupted as eager students, teachers and community members gathered inside West Orange High School’s courtyard Tuesday, Feb. 12, to welcome Dr. Jeffery Redding home after he received the 2019 Grammy Music Educator Award.
Redding, director of choral activities at WOHS and executive director of the Garden Choir, attended the 61st annual Grammy Awards Feb. 10, in Los Angeles, to receive his award, given to one teacher annually for his or her role in fostering a love of and hunger for music education.
At West Orange, the marching band played as cheerleaders, choir students and faculty members crowded around the red carpet. Tears welled up in Redding’s eyes as he walked the runway made just for him and took in the scenery — hundreds of familiar faces welcoming him home.
“I’m shocked, numb, trying to take in the moment but also happy,” he said. “I love my school, I love my kids, my faculty and staff. It’s home, but it felt totally undeserved. I was overwhelmed.”
As soon as his plane touched down in Los Angeles, Redding was running around doing interviews, speaking to students at a Grammy Live event and, of course, getting a shoutout from Grammy host Alicia Keys.
“I feel extra honored to acknowledge the winner of the 2019 Music Educator award, presented by The Recording Academy and the Grammy Museum, (to) Jeffery Redding,” Keys said during the Feb. 10 broadcast. “As the director of choral activities at West Orange High School in Orlando, Florida, we thank you, Mr. Redding, and exceptional music teachers everywhere who help kids find their music and change their lives in the process.”
A JOB WELL DONE
Redding had been nominated for this award the past two years and even reached the quarterfinal round. The GME Award is presented by The Recording Academy and the Grammy Museum, and it is supported by the NAMM Foundation, the National Association for Music Education and the National Education Association.
“We’re super excited about the Grammy win, and we’re really just amazed,” said Chad McClellan, president of the board of directors for the Garden Choir — now Orlando Choral Society — for which Redding also serves as director. “We’re in awe — I’ve been in awe of the man for the last 22 years, so now he’s got a Grammy to go with it, too. It’s nice that the whole world got to see a glimpse of him for a few seconds on the TV. This amazing person does amazing work. There’s so many deserving teachers out there, and we’re just blessed that he is our teacher.”
A graduate of Jones High School, Redding holds a doctoral degree in choral conducting/music education and a master’s degree in music education from Florida State University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in music education from Florida A&M University. He also is in demand as a guest conductor and lecturer worldwide. Redding has conducted the American Choral Directors Association National High School Honor Choir, among many other honor choirs, and has been featured as a guest conductor at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall.
He has led his choirs at West Orange in performances at state, regional and national conventions of the American Choral Directors’ Association. Additionally, while participating in the International Music Festival in Verona, Italy, West Orange received the Gold Award for best choir, with Redding honored as top director.
“I’m shocked, numb, trying to take in the moment but also happy. I love my school, I love my kids, my faculty and staff. It’s home, but it felt totally undeserved. I was overwhelmed.” — Dr. Jeffery Redding
As part of the GME award, Redding will be recognized with a $10,000 grant and another $10,000 for West Orange High.
All of this just confirms something students, faculty, parents and school-district officials knew all along: Dr. Redding is a passionate teacher who makes a difference in his students’ lives.
“We’ve all known that Jeff was incredible for years, but for him to get national and international recognition means so much to Orange County, to West Orange and to Jeff,” said Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins. “I think it represents for our teachers what incredible work they do, and his acknowledgement of the relationship and work he does at West Orange is a tribute to all of our teachers.”
CHANGING LIVES THROUGH MUSIC
For OCPS District 4 School Board Member Pam Gould, Redding is a prime example of an instructor who inspires and encourages his students to be the best versions of themselves.
“He really exemplifies four things for me,” Gould said. “The first is that he really creates discovery for his students, then enlightenment, teaches them grit and then they find joy. He just embodies all of that as one of our greatest teachers.”
McClellan was a freshman at West Orange High School in 1997, when Redding joined the staff. Now, the two work together through the OCS.
“He was always really passionate about everything he was doing,” McClellan said. “For that passion to still permeate through everything he does in his work, from working with West Orange and the Garden Choir and his church choir … I know a lot of people are seeing the Grammys as kind of like the height of his accomplishments — and it’s a huge accomplishment — but he still has so much more to give.
“It’s a lot of feelings that are hard to put into words, to go from being the 14-year-old kid who just showed up to choir thinking it was a class to sing to 22 years later still working with him in the Garden Choir,” McClellan said.
That passion Redding has for his music and his students lives on in today’s high-school students. For West Orange senior Eliza Simikian, Redding’s imprint on her life comes in the form of being encouraged to pursue postsecondary music education.
“He has helped me realize what I want to do in college,” said Simikian, also the vice president of the school’s Bel Canto choir and member of concert choir. “Two months ago, I wasn’t even thinking about majoring in music, and now I am. I’m auditioning at FSU, UCF, at many colleges, because seeing what he does makes me want to touch and change lives, as well.”
And even though their teacher, friend and colleague is now a Grammy-winning music educator, you won’t ever see West Orange’s choral director take any of it for granted.
“He’s still the same person, just as humble and caring as when he left, but it’s so much more exciting to have him here now because we knew that he deserved this for so long,” Simikian said. “This program is all about passion and purpose so now that we get to share that with the nation, it’s the best feeling.”
“I’m thankful, and this is not going to change who I am — I’m going to get right back to rehearsals,” Redding said with a smile.