Dr. Jeffery Redding has earned top accolades as an international choir director, national honor choir director and Teacher of the Year. And come Feb. 10, he could be adding a Grammy to his trophy shelf.
The director of choral activities at West Orange High School and the executive director of the Garden Choir is among the Top 10 finalists for the Grammy Music Educator Award, given to one teacher for his or her role in shaping students’ lives through music.
The winner will be announced Feb. 7 and will attend the Feb. 10 Recording Academy Grammy Awards program.
Redding was notified last spring that he was among the 188 quarterfinalists out of a field of about 2,800 nominees. In September, he learned he and 24 other educators, including Michael Antmann, from Freedom High, were in the semifinals. Last month, Redding’s name was included in the Top 10.
For the last two years, Redding has been nominated and reached the quarterfinal round.
The GME Award is presented by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Museum and supported by the NAMM Foundation, the National Association for Music Education and the National Education Association.
It was created to recognize current educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools.
On Feb. 6, the sixth annual winner will be notified and flown to Los Angeles for the live announcement the following day and attendance to the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. The nine remaining finalists receive $1,000, and the schools of all 10 finalists receive matching grants.
Redding still can’t believe he has made it this far.
“I’m in shock,” he said. “I’m honored. I’m humbled by it greatly. But also it gives the message a platform that we’ve done it at West Orange High School. It’s more so about the people who supported me. It’s more so about the students I’ve taught and the administrations that allowed me to do what I do. It gives a greater platform to say, ‘Look what we’ve done.’”
Eager to shift the praise from himself to the students, the principals and the community, Redding is even quicker to credit his success to his mother, a single parent who raised four boys.
“I was that kid who was on food stamps, … on cheese, on powdered milk,” he said. “She never made excuses. She was able to create an inspiring and healthy environment … and never allowed us to be a victim …and taught us to serve and give back. We were poor, but we were extremely rich.
“I was that kid that people said wouldn’t be anything,” he said, “so I’m driven to serve.”
Redding takes West Orange singers on choir trips every year so they can grow their world, he said.
“Unless you go outside your experiences, you’re only going to know what you know,” Redding said. “You cannot put a price tag on a life-changing experience.”
Winning a Grammy would certainly qualify as a life-changing experience, but Redding remains humble.
“It wasn’t about the Grammy,” Redding said. “It was about serving the kids, and the Grammy was a result of it. I want to teach kids; that’s where my heart is.”
Redding directs all of the choral programs at West Orange with his associate, Daryl Yasay, and has led his choirs in performances at state, regional, national and international conventions, including multiple first-place finishes. While participating in the International Music Festival in Verona, Italy, West Orange High earned the Gold Award for best choir and Redding was honored as top director.
He has been on the Warrior faculty since 1997, barring a few years to work on his doctorate degree and to teach one-and-one-half years of college in West Virginia.
“At West Orange High School, our vision is touching and changing lives through unity,” Redding said.
He was asked to re-create this sensation in 2008 when the Garden Theatre was opening in downtown Winter Garden, so Redding began directing the community’s Garden Choir. In the beginning, it had 20 members; today, there are 140 voices carrying out the choir’s mission of unity through song.
What’s important, he said, is that his Grammy nomination brings attention to the high school music program and the community that supports it.
“My heart is to serve; but we do it together,” Redding said. “And we’re not done.”
Redding has been featured as a guest conductor at many prestigious venues, such as Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. He has given a TEDx Talk. In November and December, he serves as one of four conductors at Disney’s Candlelight Processional at Epcot.
He holds a doctoral degree in choral conducting and music education and a master’s degree in music education, both from the Florida State University, and a Bachelor of Science in music education from Florida A&M University. He is a graduate of Jones High School.
The choral director holds memberships in numerous musical organizations and has served as chairman and co-chair of multiple musical programs.
The Recording Academy represents the voices of performers, songwriters, producers, engineers and all music professionals. The Grammy is music's only peer-recognized accolade and is the highest achievement.