Raleigh music teacher a Grammy finalist
Posted December 10, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — A music teacher at Martin Magnet Middle School in Raleigh is one of 10 finalists for the Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy in conjunction with its annual Grammy Awards.
Danny Yancey, 34, was among more than 7,000 teachers nationwide nominated for the award, which is in its second year. A graduate of North Carolina Central University, he taught 10 years in Durham Public Schools before moving to Wake County three years ago.
When asked how he felt about the nomination, Yancey sighed and said, "Just like that, no words. It's overwhelming. It's an amazing, amazing feeling."
The Granville County native grew up playing piano and singing in the church choir. He said the chorus room was always a home away from home for him when he was in school, and he tries to give his students that same sense of connection.
Eighth-grader Leah Townsend and seventh-grader Stephanie Melvin said they feel that connection every day in his class.
"If I didn’t have music, I wouldn’t have very much," Townsend said. "He taught me it’s more than just a group of people singing together; it’s a family."
"He pretty much gave me the confidence to do things musically," Melvin said. "The first four seconds of being in his class, I automatically felt happy."
Yancey's Grammy nod is due to more than just his enthusiasm, however. He works hard at making music relevant for his students' overall academic success.
"Boost test scores? (Music) does that. Improving math skills? It does that. Improving reading? It does that," he said. "It teaches collaboration. It teaches teamwork. It teaches so many real-world life skills."
Principal Diann Kearney said that she often finds herself in Yancey's room while wandering the halls of Martin Middle and is excited to find energized students.
"His humble approach to music education, his level of preparation for the work they do outside of school – performances and productions – is second to none," Kearney said. "Our students just reap the benefits day after day."
As a finalist for the Music Educator Award, Yancey and Martin Middle each received $1,000. The winner of the award, which will be handed out on Feb. 7, and his or her school will each receive $10,000.
His students said they don't care whether he wins or not, as long as he keeps teaching.
"He definitely deserves it. He’s hands-down the best teacher," eighth-grader Kieren Harrell said, adding, "He already is ... cool."
More than the accolades and national attention, however, Yancey said he hopes that award brings needed attention to the importance of music education.
"Maybe those lawmakers thinking about cutting music from the budget will see this and think, if it’s on the Grammys, maybe it is important," he said.