Olney Central College Director of Bands Wade Baker is a quarter finalist for the 2019 GRAMMY Music Educator Award.
The award is given by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Museum.
The competition began with over 2,800 entries. According to Baker, a total of 188 music teachers from 171 cities were recently announced as quarter finalists.
The nomination process required contestants to write essays on various topics related to education.
Baker’s essays discussed his drive to continue transforming OCC’s music program by recruiting talent locally and from across the nation, by sharing his expertise as a professional musician, and by transferring his knowledge of the music business to students. While music education is important to Baker, he believes teaching life skills is paramount.
Baker said, “I want to share everything I know with the kids … My number one role is to teach students how to navigate life successfully”
He defines success as being able to do what you love while paying the bills.
“I want these kids to be afforded those opportunities. Sick and tired of people telling kids they can’t do that, or that’s impossible … If you love something and sacrifice for it, you can make it happen,” Baker said.
While he and students have celebrated musical growth, Baker has been moved mostly by the changes witnessed in students who have responded to positive reinforcement and “real love.”
He said, “If you can push the ego aside and work on things that people who love you tell you to work on, then that makes you a better person.”
“It took me until my 30s to realize that’s how you can get better. Sometimes we let the ego control our emotions and actions and we lose the opportunities to become better.”
Baker is known to use analogies in his teaching deliveries to help students apply lessons to the real world and in all areas of adulthood.
The educator’s passion for positively influencing the lives of students while grooming them for the real world has not gone unnoticed. The exposure of the GRAMMY nomination has already resulted in honor for Baker as well as OCC.
Symphonic Series at Carnegie Hall with Manhattan Concert Productions recently invited Baker and members of OCC’s concert band and community concert band to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“Carnegie Hall is one of the most prestigious concert halls in the world,” Baker said.
He hopes to make the opportunity a reality for OCC band members. The only obstacle is money. Baker explained that fundraising will be necessary to cover the costs of travel and lodging in New York City.
He said, “This is a huge deal for our school and community. We can get put on a national or international stage because of this … If we make waves on a national stage then people will want to come to this school from far away and suddenly cultural expansion happens. There’s something really special going on with Olney. It’s a tiny town with massive support for the arts.”
As Baker strategizes to raise support for the Carnegie Hall trip, he is also further developing the music program at OCC.
Next year he will add a jazz big band, two small jazz combos, and a commercial music ensemble which will include a full horn section that backs up singers doing music from the Motown era through today.
Baker is also creating the curriculum for an Associate’s Degree in Music and a Jazz Studies Certificate Program to be offered at OCC in the future.
Supporters who wish to make a donation for the Carnegie Hall trip may contact Doug Shipman in the business office at 618-395-7777.
Stay tuned for news regarding the 2019 GRAMMY Music Educator Award.