UPPER DARBY — For the second year in a row a Delaware County music teacher has been named a finalist for the Grammy’s highest honor for music teachers.

Drexel Hill Middle School’s Jason Majerczak is one of 10 teachers from across the country in the running for the 2020 Music Educator Award presented by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Museum, following up Penncrest High School’s Craig Snyder, who was a finalist last year.

Before the Recording Academy publicly released their list of finalists on Jan. 6, Majerczak found out he made the cut from an initial pool of 3,300 applicants right before the start of the winter break on Dec. 20.

“There are so many incredible teachers all around the country and I’m happy to be thought as one of the many in our schools,” said Majerczak during a Friday morning phone call to discuss his finalist ranking.

Majerczak has been a 23-year teacher with the Upper Darby School District, teaching at the high school for 16 years before moving to Drexel Hill Middle School. He says he teaches about 150 students today in two bands, an orchestra, jazz band and by providing instrumental lessons. Outside of the classroom he assists the Ridley High School Marching Band. 

His consideration as one of the country’s top music teachers started in the spring when he was nominated for the award by a former student – Upper Darby High School senior Andrew Latini –and was named one of 189 quarterfinalists in June. Majerczak had to provide to the award committee further documentation about his background and teaching experience, plus record a session of him providing music instruction to his students.

Until his notification in December, he thought he just hadn’t made the cut.

“I’ve definitely been tying get it out of my mind,” he said. “I teach a lot and just being that busy I just tried to forget about it as much as I could. I came to the conclusion I guess I didn’t and moved on, which was fine. I was proud to be a (quarter) finalist.”

Throughout his career he helped his students reach their potential as musicians, from novices to the more experienced. He has watched them claim trophies as part of the Upper Darby High School Marching Band and go on to perform the National Anthem at the Philadelphia Eagles Wild-Card playoff game on Jan. 5.

The Grammy distinction for his efforts, he said, goes back to what he has seen his students accomplish.

“The one thing I’ve been telling my students is I don’t consider this nomination just about me: without the students I wouldn’t be in this position. Every student I’ve taught has allowed me to be successful. This is just about the community of people who have taught with me through the years,” he said. “I really care about my kids and I try not to set limitations on them. I want them still to feel like little professional musicians and I really try to be energetic with them.

“It’s not only about music in the classroom, but all of the lessons from playing in band, playing in orchestra.”

Majerczak’s finalist status is Upper Darby’s latest connection to the nation’s top music institution.

Jim Croce was nominated for two Grammy awards in 1973 including the top award of record of the year for “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” followed by Todd Rundgren in 1983 for his music video “Videosyncracy” and Tina Fey in 2011 for best spoken word album for reading her autobiographical book “Bossypants.” Immanuel Wilkins – who performed at the Eagles game on Jan. 5 – went to the Grammy Camp- Jazz Session in 2014 and 2015, the former year accompanied by his classmate Yesseh Furaha-Ali . Both students were taught by Majerczak at the high school.

But Majerczak can stand alone as the first Upper Darby teacher to be considered for the music educator award since it was first doled out in 2014.

“There’s no substitute for hard work; if you work hard you’ll be successful,” said Majerczak.

On the first-ever occurrence of Delco teachers being finalists in consecutive years he said, “There are good things going on in this area musically. All of the teachers that I work with in performances and competitions, it is so important what they do.”

One of the remaining 10 finalists one will be named the 2020 Grammy Music Educator Award winner and flown out to Los Angeles to be recognized during Grammy Week 2020 to attend special events leading up to the 62nd Grammy Awards where they will attend the annual music ceremony on Jan. 26. Each finalist receives a $1,000 honorarium with the school receiving a matching grant. Majerczak said he will use the money to start scholarships for students to receive private music lessons.

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