Belchertown teacher a quarterfinalist for music educator Grammy Award

  • Geoffrey Gould teaches a first grade music class at Swift River Elementary School in Belchertown in October. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS


  • Geoffrey Gould teaches a first-grade music class at Swift River Elementary School in Belchertown in October. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Geoffrey Gould teaches a first grade music class at Swift River Elementary School in Belchertown in October. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2019 11:50:34 PM

BELCHERTOWN — A Belchertown music teacher has been selected as a quarterfinalist for the 2020 Grammy Music Educator Award.

Geoffrey Gould, a music teacher at Swift River Elementary School, is one of 189 teachers nationwide to make the cut for the quarterfinals. The quarterfinalists were chosen from a pool of more than 3,300 nominees.

“It’s very gratifying to know that I’m in a pool of people who are being seriously looked at as being people who take their craft seriously,” Gould said in an interview with the Gazette, “and who are all aiming and striving to create a better world around music education for our students.”

For Gould, making it to the quarterfinals is more than just a personal achievement. He’s been working to drum up excitement around the district’s music program, and the recognition has served as another opportunity to talk up the program’s advancements, such as the recent installation of a college-level piano lab. With the installation of the lab, which he spearheaded, all students will leave the elementary school with a basic piano education.

The Grammy acknowledgment “feels more like a platform to elevate our music program even further, and what we do in Belchertown,” Gould said, “rather than it feeling like my own personal recognition.”

Gould had to keep the news under wraps for about a month before the Recording Academy officially announced the quarterfinalists in June, he said. But Belchertown schools were still in session for about a week following the announcement, and he had the chance to share the news with his students, who he said found the accomplishment exciting for their own reason.

“I don’t think they understand the scope and the importance of the Grammy Award, but they were actually more excited about me potentially getting to go to the Grammy Awards and meet Taylor Swift,” Gould said with a laugh, adding that the community has been “incredibly supportive.” Gould was nominated by one of his fellow teachers at Swift River Elementary School.

Gould will find out if he has made it to the next phase of the competition in September. Last year, just 25 semifinalists were chosen. The eventual winner, chosen from among 10 finalists, is flown to Los Angeles in January to be recognized during the televised broadcast of the 62nd annual Grammy Awards, and receives a $10,000 personal honorarium and a customized award. Finalists and semifinalists receive $1,000 and $500 honorariums, respectively.

Current full-time music teachers from public or private schools at the kindergarten through college level are eligible for the award.

‘A new flavor’

Gould recently finished out a standout school year — the opening of the collegiate-level piano lab marked a “pretty unprecedented” accomplishment for an elementary school, he said in a previous interview with the Gazette. The lab has 12 Yamaha Clavinova CLP-635 pianos with a split-key function, which allows the instruments to accommodate up to 24 students at a time.

The school is still in the process of installing some of the digital elements of the lab, he said, but installation is “about 90 percent” complete. Gould was able to start some basic lessons with the students during the remainder of the school year.

“We already had a lot of goose-bump moments where kids are playing piano and sounding wonderful,” Gould said. “I think this is really going to drive a new flavor of music education in our town.”

The school has received almost $27,000 in donations toward the piano lab, Gould said, and if this figure reaches $32,000, “not one cent of the piano lab will have to come from a school budget.”

Aside from garnering financial support, Gould said that the piano lab has received words of encouragement from people from various corners of the country — an anonymous organization known as Postcard Underground caught wind of the lab, and supporters from as far away as Montana have sent postcards to express their excitement over the program.

“People from all over the country are rooting Belchertown on because of this initiative,” Gould said.

Regardless of what becomes of his Grammy nomination, Gould is already looking forward to the next school year.

“The Grammy is exciting,” he said, “but getting to start in September or late August with this state-of-the-art, new approach to music education with elementary students — it’s like I already won the award.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at
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