For the second time in four years, Dr. Richard Nickerson, director of choral activities at Windham High School, has been recognized as one of the top music educators in the country. Nickerson has been named a semifinalist for the 2017 Music Educator Award to be presented by the Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation.
Nickerson was named a quarterfinalist for the prestigious award in April of 2013. This year, he is one of 25 semifinalists from an applicant pool of thousands from all 50 states. In December, 10 finalists will be chosen. The final winner will be announced in February 2017, and flown to Los Angeles to receive the award and attend the Grammy Awards.
“It’s a little surreal,” Nickerson said on Tuesday afternoon. “There’s a lot of excitement around here. The students are very excited.”
The Music Educator Award was established to recognize current full time educators from kindergarten through the college level in either public or private schools “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 schools.”
Anyone can nominate a teacher for the award. Nickerson was nominated by another music educator, he said. Once nominated, educators are notified and invited to fill out an application that included both school data points and essay questions on teaching philosophy, Nickerson said. After being selected as a quarterfinalist, Nickerson was asked to submit three videos and a written resume. The videos detailed specific points such as teaching philosophy, how he has dealt with challenges, and an uninterrupted video of him teaching, Nickerson said. Now, as far as he knows, the only thing to do is wait for the announcement of finalists.
Nickerson said he is overwhelmed with the support he feels from the community, especially the people reaching out in the past few days as word got out that he is a semifinalist. “It’s been very humbling,” he said. “I just continue to be so thankful and feel so blessed that I am so well supported by this community, and that they’ve enabled me to take risks, to try different things in this incredible journey that I’m on and bring my students along for the ride.”
Recently, the Windham Chamber Singers performed a nearly sold out show with a Queen tribute band at the Windham Performing Arts Center. “It was so different from anything we’ve ever done, and I think that was one of the things that the community was really into,” Nickerson said. The energy generated that evening was unlike any concert the students have performed, he added, with people literally dancing in the aisles.
Nickerson has taught at Windham High School for 30 years. He conducts three choirs, teaches music courses, and is the music coordinator for the district. He is also the Minister of Music at North Windham Union Church.
Nickerson has won many awards, including Maine Music Educator of the Year and Maine Distinguished Choral Director of the Year. In January 2009, he was named one of ten “choral directors of note” in the US by Choral Director Magazine. Nickerson has also been runner-up for Maine Teacher of the Year. Nickerson has conducted in major concert venues throughout the world, and made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1998. Last April, he returned to Carnegie Hall to conduct a festival choir made up of singers from Maine.
Nickerson and the chamber singers are hard at work preparing for the American Family Holiday concert on December 3rd, 2016. In April 2017, the group’s spring tour will take them to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.