Dr. Richard Nickerson, director of choral studies at Windham High School, has been named a finalist for the Music Educator Award presented by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation. He is one of ten educators across the country to be named a finalist, from an initial application pool of thousands.
Nickerson was in his classroom with students when the announcement was made Thursday morning on CBS This Morning. “It was just so exciting to see their reaction,” he said.
Libby McBride, vice president of the Windham Chamber Singers said “It was really exciting when we saw his picture up there. It was incredible. We all gasped and applauded him. We were really excited.”
Nickerson said being named a finalist is “surreal” and he is incredibly humbled by the experience. One of the most powerful results of the announcement, he said, is the number of former students reaching out to him. “When a student goes out of their way to contact you 25 or 30 years later to tell you that you made a difference, it’s just very overwhelming,” he said. Nickerson has been director of choral activities at Windham High School for the past 29 years. He is also the Minister of Music at North Windham Union Church.
Celine Baker, president of the Windham Chamber Singers, said Nickerson is a role model who deserves the honor. She said Nickerson works tirelessly to bring once in a lifetime opportunities, like singing at Carnegie Hall, to his students. “It’s a total honor not only for himself, but for everyone he works with and for the community as a whole. Just to know that someone from our community is being recognized nationwide is just pretty incredible,” she said.
Baker added that Nickerson does a lot that might go unnoticed. “When you think about it, he doesn’t have to do all this stuff. We could be your average high school choir but instead he’s dedicated so much of his energy and his passion and his love of music to help others become what he wants from us,” she said. She believes his dedication inspires many members to continue being involved in music, whether as a career or for personal fulfillment.
McBride said she works with Nickerson not only with the Chamber Singers, but the school concert choir, on school musicals, and with her church choir. “I’m working with him all the time and he really puts in all of his energy to these groups. He puts in 110 percent so I think that nobody deserves this award more than he does. I think with all the opportunities he’s given us, this is a dream come true,” she said.
Nickerson said now all that is left to do is wait. The winner will be announced during Grammy Week in February. The Music Educator Award “was established to recognize current educators (kindergarten through college, public, and 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.”
Nickerson said he feels lucky to work in a community that values arts education. “This award is not about me, it’s about my students, it is about the community. If the community didn’t support this kind of work, we wouldn’t be talking right now,” he said.