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Soul: Zack Pitt-Smith OUSD Music Teacher Is Semifinalists For 2022 Grammys Music Educator Award

Soul: Zack Pitt-Smith OUSD Music Teacher Is Semifinalists For 2022 Grammys Music Educator Award


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Oakland – It’s not often that a school teacher gets recognized on the national level for their work in the classroom, but that’s exactly what is happening to an OUSD music teacher. Zack Pitt-Smith, who teaches at Edna Brewer Middle School, is one of 25 semifinalists for the Music Educator Award, which is part of the Grammy Awards, given out by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Museum. “I am proud to be a teacher in the Oakland Unified School District where I have worked for 15 years,” said Pitt-Smith. “The rapidly changing urban community of Oakland has allowed me to bring to light real life issues of race, gentrification, diversity, equity in my classroom. Music is the medium through which my students discover and wrestle with the real task of becoming citizens.”

The Music Educator Award recognizes current educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the music education field and demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools. “Being a middle school teacher to me means raising conscious, woke, engaged community members. I make sure students see that developing their own musical voice within the ensemble is a metaphor for the larger context of growing up as active participants in the modern world.”

inline images 1635987563780 original eee4e35c 91ce 4c0a a1e5 614e5c3f8ab7 Screenshot 20211103 174302While Pitt-Smith may not have been nationally known before now, some of the work done by him and his students has garnered national attention. In October of 2016, along with other members of the OUSD Honor Band, some of his students were inspired by Colin Kaepernick and chose to participate in the national protest against police brutality against people of color. While performing the National Anthem before an Oakland A’s Game, many band members chose to take a knee. (That’s Pitt-Smith conducting.) Video of the protest went viral, sparking a firestorm of controversy. Pitt-Smith’s students and all Honor Band members stood strong in the face of hateful rhetoric coming from many other parts of the country. “Their commitment to speaking their truth to power was and always is an enormous inspiration to me to lift up voices that need to be heard.”

In 2019, the Edna Brewer Jazz Band was asked to take part in the Pixar-Disney movie, “Soul.” It came to pass through an amazing stroke of luck. The band was performing at Yoshi’s Jazz Club, and in the audience that night was a Pixar producer, who decided to hire the band for the movie. They were the musicians who performed in the scene where the lead character, middle school music teacher, Joe Gardner – played by Jaime Foxx – was leading his class in a song, when he had to stop and explain musical inspiration.

That scene is here:


When informed of his place as a semifinalist, Pitt-Smith, redirected the attention to all of his colleagues in music classes across the District. “It is a tremendous honor to have this recognition be given to all Oakland Unified music teachers. We are striving to bring inspiration and opportunity to students in our community. Knowing that the Grammy Association sees our creativity and hard work is affirming and encouraging to keep on this path in the face of all the struggles. We are a strong team! I’m humbled and excited to keep giving the best to our Oakland youth!”

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“I am constantly inspired by the brilliance of our teachers, and the impact they have on our students,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “Mr. Pitt-Smith is an outstanding example of this impact, as he teaches far more than just music. His students know their craft, and they also know how to use those abilities to express themselves, and do so on the important issues of the day. I applaud Mr. Pitt-Smith, and along with everyone in OUSD, I am pulling for him to win the well-deserved Music Educator Award.”

The Grammy Museum and the Recording Academy say each year, one recipient is selected from 10 finalists and recognized for their remarkable impact on students’ lives. They will receive a $10,000 honorarium and matching grant for their school’s music program. The nine additional finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium and matching grants. The remaining 15 semifinalists will receive a $500 honorarium with matching school grants.

The finalists will be announced in December, and the winner will be recognized during Grammy Week 2022. For more information, please visit www.grammymusicteacher.com.

SD, I am pulling for him to win the well-deserved Music Educator Award.”

The Grammy Museum and the Recording Academy say each year, one recipient is selected from 10 finalists and recognized for their remarkable impact on students’ lives. They will receive a $10,000 honorarium and matching grant for their school’s music program. The nine additional finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium and matching grants. The remaining 15 semifinalists will receive a $500 honorarium with matching school grants.

The finalists will be announced in December, and the winner will be recognized during Grammy Week 2022. For more information, please visit www.grammymusicteacher.com.

About the Oakland Unified School District


In California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 80 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success.

To learn more about OUSD’s Full Service Community District focused on academic achievement while serving the whole child in safe schools, please visit OUSD.org and follow us @OUSDnews.

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