How many kids can say their teacher is up for a Grammy? They can at Churchill High School in Livonia. Band director Elizabeth Hering is so beloved there that students nominated her for the national Grammy Music Educator Award.
The 19-year veteran teacher and mom of three was chosen from 2,800 initial applications and wound up among just 10 finalists up for the honor in 2019.
Here at home, Hering’s mission is to “make lives better through music.” Her classes are designed to build experiences, friendships and memories among teens.
And music class is unlike other subjects, she notes: It gives students a unique chance to tune into their intellectual and emotional selves.
“I believe that the students that have the opportunity to participate in music during high school – one of the most emotionally vulnerable times in their lives – develop into adults that have a deep understanding of self that allows them to confidently maneuver through the challenges life presents,” Hering says.
That’s why she expects her own kids, ages 13, 11 and 8, to participate in music in some capacity, all starting with piano around age 5.
“I try to help them find the musical path that they find the most fulfilling,” says Hering, who first picked up her trademark trumpet at 15. “It’s my hope that they all become more ‘whole’ by having these experiences.”
For parents, she adds, encouraging perseverance even when the practice gets tough is key. Learning an instrument isn’t easy, she says, but patience pays off.
“Practicing something you are not yet good at is something that is particularly frustrating for this generation of kids that are used to having so many things instantly,” she says, so parents often let their kids quit too soon. “They need to learn to push through plateaus.”
While the Grammy Educator award wound up going to Jeffrey Redding in Florida at the Feb. 10, 2019 event, the finalist recognition definitely struck a chord with Hering.
“(This) has allowed me to reflect upon the fact that I’m in a career I love,” she says.