Albion music teacher is a big fan of Westfield teacher who won Grammy

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2014 at 12:00 am

‘Whenever he was doing something it was all-out and it was for the kids.’ – Wayne Burlison on Kent Knappenberger

Photo courtesy of the Grammy Foundation – Kent Knappenberger

When Wayne Burlison did his student teaching at Westfield Academy in 1999, Kent Knappenberger made an impression.

Knappenberger is the Westfield teacher who is being honored this weekend with the first-ever Grammy Award for a music teacher. He was picked from 30,000 teachers who were nominated for the award across the country.

Burlison, an Albion elementary instrumental teacher, remembers Knappenberger and his dedication to students.

“He had a steel drum band and the kids did heavy metal,” Burlison said. “The general music students played in the bell choir. I saw things as a college student that I didn’t think you could do in a public school.”

Westfield is a tiny school in Chautauqua County. Many of the Fredonia music majors did their student teaching at Westfield.

“Mr. K” was well liked by students and the other music teachers, Burlison said.

“He had this enthusiasm,” Burlison said. “Whenever he was doing something it was all-out and it was for the kids. He didn’t want any glory.”

Burlison said strong school music programs excel from the efforts of several teachers, working together. That was apparent at Westfield, Burlison said.

“It really does take a team to educate kids musically,” he said. “At Westfield, they were definitely a team.”

Knappenberger has been a music teacher and choir director at Westfield Academy for 25 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Fredonia and a master’s degree in music education, harp performance and literature from Eastman School of Music.

Burlison has been rooting for Knappenberger, who was one of 10 announced finalists. He has been widely interviewed in Western New York and national media in the past week.

“He has a little less hair and a lot more beard,” Burlison joked about the honored teacher.

The Music Educator Award was established to recognize current educators 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 the schools.

Nominations for the second annual Music Educator Award are now open. The deadline to nominate a teacher is March 31. Click here for more information.

Click here to read an interview with Knappenberger on