Cassedy Named Finalist for Grammy Music Educator Award

December 12, 2014
Staff photos by Jillian DiPersio  Cassedy and the entire WHS Concert Band pose for a picture in celebration of Cassedy’s achievement

Staff photos by Jillian DiPersio Cassedy and the entire WHS Concert Band pose for a picture in celebration of Cassedy’s achievement

by Jillian DiPersio, Windham High School Student Intern

Normally I am careful to keep my own feelings and opinions out of all the articles I write.  This time I just couldn’t.

Jared Cassedy, director of Fine Arts for the Windham School District, has been named one of the top-ten finalists for the Second Annual Music Educator Award presented by the Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation.  As a member of the Windham High School Concert Band and a student of Mr. Cassedy’s for 10 years, I could not be more proud of my teacher and mentor.

The selections were announced on CBS News the morning of Friday, Dec. 5.  Cassedy himself had not been told the results ahead of time.  He was contacted the afternoon before and told to watch the news, but was busy Friday morning (not surprising as it is Mr. Cassedy after all) and missed it.  He did not know he had made the top ten “until people posted stuff on Facebook and also e-mailed me and I was like ‘what are you talking about?’ and that’s how I essentially found out.  It was pretty awesome though,” he told me.

His first reaction was pure joy.

“I could not believe it.  I remember running in to see Mrs. Cuneo, the choir director, and I just took her by the hand; we went into her office and she was like screaming, and I ran out to the front of the building and talked to the other administrators,” he said.

Assistant Principal Bob Dawson proceeded to make an announcement over the intercom.  In delighted amazement, I ran out of my advisory classroom to meet Mr. Cassedy at the front office to give him a congratulatory hug.  He was shaking in excitement, and I myself was walking on air the rest of the morning.

Of course, I was not alone in congratulating Mr. Cassedy.  As soon as the news broke, there must have been at least half a dozen other students, both in the band and not, there with me.  “I think that was one of the best parts:  that kids that are not even in band came up and congratulated me,” commented Cassedy.

Christina Raymond and her son, Timothy, nominated Cassedy for this award last year.  From a pool of 7,000 music educators from all 50 states teaching all levels, from kindergarten to college, Cassedy has now been recognized as a top-ten finalist.  Dawson told me “I think we are less surprised than (Cassedy) is.”  In his own candid way Dawson expressed his pride in Cassedy:  “I don’t think there’s any question that there are probably thousands of music educators around the country who are absolutely outstanding in their field … but I don’t know any of those people.  I don’t care if those other people win; I want Jared to win because he’s our guy.  He’s a colleague, he’s a friend, (and) he’s somebody I care about.”

I believe Mr. Cassedy is more than deserving of the recognition he is receiving.  A classmate of mine, senior Emily Bouley, told me “I think out of anyone Mr. Cassedy definitely deserves (the award) the most …  He’s a really outstanding director, both as a band director teaching us about music, but also teaching us about life and how to be a good person.”

I could not agree more with Emily.  I am a now a senior and in all the 10 years I have spent learning from Mr. Cassedy, he has never ceased to remind me and every single member of the band that it is not just about the music:  through music, we learn about life.  The philosophy of the WHS band program since the school’s inception six years ago has been “commitment to musicianship, commitment to your band, commitment to spreading your passion.”  Mr. Cassedy upholds this each and every day.  He pushes us to be not only the best musicians we can be, but also the best people we can be.

At Windham High School, Mr. Cassedy has cultivated a culture in which band is somewhere students can go to leave their baggage at the door, collaborate with fellow student musicians, and be accepted because of a passion we all share.  During lunchtime, a dozen or so of us swarm Mr. Cassedy’s office and share funny stories and talk about our days.  An observer from the outside looks through the windows of Cassedy’s office and can’t help but laugh:  there are so many people squished in there that, when we all leave, it looks like a crowd of circus performers exiting a clown car.  Despite the comedic quality of such an encounter, I believe this speaks to the incredibly personal relationship Cassedy has developed with each and every one of his students.  He knows us not only for our musical strengths, but also for our personalities.

For all of us, Cassedy holds the role of both respected teacher and trusted friend.  Personally, I could not imagine Windham High School without him.  Mr. Cassedy, you mean the world to your students and we hope you know you have already won the Grammy in Windham.