Two Delaware music teachers have a shot at doing something that Queen, Jimi Hendrix and Tupac Shakur never did in their illustrious careers: win a Grammy award.
Appoquinimink School District’s Ryan Moseley and John Gordon have been named as quarterfinalists for the 2023 Music Educator Award, which is given by the Recording Academy and Grammy Museum.
The pool of nominees started with 1,500 people from across the country, all recommended by coworkers, administrators, parents, students or Recording Academy members.
Now, 207 nominees remain in play for the award, after rounds of interviews that contain written and video questions asking the music teachers about their teaching philosophy, styles and methods.
The award was created in 2014 to highlight that “for every performer who makes it to the Grammy stage, there was a teacher who played a critical role in getting them there.”
Among the reasons the institution says teachers are important is that music students in high-quality programs score higher on standardized tests, schools with music programs have significantly higher attendance and research indicates that music instruction is linked to significantly improved reading skills.
The quarterfinalists have until June 30th to submit their next round of questions and assignments to the academy, and the semifinalists will be announced in September.
A lifelong Delawarean with three degrees and a certification, all from University of Delaware, Moseley joined Appoquinimink High in 2008 to jumpstart their band program.
Growing up in a musical family, Moseley has been a lifelong musician, taking piano lessons from his grandmother – a choir and piano teacher at George Read Middle School – while in kindergarten.
Moseley learned saxophone in third grade, drums and french horn in 10th grade, and says he can play pretty much anything that’s thrown at him, although he says he’s most proficient on piano, saxophone, and using his voice.
“I’m honored and humbled that someone would take the time to nominate me,” he said. “I’m kind of speechless that somebody would think that highly of me and take the time to actually nominate me.”
The smiles on childrens’ faces and their exuberance when they achieve something on their instrument is why he teaches music – to watch that “musical moment,” as he puts it.
Moseley was nominated by former student Taylor Price.
He said that being in the top 200 of the thousands of music teachers across the country is an amazing feeling.
“I’m looking forward to going on to the next round and representing the school district, and first and foremost, the kids and parents that I work with everyday,” he said.
Moseley, who started his career 17 years ago, has been married to his wife for 16 years and has a 14-year-old son and an 11-year-old-daughter.
He said his grandparents, parents and several cousins have been music instructors in their life, so it’s definitely a family affair that may not be stopping anytime soon.
“My son is very much my musical child,” he said, “so he’s getting involved in theater productions and things of that nature.”
Golf and volleyball are Moseley’s two sports of choice, although a lot of his time is spent chauffeuring his children to swimming and gymnastics events they compete in.
Moseley said he enjoys and listens to all genres of music, but some of his favorite bands and musicians are the Dave Matthews Band, Frank Sinatra, Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown Band.
“If it has strings, I can play it, that’s kind of my specialty,” said Gordon, who started Appoquinimink High School’s strings program 12 years ago. He has been teaching strings and choir for 15 years.
He currently conducts the orchestra of Everett Meredith Middle School, Cantwell’s Bridge Middle School and Odessa High School, while also teaching strings lessons at Old State Elementary.
Ironically, Gordon’s high school music teacher, Jo Wallace-Abbie, was a semifinalist for the very first Music Educator Award in 2014.
Originally from a small suburb outside of Dallas, Gordon received his degree in music performance from the University of Denver.
But, a career in live performance wasn’t for him.
“I didn’t necessarily want to be a professional musician,” he said. “I found joy in watching my teachers teach.”
Gordon immediately went back to his Texas roots and earned a degree in music and human learning from the University of Texas which helped provide him the qualifications he needed to be an educator.
From there, he worked at the String Project, a national organization focused on teacher development.
He’s not done yet – Gordon is working to earn his doctorate in the Musical Arts in Music Education at Boston University, completing his dissertation entitled “An Investigation of Student Interpretations and Internalizations of Modeling in a String Ensemble Classroom.”
The man of many strings prefers the bass.
Like Moseley, Gordon is a music junkie who listens to everything from hip hop to jazz and classic to country.
It might be easier to pull his teeth than to get his favorite band out of him.
“That’s such a hard question, and my students asked me all the time,” he said. “It really depends on my mood, and what I’m doing. Like right now, I actually have country music on because it’s hot outside and I’m feeling the summer vibes, but yesterday, I had Florence + the Machine’s new album going in the room.”
Gordon and his wife, Tia, have an 8-year-old daughter, Tessa. Rounding out the Gordon family is a “small, grump dog named Coco.”
In his free time, Gordon enjoys running, watching Texas Rangers baseball, and playing board games.
Gordon noted how proud he is of Moseley, who worked with him for over a decade at Appoquinimink High School, both of them developing trail-blazing music programs.
“Up until two years ago, we practically shared an office,” he said. “We’ve taken the kids to Disney twice, we are going to Toronto, we take the kids to Boston and Cedar Point, and Moseley and I were essentially the ones building the instrumental program.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
Jarek can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz
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