Dan Brenner keeps one thing in mind as he leads the music department in the Spring Grove Area School District.
"I always think of what's best for the students. Every decision I make is based upon that," he said.
He's laid-back, yet demands a good product and expects his students to achieve at a high level, Brenner said.
That teaching philosophy inspired a student to nominate him for the first-ever Music Educator Award, which is an effort of The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.
The award was first announced by Justin Timberlake at the end of the Grammys in February. It recognizes current educators who have made a positive impact to music education and demonstrate a commitment to maintaining music education in schools.
More than 30,000 educators were nominated, and Brenner was one of 217 music teachers nationwide who were selected as quarterfinalists.
'Overwhelming:' "It's pretty overwhelming. That a high school student in a general music class took time to nominate me means a lot. It feels like I'm making an impact, and it means we're doing a lot of good things here," he said.
Brenner is now tasked with creating videos to show examples of his teaching, including commentary from students and colleagues about his work.
The 217 quarterfinalists will be narrowed to 10 finalists.
One of those finalists will win and be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award, attend the 2014 Grammy Awards and receive a $10,000 award.
The other nine finalists will each receive a $1,000 award, and the schools of all 10 finalists will receive matching grants.
"A lot of districts have struggled with budget concerns, putting music education at risk. We've been fortunate to have a supportive community here and administration that recognizes the importance of music education," Brenner said.
His background: College-trained with a rock and jazz background, he said he is mainly a vocalist and percussionist.
Brenner was previously part of Mark DeRose and The Way Home, which opened for Blues Traveler in Sovereign Bank Stadium a few years ago.
He has since branched out on his own and recently released his first full-length studio album, "Love and Loss."
Brenner has worked in the district for 11 years, teaching jazz bands in grades seven through 12. He also teaches high school music classes Intro to Music Technology and History of American Pop Music.
He is a graduate of Lebanon Valley College and is currently working on two post-graduate degrees: a master's degree in classroom technology from Wilkes University and a master's degree in music education from Lebanon Valley College.
- Candy Woodall can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.