News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Plano Teacher Up For Grammy Music Educator Award

January’s Grammy Awards is billed as music’s biggest night. The Grammy Foundation is now also recognizing teachers. When nominees were announced last week, a Plano orchestra teacher learned she’s up for the first ever Music Educator Award.


Jo Wallace-Abbie says the past few months have been surreal. After a student nominated her for a Grammy last spring, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing and the anticipation keeps building. She’s one of 10 finalists.

“It’s like the longest beauty pageant in the world or something like that. It’s just gone on and on for months as they’ve culled through some really impressive people,” Wallace-Abbie said. I’ve looked some of them up and I’m very impressed.”

Wallace-Abbie taught orchestra at Plano West Senior High for 14 years and plays the violin in the Richardson Symphony Orchestra. The Kentucky native began her teaching career in South Oak Cliff.

While she’s supposed to teach kids how to play string instruments, she’s determined to go beyond that.

“There’s so much more. There’s so much team work and there’s so much teaching them to be flexible and resilient because everyone is not going to be successful,” Wallace-Abbie said. “And sometimes you’re counseling kids who might have an issue they want to talk about, but there’s so much more involved and I think that’s what keeps the kids going is that they really find a home in the orchestra classes.”

For now, Wallace-Abbie says she’s just trying to stay focused on the job and not get too excited about the what-ifs.

“To keep my hopes down, I’m just presuming they’ve already picked the winner and maybe the winner even already knows,” she says. “I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m so thrilled to be one of the final 10. I would of course love to win this but that would be icing on the cakes. I’m happy the way it is.”

Nine finalists will receive $1,000. The winner gets flown to L.A. to attend the Grammy’s and collect a $10,000 check. The schools of the finalist and winner will receive matching grants.

Watch a video of students talk about the impact she’s had on them and why she was nominated for the award.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.