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Downing Middle Orchestra Teacher Named Grammy Semifinalist

Recording artists aren’t the only people who can win a Grammy. Downing Middle School orchestra teacher Bethany Hardwick is in the running now as she was named one of just 25 semifinalists nationwide for the Grammy in the Schools Music Educator Award.

“I’m so honored to be on the semifinalist list.  There are countless educators who are making a difference every single day, and I’m lucky enough to work alongside so many of them!” said Hardwick. “I know that I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the love and support of my Downing Orchestra family and the fantastic teachers and mentors that have guided me along the way.”

The Grammy Museum recognizes educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader case of maintaining music education in the schools. Hardwick made her impact as most teachers do – seeing a need and filling it.

Last spring, Hardwick won the Cain Sczepanski Award of Excellence for her work in developing the program “Downing Gives Bach”, an outstanding, thoughtful program that establishes a safe place for special education students within the orchestra program. The Cain Sczepanski Award of Excellence is an award that recognizes teachers who have made an impact in special education in Lewisville ISD, awarded by the Cain Sczepanski Foundation in partnership with the Lewisville ISD Education Foundation (LEF).

“Downing Gives Bach” quickly grew into LISD’s first full-time orchestra inclusion class and includes every Academic Life Skills student at Downing Middle. Hardwick teamed with another former Sczepanski Award winner Jennifer Rodgers to create the impactful program that saw rapid growth.

“The students and parents jumped on board immediately, and everyone around us worked tirelessly to make sure this class happened,” Hardwick said. “Virtually overnight, inclusion became the core of the Downing Orchestra identity. We find ways to spread music to everyone we can because music belongs to everyone.”

Rodgers said that it was Hardwick’s effort to go above and beyond that made the program possible. She researched modifications and hardware to allow for better control of the instruments for students with challenges in small motor skills, individually fitted Life Skills students with appropriate instruments considering which students may need less sensory stress, and much more.

Downing Middle School’s Circle of Friends program more than doubled in size as a direct effect from the program because general education students in the orchestra have taken an interest. Now, Rodgers says her Life Skills students are being invited to social events outside of school for the first time ever and that she is seeing general education students considering careers teaching special needs students.

A parent, Michelle Woods, admitted being “truly amazed by how the efforts of one individual can make such a monumental difference in the world of a special needs child.” She praised Hardwick’s program that not only created immeasurable progress in her son, but also uplifted her spirits as a parent.

“I get to do the thing that I love all day with some pretty awesome kids,” said Hardwick. “Inclusion matters, and I encourage every music educator to find ways to make their program more inclusive. You’ll think you’re doing it for the kids, but in reality, you’ll find that it changes you more than you could have ever imagined.”

Hardwick clearly embodies the core values the Grammy Museum looks for in the winner of its Music Educator Award. The semifinalist list will be cut to 10 finalists in December, and the winner will be named during Grammy week.