by Elisabeth Wall
Phillip Riggs ’88, who teaches music at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, has won the third annual Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation.
The award recognizes those teachers – kindergarten through college in public or private schools – who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education.
Riggs, who has been teaching for 27 years and at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics since 2008, was chosen from a field of more than 4,500 nominations from all 50 states.
Riggs earned his Bachelor of Music in Music Education at Appalachian State University. He said his teaching is “not mainly about the music. It’s about integrity, it’s about character, it’s about enhancing quality of life. The tool or the vehicle to do that is the music.”
“We are so deeply proud to have one of our graduates receive this honor,” said Dean William L. Pelto, Hayes School of Music at Appalachian. “It is especially meaningful at this time,” he added, referencing the recent passing by the U.S. Senate of the bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act which puts music education back in the core curriculum and recognized the positive impact that music education has on learning and life.
Riggs is a past president of the North Carolina Band Directors Association and was chair of the N.C. High School All-State Band for eight years. Sarah Stafford, a former student who nominated Riggs for the Grammy Award, told CBS This Morning, “I don't really think he’s a teacher. I think he’s an inspirer. And by that I mean he’s not just an inspiration – he taught us to be inspirations,” said Stafford, who is now a middle school band director. “As a mother, as a wife, as a teacher, as a friend, it’s always, always about something bigger than myself. And I never would have learned that without him.”
Riggs will be flown to Los Angeles to attend the 58th Annual GRAMMY Awards ceremony and will receive a $10,000 honorarium. This special award will be presented at The Recording Academy’s Special Merit Awards Ceremony (honoring recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustees Award and Technical GRAMMY Award) in spring 2016. The nine other finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists will receive matching grants.
“I am truly honored and humbled. Most of my career has been about opening doors for others and working to enable students and fellow teachers to learn and to grow,” said Riggs on CBS This Morning. “My efforts to foster music education in North Carolina stand firmly on the shoulders of numerous students, parents, peers and administrators in communities that value excellence in music. Music educators are fortunate to have The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation as steadfast supporters of music in all schools and it is exciting to have the opportunity to share the importance of music education throughout the country.”
Riggs has taught band and choir at various levels in North Carolina for the past 27 years. He is a recipient of the Exceptional Contribution in Outreach Award presented annually by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors for his work with music programs throughout North Carolina. Prior to his tenure at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Riggs was the fine arts coordinator at Reagan High School. He became the first faculty member inducted into the Reagan Hall of Fame. Riggs is an active clinician and adjudicator throughout the United States and China. His professional affiliations include North Carolina Music Educators Association, Nation Association for Music Education, National Band Association, and American School Band Directors Association.
“With the creation of this award, The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation are shining a spotlight on the positive and lifelong impact that music educators have on their students,” said Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the GRAMMY Foundation and The Recording Academy. “So many GRAMMY-nominated and GRAMMY-winning artists share with me how a music teacher encouraged them early on, nurtured their talents and helped them realize that a professional career in music was an attainable goal. We are delighted to recognize Mr. Riggs for helping to usher in the next generation of GRAMMY-caliber talent.”
"Most of my career has been about opening doors for others and working to enable students and fellow teachers to learn and to grow."
– Phillip Riggs ’88, on CBS This Morning