By Christopher Brooks
From winning the U.K. National Solo Champion music award in 1979, to being a recorded and published composer, Dr. Stephen Allen has achieved great heights in his music career. Allen will look to add to his accolades with one of the most distinguished awards in the music industry: a Grammy.
Though the 2015 Grammy awards have passed, Allen has been nominated for the 2016 Music Educator Grammy. The award is open to all current, full-time educators in the United States at public or private institutions, kindergarten through college. Allen was nominated by one of his students, junior popular music culture major Anthony Washington.
“After seeing Dr. Allen’s work firsthand, hearing his incredible stories and having the honor of being his student, I can say he is one of the greatest musical minds I’ve come in contact with,” Washington said. “If any musical educator deserves a Grammy, why not Dr. Stephen Allen?”
Nominees for the award can be selected by other music teachers, school administrators, recording academy members, students and parents. When Allen first got word of his nomination via email, he almost deleted it.
“I’ve never thought of a Grammy being associated with the types of things that I normally do,” Allen said. “When the email originally came in, I almost deleted it as junk mail. I clicked on it and called my wife in, but once I saw Anthony’s name on there, I knew it was legitimate; it was not a hoax. In many respects, just to receive a nomination on that basis alone was really wonderful.”
According to the Grammy website, music educators nominated for the award must have made an impact in the lives of students, made a significant contribution to music education, proven themselves experts in their field and shown commitment to maintaining music education in schools. Washington believes Allen has displayed all of these qualities.
“He fits the bill in every way imaginable,” Washington said. “He’s a talented musician who puts everything he has into his craft and does whatever it takes to make sure he leaves as little room for error as possible. He’s a great person to be around and extremely humble. He doesn’t wear his accomplishments around his neck as though he’s better than anyone, and that itself is one of the most important marks of being a professional and a champion of his craft.”
Allen graduated from the Birmingham Conservatoire and received his master’s and doctorate degrees from Oxford University. Though Allen mainly teaches at Rider, in the past, he has been a music educator at Princeton and Oxford. But Allen believes that any student at Rider could be a standout at an Ivy League institution.
“The colleges I went to were, in many ways, similar to Rider,” he said. “So the fact that I went to those colleges and that I received a great education, and the fact that I wasn’t considered an Ivy League type of person, is something that I very much believe in at Rider. I don’t look at any student at Rider as somebody who couldn’t be successful at Princeton or Oxford because that is what happened to me; that is my story.”
As an associate professor of music at Rider, Allen has helped to create a new B.A. in popular music culture. He teaches The Music of the Beatles, A History of Pop and Rock Music, Music Theory, Beethoven and the Romantic Age and many other courses.
“I’m in the heat of the learning experience all the time,” Allen said. “It’s actually being in the room with me that is meant to be the transformative experience. Every class I teach I try to make it so. Even if I’m tired or fatigued, every time I go into the classroom I’m thinking to myself, ‘I’ve got students who paid a lot of money to be here, they are taking the time to be here, I really need to deliver something transformative in this lesson now. There has got to be something that really cuts through and makes that lesson an experience.’”
From the pool of nominees, 10 finalists will be selected with one overall winner. The winner will be flown to Los Angeles, to attend the ceremony and accept the award while also earning a $10,000 honorarium. Other finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium.
While the announcing of the finalists is quite a ways away, Allen is already getting ready for the Grammys.
“I’m looking forward to dancing with Beyoncé at the awards ceremony,” Allen said. “I’ve been working privately on my dance moves.”
printed in the 4/8/15 edition