Westfield, NY - Westfield music teacher Kent Knappenberger competed against 30-thousand Grammy nominees and won.
Friday night, the Chautauqua County community honored the Grammy Music Educator of the Year.
Knappenberger is the pride of Westfield. Sunday, the veteran music teacher won the first Grammy Music Educator of the Year award.
"If I ever wanted the icing on the cake of my life, this might be it. To feel just encouraged, you know, sometimes in education you have to think, what was I doing this for?" said Knappenberger at his celebration. "I didn't see myself as the guy they were looking for. I thought there's gotta be some really glitzy, high profile music teacher, but they looked at what happened with our kids, and they said, hey, that's really what's important."
His passion for music was recognized early on.
"He's a genius. He was sweet as a little boy. I had him in elementary and high school in Mayville, NY which is just down the road, over the hill. And, he was very talented at that age also," says Sally Merwin.
"It's just very moving that they took the time to come here, and these are people from my history and I'm glad they want to celebrate," says Knappenberger.
Knappenberger's $10,000 prize paid for his daughters to go to the ceremony in Los Angeles with mom and dad. He will donate the rest to buy instruments, sheet music, and send his students to see a Broadway show.
"If we don't show them a little picture of the world, we're not doing our job. This can really open up doors, and I think that's what it was intended for," he says.
"When he works with us, we understand it better than any other teacher. He's just really good," says sixth grader Savannah Lashbrook.
Lashbrook's dad says he can't imagine his daughter's life without the music program.
"I'm tickled to death about her future. Tickled to death about her being part of the program here. Part of the plays and the music. And I tell you, not even music-wise, but as character-wise to learn from Mr. Knappenberger and his staff. You couldn't ask for better character," says Scott Lashbrook.
"I just think there's something very beautiful about the sense of community that we live with here and I love being a part of it," says Knappenberger.
Knappenberger is a graduate of SUNY Fredonia, and the school is starting a scholarship in his honor.
There is also a matching $10,000 grant for Westfield from the Grammys.