It is not every day that a high school teacher wins a CMA Award so Joel Denton, band director at Ooltewah High School, has just added a special momento to his trophy case. The Country Music Association announced Mr. Denton as a recipient of a 2018 CMA Music Teachers of Excellence award. As a CMA winner, Mr. Denton receives $5,000 with $2,500 to be spent on his band program. Mr. Denton will collect the honor at a special recognition dinner on May 8 at Music Marathon Works in Nashville.
Mr. Denton is one of 30 Tennessee music educators honored with a CMA award for 2018. “It takes six to eight weeks to find the best teachers who exemplify excellence and are doing the work in the classroom,” stated Tiffany Kerns, director of community outreach for the CMA. “Not only are they incredible human beings but they are changing the lives of our future generation.”
Mr. Denton has been the band director at Ooltewah High for more than 30 years, and he is also the chair of the Fine Arts Department at the school. “He is an amazing educator, leader, and mentor to all of the band directors in Hamilton County,” said Joshua Light, band director at Soddy Daisy High School. “His marching band is consistently recognized as one of the most innovative and entertaining in the state.”
Ooltewah bands led by Mr. Denton have competed nationally with some of the best bands in the country in Bands of America regional and Grand National competitions. His Ooltewah bands have also performed in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York and the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Ca.
“Mr. Denton also has a strong concert band program, consistently earning superior ratings in concert performance assessments with his groups playing some of the finest literature written for the wind band,” added Mr. Light. His bands have performed for the Tennessee Music Educators Conference and the Bands of America Regional Concert Band Festival. Mr. Denton was a presenter for the prestigious Midwest Concert Band Clinic in December of 2017. He is a member and former president of the East Tennessee Band and Orchestra Association and the Tennessee Bandmasters Association.
The Music Teachers of Excellence award was started in 2016 by the CMA Foundation. For a teacher to earn a CMA award, music educators must score 3+ on the 2017 Compass Level of Effectiveness, submit a CMA application, a letter of recommendation from the school principal and a video of the teacher teaching in an instructional setting. Selection criteria include evidence of teaching excellence, positive contributions to school culture, evidence of continued professional growth, impact on student learning, and evidence of advocating for music education.
According to the CMA website, the award and recognition event was started to recognize music teachers for not only being an important piece of a child’s well-rounded education but also for their importance in the greater community.