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Sean Grier – Earl V. Moore Award (Music)

Nov 13, 2020 | Awards & Accolades, News, Students

Sean GrierSean Grier completed a master’s degree in Music Education and will begin his PhD, also in Music Education, at Michigan this fall. Before beginning his master’s in the Fall 2018, Grier taught middle and high school choral music for nine years in Durham, North Carolina. Grier’s teaching and research interests include examining music education’s intersections with issues of equity and race; the musical, psychological, and emotional needs of adolescent males in choir; and the creation of safe and empowering music learning spaces rooted in social justice.

Academic and career accomplishments

  • Served as a choral workshop leader for the Department of Music Education’s partnership with Crescendo Detroit in the 2018–19 school year. Crescendo Detroit is an organization that promotes excellence in music, dance, and character building to Detroit youth ages 5 to 18.
  • Served as curriculum director and program evaluation researcher for the Crescendo Detroit & SMTD Pathways Program during the 2019–20 school year
  • Published an article about working with adolescent males in middle school choir in the Michigan Music Educator journal in 2019
  • Presented a research poster at the Michigan Music Conference in 2019
  • Collaborated with Dr. Kate Fitzpatrick on the course “Community Engagement in the Performing Arts within Underserved Settings” in Fall 2019
  • Served as camp director for SMTD’s MPulse Summer Performing Arts Institutes for high school students in 2019 and 2020


“Two years ago, I made the difficult decision to leave my job as a middle and high school choral music teacher in Durham, North Carolina. For nine years, I wholeheartedly embraced and cherished my students and our experiences together. I decided to move forward from that position, not because I was disillusioned, or burnt out—but because I felt pulled toward the chance to contemplate emerging issues in the music education profession on a broader level.

I chose to pursue my MM in Music Education at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance because I knew that I would have the opportunity to learn from some of the profession’s top scholars, researchers, and pedagogues. The Department of Music Education faculty, and faculty throughout the School and University, have inspired, empowered, and nurtured my own identity as an educator, growing researcher, and future scholar. Their guidance and support have motivated me to deepen my investment in music education’s past, present, and potential for the future.

Perhaps one of the most meaningful elements of my time at SMTD has been the opportunity to collaborate with undergraduate music education students in their coursework and field observations. As an aspiring ‘teacher of teachers,’ I love engaging with these students as they form their own passions and identities as music educators. It is a thrill to watch them work with a group of middle or high school students for the first time, and just as exciting to unpack and reflect upon that experience with them afterward. Further, I value the moments in their undergraduate classes where we collectively engage in contemplative discussions about music education curriculum, pedagogy, and philosophy. We explore broad philosophical considerations, like those centered on building meaningful student relationships or social justice-based pedagogy, while also focusing on topics like creating impactful lesson plans or implementing vocal warm-up exercises for a middle school choir.  These various moments of connection with the undergraduate students not only reinforce my passion for music teaching and learning, but further strengthen my commitment to a career devoted to working with burgeoning music educators.

Finally, it has been an immense privilege to be a part of the Crescendo Detroit and SMTD Pathways Program. On a collection of Saturdays over the past two years, undergraduate music education students and I have had the honor to be part of meaningful learning experiences with passionate K-12 students and their inspirational teachers from Detroit. The SMTD Crescendo Detroit Pathways Program, just one component of the broader Crescendo Detroit organization, is founded on expanding music learning experiences for K-12 students on the U-M campus, while also giving undergraduates the chance to deepen their understanding of impactful and effective music teacher practice. It is in this program especially, standing alongside the Crescendo Detroit teaching team, their students, and our undergraduates, that I am reminded about the importance of developing music education spaces that are focused just as much on the humans involved as on the music itself.

I am beyond grateful for the many opportunities that I have been afforded over the past two years at SMTD. I deeply value the relationships I have cultivated with faculty and peers, and I am proud to be a part of the expansive musical, intellectual, and scholarly community that is the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. I depart this degree program feeling inspired, energized, and eager to see what’s next.”

Sean is a gifted teacher, administrator, and researcher who will become a strong leader and scholar in the field of music education. We have found him to be an exceptional student who is very deserving of recognition. – Prof. Michael Hopkins

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