Instructor Eyed for GRAMMY's Music Educator Award


Jeff Link, left, accompanies vocalist Amanda McField '16 in an MCLA Jazz Band rehearsal.

Jeff Link, a part-time fine and performing arts instructor at MCLA, is passionate about music.

"I don't teach music, I teach life," he explained. "Whether students go out and make a living as a musician or whether they keep it as an a vocation, it's really good for you."

Perhaps that's why he finds himself in a very select group. Out of 30,000 nominees, he's one of 217 teachers from 195 cities in 45 states across the country to reach the quarterfinals of the first-ever Music Educator Award, to be presented by the Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation during GRAMMY Week 2014.

"I teach very hands-on. My philosophy of teaching is, 'Do as I do. Do not what I say,' in a sense," Link explained. "The truth is, I get up every morning and I'm excited to go to work. I get to teach what I love, and it is a passion. I've been doing it since I've been in third grade and I've never done anything else in my life other than teaching and playing music."

According to Amanda McField '16 of Boston, Mass., Link cares about his students and their success. Under his leadership, MCLA's Jazz Band has extended its reach throughout the Berkshires.

"I am so glad to work with him and to continue to work with him," McField said.

"I kind of compare myself to one of my favorite characters in a movie, which is the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz," said Link. "He's really the smartest one. One of the first things he said to Dorothy when he came down off his stick at the crossroads was, 'Well, you can go this way, or you can go that way.' That's what we do as teachers when we mentor."

In addition to teaching music, Link - who plays the bass and the piano - performed for Broadway shows in New York City in the 1990s. The experience would take him all over the world.

A graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Link began teaching at MCLA in September 2012. In addition to working with the MCLA Jazz Band, he also teaches music recording classes at the College.

After a student nominated him for the Music Educator Award - open to music teachers throughout the United States - Link was notified and invited to fill out an application.

"I had to come up with 50 words that would say it all," he said. "I sent it to them and got a congratulations that I was chosen."

As the next step in the award process, Link is putting together the finishing touches on a six-minute video at his home in Pittsfield. Due on June 11, it includes a rehearsal with the jazz band at Berkshire Community College (BCC), where he also teaches part time.

This fall, Link plans to add a "film scoring" class he created with music professor Dr. Michael Dilthey, where students will analyze and write music for films.

"Jeff rocks," said Christine Condaris, chair of MCLA's Department of Fine and Performing Arts. "We are so proud of our fellow Fine and Performing Arts faculty member. This is quite the honor! Jeff deserves it."

For the Music Educator Award, one recipient will be selected from 10 finalists each year, and will be recognized for his or her remarkable impact on students' lives. The winner will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award, attend the GRAMMY Awards ceremony, and receive a $10,000 honorarium. The nine finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists also will receive matching grants, according to Grammy in the Schools.

What will he do with the $10,000 award if he wins? Link plans to pursue a master's degree. Semifinalists for the Music Educator Award will be announced in August.

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