YPS band director receives top honor and vows to keep program going through consolidation
Courtesy Matt Kazmierski
Ypsilanti Public Schools band director Matt Kazmierski will receive a prestigious honor that only is given to one Michigan educator each year.
Kazmierski, 39, has been named the University Musical Society DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year for 2013.
"I am really happy that someone thought I was deserving of it," Kazmierski said. "Sometimes when you’re working your job, you don’t always notice when someone appreciates what you do and it's really cool."
Kazmierski said he was nominated by YPS Human Resources Director Sharon Irvine and it came as a surprise.
"It's a great feeling and it's a really good honor and very unexpected," Kazmierski said. "I'm excited for the opportunity to have my students exposed to the University Musical Society performances and workshops."
Courtesy Matt Kazmierski
Nominees must satisfy one or more of the following three criteria to be eligible for the award: excellence in arts programs, exceptional use of an arts-integrated curriculum, or creative use of UMS-provided tools.
Nominations were reviewed by a committee of UMS staff and members.
While Kazmierski is being honored for his commitment and advancement of arts education in Ypsilanti Public Schools, it was his work to ensure a sixth grade band program continued to go on despite reconfigurations that removed band from sixth grade programming.
Kazmierski said he will continue to try to keep the district's bands in place as it moves closer to consolidating with the Willow Run school district.
"I can only hope that next year we’re able to preserve sixth grade band again," Kazmierski said. "We will find out in the next couple of weeks... We're basically starting from the ground up and we're all waiting to see what happens... I'm going to do my best to fight for my program."
Kazmierski has been band director for 16 years and oversees about 350 students in the district's elementary, middle and high school programs.
He, along with another music teacher, Steven Feltner, and Choir Director Jacob Berglin, recently took on the role of teaching the entire secondary program.
"We've been running around pretty crazy this year trying to make sure every kid got their fair shake," Kazmierski said. "Last year, Steve was teaching band and choir at the middle school, which is neat, but he’s not a choir teacher. It was really challenging and not fair to the choir kids. We had help from Sharon and also the principals helped make that happen and I think it’s been a real positive change."
Kazmierski grew up in Ypsilanti and attended Eastern Michigan University for his undergraduate degree and obtained his masters from a university in Colorado.
Music was an important part of his development and he hopes all of his students leave well-rounded.
"I’m not trying to teach kids how to be music majors in college, I want them to be well-rounded students in my program and be kids that are devoted to what they love, Kazmierski said.
He hopes his students leave with an appreciation of music and the arts.
"Music is a part of our brain that’s devoted to performing music and listening to music and we don’t know how it works 100 percent just yet, but we know its connected to development, language and movement," he said. "...I have a passion for music."
Under his direction, YPS students have participated in dozens of competitions and have traveled abroad to places including England. This year the Ypsilanti High School wind symphony will participate in some festivals in the coming weeks and go on tour in Chicago in April.
The wind symphony also will be playing with the Ypsilanti Symphony during Memorial Day weekend.
Kazmierski will be honored along with world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma for the Distinguished Artist Award and the School of the Year Award honoree.
One of his classes next school year also will be treated to a UMS School Day Performance, and will receive a guest artist master class visit at school.
He will receive his award at the 18th annual Ford Honors program on March 16, and will be a guest at the Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble concert afterward.
The concert will be at 8 p.m. in Hill Auditorium at 825 N. University Ave. The Ford Honors program raises funds for UMS education and community engagement programs.