Two South Florida Nominees for First Grammy Music Educator Award Teach Next Door to Each Other

Dr. Alan Denning and Vivian Gonzalez share a huge honor

It's another day in Dr. Alan Denning's class at South Miami Middle School. The veteran music teacher is drilling the chorus, making the students practice a song multiple times.

"If you're singing along with them in your head, you'll be perfect on the right note," Denning tells the boys and girls.

He's the type of dynamic teacher who can't stop yelling instructions, coaching his singers to perfect their work.

Meanwhile, in a classroom a block away, Vivian Gonzalez is busy with her fifth-graders at South Miami K-8. NBC 6 watched Gonzalez instructing her students on strings before the same kids took their places on the steel drums.

"The coolest thing about being a music teacher for sure is that we touch lives," says Gonzalez, "and we touch lives in a way that maybe other teachers can't have access to."

These two teachers share a huge honor. They're both nominated for the first-ever Grammy Award for music educators.

"It's super cool, the kids are so excited for me," Gonzalez says.

Denning says the best thing about the Grammy nomination is that it shines a spotlight on the magnet program at his school.

"Music changed my life. I know that there are people who love to teach but I feel more like I'm sharing something, not necessarily that I'm teaching it because I love it and feel passionate about it," Denning says.

In the entire nation, only 25 music teachers have made it to the semifinals for this special Grammy award. Two of them are from Florida, and what's really amazing is their schools are literally next door to one another.

"And it gives us the wonderful platform to acknowledge all of the music teachers across the nation, but especially in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, for the hard work that we do every day," Gonzalez says.

The teachers were nominated by current and former students, then evaluated by the Grammy Foundation.

"So to me that's what's really exciting about it and it's been an opportunity to me to think about all the students I've had over the years and my inspiration," says Denning, who's been teaching music for 26 years.

The winner of the Grammy Music Educator Award will be announced in December.

"Music touches the lives of everyone that it encounters and we're lucky to be the educators left in charge, making sure children have this for generations to come," Gonzalez says.

She may as well be preaching to the choir.

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