As an educator in the Oil City School District for 28 years, Martha Heise has brought the gift of music to thousands of kids. Add her work at the Barrow-Civic Theatre, her youth theater camps and productions, the creation of the youth singing group HOLeY Jeans, and the number kids and adults she has touched through song goes up exponentially.
So the fact she is now a quarterfinalist for The Music Educator Award from the Recording Academy and Grammy Museum( a Grammy Award special recognition) is really not a surprise - unless you are her.
"I honestly was really shocked," Heise said.
The award recognizes educators who have made a significant contribution and demonstrate a commitment to music education.
She was nominated by Kelly Zerbe and several others.
Zerbe read about the award on social media, clicked on the link and nominated her friend.
"She is very deserving of this award," Zerbe continued. "She doesn’t do anything for the accolades, she simply loves music and enjoys passing that love of music onto her students."
Heise said she is one of 12 Pennsylvania music educators that were named quarterfinalists. She said there are 212 nationwide.
"I feel very honored that I have gotten this far," she admitted. Though she doesn't do any thing for personal recognition she admitted it was "pretty cool" to see her name on a list associated with the Grammys.
One of her mentors, Genevieve Davis, who overcame childhood polio to have a long life and career in music, told her something that keeps driving her to this day. "She told me that anybody can sing."
She has two family members who have cognitive difficulties, but through music they find such joy. One can remember the words to 100s of songs. "When she listens to music and the tears run down her face. Music is the reason she lives," Heise said.
Things like that are what drive Heise and help her reach students. "That is the reason I teach music. I have students (who) might struggle in school that come into my class and be at the top."
Heise has to now create a couple videos to submit for further review by the Grammy's committee.
One is her teaching. The other is answering questions about her philosophies on teaching. "I admit I'm a little scared about this," she said yet it's also what intrigues her about the award.
A lot of music teachers give so much of themselves to the kids and deserve recognition, she said. For this award it's more than just the work music educators do, it delves into the why. She said she really hopes she can put into words what she knows in her heart.
There were over 2,000 educators nominated and whittled down to 212. If she makes it to be one of the finalists, she will get prize money to bring back to her schools' music programs. The winner is invited to attend the Grammy Awards as well.
While that all sounds amazing to the longtime educator, her driving force will remain the same regardless of the result. "I want my kids to have music in their lives."