U of A Music's Jeffrey Murdock Wins 2021 Grammy Music Educator Award

Jeffrey Murdock, an associate professor of music education at the U of A, is the conductor of the Inspirational Chorale and the Razorback Chorus and teaches courses within the choral music education curriculum.
Photo by Whit Pruitt

Jeffrey Murdock, an associate professor of music education at the U of A, is the conductor of the Inspirational Chorale and the Razorback Chorus and teaches courses within the choral music education curriculum.

Jeffrey Allen Murdock, associate professor of music education at the U of A, has been named the winner of the 2021 Grammy Music Educator Award.

The prestigious Grammy Music Educator Award, presented by the Recording Academy and Grammy Museum, recognizes current educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools.

“This is absolutely surreal,” Murdock said. “There are so many deserving music educators in this country who are in the trenches doing this work. I’m honored to have been chosen from among them.”

“We are so thrilled for Dr. Murdock! He is the epitome of an outstanding music educator and is beyond deserving of this award and type of recognition,” said Todd Shields, dean of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, which is home to the U of A’s Department of Music.  

“And during this unusual pandemic year, Jeff has stepped up in even more amazing ways,” Shields added. “He makes sure his students are safe, but that they also still feel connected and are able to create amazing music together no matter what – such as they did in the Inspirational Chorale’s recent ‘I Dream’ video.”

Ronda Mains, chair of the Department of Music, agreed, adding that “Jeff is not only an amazing teacher, but he is a wonderful role model and generous colleague. He is inspiring, creative, innovative, demanding, insightful and above all, caring. Jeff is also one of the nicest people I have ever met.”

Murdock was selected as this year’s winner from among 10 award finalists, who were selected from among thousands of nominations earlier this year.

Jeffrey Murdock sings at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recommitment Banquet in January 2020.

In addition to being recognized for his remarkable impact on students’ lives and being featured on CBS This Morning, Murdock will receive a $10,000 honorarium and matching grant for the U of A’s music department. The nine additional finalists will also each receive a $1,000 honorarium and matching grants for their institutions.

Murdock said his ultimate goal as an educator is for all students to have access to high-quality music education. 

“Every learner, every day should have access to high-quality music education – no matter who they are, no matter where they're from, no matter what age they are,” Murdock said. “My passion is for leveling the field of music education and I’m passionate about increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in the field.”

Murdock said he hopes that students who see him receive this award — and otherwise might not have had access to music education — will envision themselves at an institution like the U of A. 

It’s what his educators did for him.

“My first piano teacher, Bernard McDaniel, took me under his wing when I didn't have the money to pay for piano lessons. My first choir director, Felicia Cooper, showed me that you can be Black and be a music educator,” Murdock said. “She gave me opportunities that made me the musician I am today.” 

Murdock also credits his first students in Memphis and his current students at the U of A for helping to shape him into the educator he is today.

“Those students really lit the fire under me,” Murdock said. “And they are one of the reasons I pursued a Ph.D. in music education, because I wanted to be a part of the change, a part of the paradigm shift, a catalyst for leveling the field.”

“My students have taught me resilience and grit, and I hope I’ve taught them that, too,” Murdock said, adding that he’s especially proud of his students who have become music educators themselves, many of whom are teaching in marginalized or under-privileged communities. 

“They are teaching with joy and with the desire to change music education for the better, and to make it awesome for everyone,” he said.

And when his students think back on him, Murdock said he also hopes they remember how he loved them unconditionally, and that “every one of my students felt seen, felt heard, felt loved and had a high-quality educational experience because of it. 

“If people say nothing else about me, I want them to say that Dr. Murdock loves and cares for each and every person with whom he interacts.”

Because of the pandemic, Murdock won’t get to walk the red carpet this year, but he will join the awards presentation next year. And, in the meantime, he’ll also participate in multiple Grammy camp and school events and serve as a world-wide ambassador for the Grammys for music education.

The 63rd annual Grammy Awards ceremony will take place Sunday, March 14. For more information about the Grammy Music Educator Award, please visit www.grammymusicteacher.com.

For more on Murdock, including a podcast and CBS This Morning interview, please visit Arkansas Research.

About Jeffrey Allen Murdock: Murdock is internationally known as a conductor, clinician and adjudicator. He currently serves as associate director of choral activities and associate professor of music education at the U of A, where he conducts the Inspirational Chorale, the Razorback Chorus, and teaches courses within the choral music education curriculum. He is a 2016 Connor Endowed Faculty Fellow in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, a 2018 Golden Tusk Awardee and a 2019 Faculty Member of the Year. His research interests include cultural hegemony in choral music education, social justice in music education, culturally responsive pedagogy in music education, and music in urban schools. Murdock holds both a Bachelor of Music Education and a Master of Music in Conducting degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Music Education from the University of Memphis.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the top 3% of U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.


John Thomas, manager of university communications
University Relations
479-575-7430, jfthomas@uark.edu

Andra Parrish Liwag, executive director of strategic communications
Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
479-575-4393, liwag@uark.edu


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