There is a movement afoot by alumni and friends of San Marin High School to honor Emily Gates, a beloved semi-retired music teacher from Novato, with a new Grammy award that goes to music educators.
"It's just a trophy, sure," wrote Gasparini, a 25-year-old San Marin graduate. "But it's an accolade that is world-renowned, and I can't think of anyone more deserving. All teachers are heroes ... a teacher of music is a beautiful thing."
Gates taught music at San Marin for more than 30 years and continues to volunteer at the school. She also co-founded the Marin Summer Theater for performers in their teens and early 20s and directs a choir for mothers of San Marin music students and alumni. The student center at San Marin is named after her.
Gasparini, a singer-songwriter as well, said his high school music experiences with Gates were "enormously flavorful." He said Gates would make sure that students' ears were versed in everything having to do with music — from sight singing, reading, theory, classic choral, jazz, songwriting, musical theater and a variety of bands. With dedicated help, Gates staged several concerts and recitals each school year for each class and a holiday-season madrigal feast, an intergenerational talent show that is a San Marin institution and music trips all over the world.
Gates was inducted into the Marin Women's Hall of Fame in 1993. Here is a portion of her bio from the website.
"Emily Gates is known not only as an inspirational community member and role model for young women and girls, but also as one of the most respected and beloved chorus and musical theater teachers in Northern California. ... Gates serves as a board member and Jazz Show Choir Repertoire Standards Chair of the American Choral Directors' Association, has hosted choral festivals and given workshops for the California Music Educators' Association, and is a member of the Novato Music Educators' Conference, the California Band Directors Association and the International Association of Jazz Educators. ... Gates has assembled and coached innumerable musical groups that have achieved regional and state awards. She counts her real rewards through the achievements of her former students in the musical and theatrical fields, many of whom attribute to her the awakening of their talent."
Gasparini said he would've had little chance to do what he's doing now — writing for NBC's Smash, writing musicals — if it weren't for Gates. He is one of dozens of Gates' former students who have gone on to professional work in music.
"We have the opportunity to nominate this amazing troubadour of music education ourselves," Gasparini wrote. "It's up to us, not an academy or a committee, but the people who believe she deserves it."
The deadline to add a testimonial to the Grammy website is April 15. Ten finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium and be recognized for their impact on music education. The winner will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award, attend the Grammys and pick up a $10,000 honorarium.