Margie Shafer / KCBS Radio

Cupertino Music Teacher Nominated For Grammy

Margie Shafer
February 10, 2019 - 8:00 am

It’s not every high school student who can say they have a Grammy-nominated music teacher.

John Burn has taught orchestra, jazz band and music appreciation for nearly three decades at Homestead High in Cupertino. Now, it’s possible he could take home a Grammy on Sunday.

Burn was nominated by a former student for the Grammy’s Music Educator Award, and is one of 25 semi-finalists among 3,000 nominees.

Of the honor, Burn told KCS Radio that “it shows that the Grammy people care about music teachers, and care about music education, and understand the importance of what that does for students.” He also hopes the Grammy’s will give air time to jazz and classical genres, which typically take a backseat to pop.

The educator said music gives struggling students a reason to come to school every day, and a sense of belonging. “I’ve had students come to me more than once over my years, and said to me that if it wasn’t for music, I would have dropped out,” he said.

“I think there’s a magic about music,” he added, “where students work together to make a total that’s greater than the sum of the parts.”  

In Burn’s music appreciation classes, it’s not all sheet music in orchestra rooms. The veteran teacher marches his students to the computer lab, where they learn modern methods for making music hands-on. Even the students who aren’t fluent in English are able to explore their creativity on Garage Band.

Burn has stayed up to date in other ways, as well. He has a soft spot for the Pulitzer-prize winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, whose lyrics and use of rhythm he praises as “profound.”

 But it’s to his students that Burn gives credit for the nomination. “I don’t think I would have ever been nominated, if it weren’t for what the marching band at Homestead has done over the past 28 years,” he said.