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Milwaukee Teacher Named A Finalist For Grammy Music Educator Award

Erica Breitbarth Was Named A Top 10 Finalist Out Of 3,000 Nominees

Ronald Reagan High School Choir Instructor Erica Breitbarth teaches a music class.
Courtesy of Erica Breitbarth

Erica Breitbarth, a music teacher at Ronald Reagan High School in Milwaukee, has been named a top 10 finalist out of 3,000 nominees for the Grammy Music Educator Award. She is the school’s music department chair, a choir instructor, and is credited with helping expand its music program from 50 students to more than 400.

Breitbarth said one of the biggest challenges in expanding the program was teaching students who had no previous exposure to music lessons.

“We had to find ways to fill in those gaps so that our students could apply to schools of music or enter the music industry right away out of high school,” Breitbarth said. “That was a huge challenge to fill in those gaps and we’ve been able to do that.”

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She said over the past four years, 100 percent of the graduates with an interest in music have been accepted into college music programs.

Breitbarth says she hopes more teachers are willing to teach at schools in urban communities that may not have an established music program.

“Right now, I don’t necessarily think that a lot of teachers who are getting out of conservatories of music with music education degrees are really thinking about going and building new programs,” she said. “They want to go to a program that’s pre-existing or a program in a community that they are familiar with.”

Breitbarth said her inspiration to expand the school’s music program came from her college experience where she watched her mentor teach thousands of children in Chicago public schools.

As a finalist for the award, Breitbarth and Ronald Reagan High School each received a $1,000 gift from the Grammy Foundation.