DeSoto Music Teacher and ATPE Member Pamela Dawson Receives Grammy Award
Date Posted: 3/22/2023
DeSoto ATPE member Pamela Dawson’s musical journey began in her childhood, having grown up with a family of musicians. Her 27-year career was celebrated on the national stage in February when she received the 2023 Music Educator Grammy Award.
Dawson’s road to the Grammy began in 2021 when she was nominated and named a top 10 finalist for the same award. However, she felt before her win was announced that this time was different. As part of the application process, she had submitted three videos covering her instructional style, unique ways she engages students in the classroom, and her proudest moment as a music educator.
Dawson was nominated for this year’s award last March, and by May, the pool of nominees had narrowed to 225. In September, she learned she was one of the top 25 nominees, which automatically earned her an honorary award. In December, she learned she was in the top 10 once again—but this time around, she received a phone call from Recording Academy President Harvey Mason, who personally notified her she had won the Grammy. However, she had to keep the news under wraps until the award winners were announced.
Dawson brought her children to the awards ceremony to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Her oldest daughter is following in her footsteps as a music teacher, and her 3-year-old granddaughter is following suit as well, already playing the harp and accompanying Dawson at rehearsals.
Even though Dawson grew up in a musical family, she started her career in an administrative job. She quickly pivoted to music when a friend asked her to help with a choral class. The rest is history: She became a music educator in her native Detroit and has taught in DeSoto for the past 16 years.
Known affectionately by her students as “Mama Dawson,” she strives to create a safe haven where students who may not feel accepted elsewhere can feel welcome.
She says the pandemic really impacted students—a lot of them were depressed and anxious, and they were subjected to peer pressure and bullying. She began researching music therapy and encouraging her students to sense music as a touch, asking, “How do we feel music? Can you imagine what a note feels like?”
Dawson’s influence goes far beyond the classroom and has followed her students as they’ve pursued their own musical careers. Hearing from her former students is one of the most rewarding parts of her job. Some have gone on to study at the prestigious Berklee College of Music; perform in Broadway productions including “Beetlejuice,” “Dreamgirls,” and “The Lion King”; and even write and produce their own music. She’s also honored when they think of her as they go on to live their dreams. “One of my students texted me saying they were on the stage at Carnegie Hall!” she says.
Not only does Dawson find joy in helping her students discover new ways to experience music, but also she embraces opportunities to connect with other educators as a mentor and demonstrate how musical principles cross over into every classroom. Following her Grammy win, she has been invited to lead professional development training in which other teachers can learn how to engage students with the same principles she uses in her music classes.
Congratulations, Pamela, on this amazing win!