• By Stacy Gittleman

Alan Posner


Before the 2019-2020 school year closed out, the Recording Academy® and GRAMMY Museum® gave Bloomfield Hills High School music teacher Alan Posner one last homework assignment as he was selected as one of 216 teachers nationwide who are now quarterfinalists for the 2020-2021 Music Educator Award™. Posner, who played his first instrument at West Hills Middle School, was nominated for the award in March along with 2,000 other teachers nationwide. If he wins, he will be flown to Los Angeles to attend the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards, receive the Music Educator Award, and pick up a $10,000 personal honorarium. Ten finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium, while semifinalists receive a $500 honorarium. Since joining the BHHS faculty in 2015, Posner's students have performed in venues as local as Detroit's Cliff Bells Jazz club or as far away as Disney World and Scotland. With a focus on giving back to the community, they have also made appearances at area hospitals, senior centers, and school district retirement parties. As a youth, Posner started playing the viola at WHMS school but switched to the saxophone soon after because he "wanted to play the theme to the Pink Panther." "It was the first song I learned how to play, and I can still play it," said Posner. He played all through his years at Andover High School under the mentorship of Bob Ambrose and pursued his music education at the University of Michigan and Oakland University. Coming full circle, Posner stepped into Ambrose's position when he retired in 2015. "I've always known I wanted to be a band director," said Posner. "I encourage my students to give back with their talents and try to find as many opportunities for them to perform off school grounds." As a Music Educator Award quarterfinalist, Posner submitted video responses to prompts that asked him to reflect on teaching methodologies, accomplishments, and challenges. Being in the field of music education is a challenge unto itself. When a student expresses desires to pursue it as a career, he tells them to make sure they are completely passionate about their choice. "There will always be attacks on public and music education budgets," Posner cautioned. "It is a difficult job, and of course the pay is not as high as in other fields, but I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life." Because of COVID-19, there was no spring concert season or in-person sendoff performances for Posner's seniors. He and the rest of the BHHS music faculty donned tuxedos and gowns at home and produced a virtual end-of-the-year music celebration that aired on community access cable TV. It included clips of performances from earlier in the year, recognition of the seniors, and other musical accomplishments. While he awaits the news on making it to the finalist round, Posner enjoyed the month of July with his wife and two young sons. Then it's time to ramp up for the fall marching band season with at-home band camp, where he and the BHHS Blackhawk Marching Band will prepare arrangements based on the music of Lady Gaga, Coldplay, and Daft Punk – all selected by a voting panel of students. Like everyone else, Posner hopes for a fall musical schedule that's as close to normal as possible. "I have missed my students and I am looking forward to getting back to work with them," said Posner. "In band, we are one big family. That sense of belonging and community is one of the best and biggest parts of being a musician." Photo: Laurie Tennent

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