2021 Recording Academy and Grammy Museum’s Music Educator Award Nominee: Pamela Dawson
Detroit is known for producing great music and amazing musicians.
Add DeSoto High School choir director Pamela Dawson to that list. Like many others from the Motor City, Dawson is now a Grammy Award nominee. She’s been named as a finalist for the 2021 Recording Academy and Grammy Museum’s Music Educator Award.
The award was established to recognize current educators – kindergarten through college, public and private schools – who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools.
“I was in disbelief when I received the email stating that I had been nominated,” Dawson recalled. “I had to read it over and over again before it sank in. I’d always told my students as they graduated each year and went to explore this wonderful thing called music, that when they get their Grammy to make sure they mentioned me in their speeches as their inspiration – never thinking that I would be that person being nominated.”
Dawson Made Choir In DeSoto ISD Exciting
For over 10 years Dawson has been an integral part of the arts in DeSoto ISD and the City of DeSoto. She has been choral director at DeSoto High since 2007. When she arrived, she started with a program with less than 50 students, it’s now grown to around 200.
“The students were thinking, ‘Who is this lady that is coming in with all these changes?'” she said with a laugh. “The key thing that I had to implement was structure, and I had some students who didn’t like it. But all children want secretly structure and discipline in their lives, but foremost someone who is real and cares about them.
“After that it was an easy buy-in. Other students saw the successes in the students’ performances and what we were all about and wanted to be a part of it. I took the choirs to the middle schools and the elementary schools to perform so they could see what the high school was doing. And my students will give their testimonies that they saw this in elementary school and said, ‘I want to be a part of that choir!'”
Under her leadership, the DHS choir has been awarded many accolades on the local, state, national, and international levels. In 2017, the A Cappella choir toured the United Kingdom. They made their Carnegie Hall debut in New York City in 2018, and at the Toronto Music Festival in 2019.
Locally, her choirs have performed to great acclaim for many DFW-area businesses, community organizations and dignitaries.
Choral Department: A History Of Success
“Mrs. Dawson has been a tremendous source of support and inspiration for our students. She embodies the pride and excellence that is the voice of our choir program,” DeSoto High School Principal Shon Joseph said. “Her award is a celebration of the dedication and passion our educators demonstrate here at DHS. We are truly honored to have her as member of our DeSoto family.”
During her tenure the choral department has excelled in many areas. Graduates from her DHS choir programs have moved on to success in various college and professional music programs. These include performances in quartets at the NCAA Final Four, solo national anthems at Texas Rangers baseball games, and performing in musical theater on Broadway.
“I am rewarded in teaching to not only see my students ‘get it’ and ‘master it, but ‘love it.’ Most inspiring to me is when my students come back and thank me for what I have given them. It gives me the fuel to keep going forward,” she said.
“Greatest (accomplishment) would be that I could build them to the point of musical excellence to receive constant UIL Sweepstakes, tour London and sing on Carnegie Hall stage.”
Dawson was born and raised in Detroit. She worked as an administrative assistant prior to starting teaching in 1996. She taught at Benedictine High School in Detroit and started a choral department. Then went to Dominican High School in Detroit and Regina High School in Harper Woods (Detroit Metro area) prior to moving to Texas and coming to DeSoto.
Teaching Beautiful Music Is Her Passion
In addition to her work at DeSoto High School, Dawson has served on and chaired the DeSoto Arts Commission. She helped establish the now signature program DeSoto Arts LIVE event. The populare program celebrates all arts genres with feature entertainers like Midnight Star and Rueben Studdard.
But her greatest passion is teaching beautiful music to her students. And though COVID-19 has made that more challenging, she and they are persevering.
“The greatest challenge that I experience personally is not to be in the presence of my students daily. There is nothing greater than experiencing their energy and making music collectively in the classroom,” she said. “I continued to have my Zoom classes, and I ensured that I am all about their mental well-being during these time. We spent the majority of the time talking about emotional wellness and how music is a healer during these times.
“I was already doing online assignments prior to COVID, so that made it an easy transition. We did a virtual choir – now that was a challenge as I am not that savvy with video editing, but it was very successful.”
Ready To Travel Again
And she looks forward to the time when she and her students can once again travel together.
“The choir had began planning to go to Barcelona to tour, and once all of this is over, we will start looking at traveling again. The students are anxious to assemble again and begin our intense rehearsals as they are not possible at this time,” she said. “My biggest challenge now will be to the grow the department back to the strength that we had prior to COVID-19.”
Also, in typical fashion, she gave credit to her students for her Grammy nomination.
“I am so blessed and honored to have been nominated for this Grammy. All that I have done and given over the years has always been for the students,” she said. “My mother taught me to remain humble, use your gifts wisely and let God do the rest, and that is exactly what I have done.”