Neshawn Calloway, a vocal music teacher at Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts (CCA), walked the red carpet in Nashville last Wednesday.
Calloway, who has been teaching music for 24 years, was one of 30 teachers across the country recognized on country music’s biggest night, the Country Music Awards (CMA’s).
Calloway and the other teachers were honored as CMA Music Teachers for Excellence for their impact on student achievement through music.
“Day-in and day-out, these incredible educators play an integral role in achieving and furthering the CMA Foundation’s mission of creating equitable access to music education programs across the United States,” said Tiffany Kerns, CMA Foundation executive director.
“They dedicate their time, energy and resources to serving and enriching our next generation, ensuring that each student is encouraged and celebrated. We are thrilled to be able to put the spotlight on these 30 Music Teachers of Excellence who so often shine the light on others.”
Calloway said she came into her own as a singer while a graduate student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. There, she blossomed under the tutelage of Roland Carter, then the head of the school’s music department.
Calloway sang in Carter’s choir at First Baptist Church on East 8th Street and joined his community ensemble, the Chattanooga Choral Society for the Preservation of African American Songs.
Working with Carter inspired Calloway to pursue teaching. After earning her certificate while still in graduate school, Chattanooga State Community College tapped her to be the coordinator of its music department.
While teaching at Chattanooga State, Calloway developed an educational performance based on the life and music of Bessie Smith. During classes in which she presented the act, she appeared dressed as the blues legend, sang her songs and told the story of her life.
When Calloway began teaching at CCA, she drew inspiration from Carter and began offering her students opportunities to develop as vocalists outside the classroom.
Honors followed in the wake of Calloway’s efforts. In 2013, the Hamilton County Department of Education named her its teacher of the year, and in 2014, the local chapter of the NAACP honored her with its Outstanding Educator Award.
In 2012, Calloway made her debut with the Chattanooga Symphony, performing at the M.L. King celebration in January and as the guest soloist for the pops concert in February. And in May of that year, she traveled to Hamm, Germany and performed a sold out concert of jazz and blues.
Calloway grew up singing hymns and contemporary gospel in church in Olive Branch, Mississippi. She still sings in church as a member of Signal Crest United Methodist in Signal Mountain. And she keeps her jazz, blues and R&B chops in shape as the lead vocalist of Sound Advice, a local neo soul band.
The CMA Foundation’s Music Teachers of Excellence program celebrates public school music education excellence across the country’s K-12 classrooms. Candidates are selected based on their dedication to bringing a high-quality music program to their students and the impact they’ve had on their school community through music.
Since 2016, the CMA Foundation has invested more than $700,000 towards Music Teachers of Excellence to ensure music educators have the support and funding needed to create a thriving program within their school and community.