Liberty High School teacher grabs semifinal spot for GRAMMY Music Educator Award. (Emily Chappell / Carroll County Times)
She stands in front of a room cluttered with music stands and instrument cases, arm perched high above her head, conductor's baton in hand.
The walls of the room are lined with trophies and competition flags — the sounds of scales and arpeggios flood the air.
It's another day in the life of Brandi Jason, Liberty High School's band instructor of nearly 13 years.
Jason, who directs concert band, symphonic band, wind ensemble, orchestra, jazz ensemble and more, recently advanced to the semifinals for the Grammy Music Educator Award.
"The Music Educator Award was established to recognize current educators 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," according to a news release from the Carroll County Public Schools system.
Ten finalists will be announced in December, and the winner will be flown to Los Angeles to be recognized during Grammy Week and attend the 59th Grammy Awards ceremony, as well as other Grammy Foundation events, according to the release.
Jason is what she calls a "product" of Carroll County Public Schools.
She went to Eldersburg Elementary School, Sykesville Middle School and graduated from South Carroll High School in 1996. She earned her undergraduate and master's degrees from James Madison University.
Of getting a job with CCPS, it was somewhat "serendipitous," Jason said.
Right as she was finishing her graduate degree, she said she got a call from the county's then-music director and was basically offered the job over the phone. She spent a year at East Middle School before coming to Liberty High School.
The band director said getting nominated for the Grammy Music Educator Award was completely "unexpected." She was nominated by a parent last year and made it to the quarterfinal round, Jason said. By virtue of making it that far, she was able to resubmit her information and made it to the semifinals this year.
"Maybe the second time's the charm," Jason said.
On Tuesday morning, she stood before some of her orchestra students — mostly strings — helping them work through their music.
She knocked her baton against a music stand, keeping time, and used the other hand to cue in the different sections.
She sang along to the different pieces, helping the kids better understand the rhythms. She works to relate to the kids, joking with them, keeping them active and engaged as the class — which starts at 9:30 a.m. — drives on.
She goes as far as labeling one section of music tango-like, adding a hip-wiggling dance to show the students how the rhythm should be played.
That kind of silliness, mixed with a guiding hand and knowledge of music, is what keeps her students coming back for more.
Brittany Jendrek, a senior who plays violin and upright bass, said Jason has helped her get better on her instruments.