Amid the waving of a baton, the foot tapping to a beat and careful periodic peeking over sheets of music at orchestra students, Dos Pueblos High School music teacher Les Rose lets the slightest smile cross his face before flickering back to business.
After the music stops, and with students out of earshot, Rose admits that he likes to think he makes the job look fun because that’s what he remembers from watching the music teachers from his Brooklyn public-school upbringing.
Inspiration from those former teachers — with whom he’s still in touch — helped nudge Rose toward teaching, and that art of teaching has landed the 20-year veteran of the Santa Barbara Unified School District in the quarterfinals of the Grammy Awards’ first-ever Music Educator Award.
Rose is one of 217 still in the running for the award, having been nominated by a family member and selected from a pool of 30,000 applicants nationwide.
He’s in the process of completing the next phase of the application, which includes submitting three short videos describing his teaching style, explaining his impact to the community and actually recording his teaching.
“Really, this whole thing is about music education,” Rose told Noozhawk, playing down any type of self-importance. “It’s about the community. It shines a light on music education.”
Rose, a Buellton resident, has been teaching music at Dos Pueblos High the past 11 years, with another nine at La Colina Junior High before that.
“Shocked” was the word that came to mind when Rose discovered he’d been chosen from a stack of names after filling out an online application.
The news failed to faze some of the 200 students Rose teaches each year.
Junior orchestra students Sophie Mengele and Katie Issaris said Rose is a funny, attentive music conductor who listens to student ideas.
“I feel like he’s very passionate about his job,” Sophie said.
“Mr. Rose always has lots of energy, and that kind of transfers to us,” Katie added.
Rose said his teaching centers around three main philosophies: attention to fundamentals, music class sequences (something he has since created at Dos Pueblos), and “practice what you preach.”
When he’s not teaching or conducting the high-school orchestra he recently established, Rose continues playing the clarinet, saxophone and flute after more than 40 years. He has his own music company — Les Rose Ensembles — and has recorded several of his own albums.
Although he hasn’t yet taught a Grammy Award-winning artist, Rose said it’s only a matter of time when factoring in the indirect effect of those taught by his former students, who have also become music educators.
Rose finds out Aug. 1 whether he moves onto the semifinals in the Grammys, which air in January. The winner will be flown to Los Angeles to attend and accept the award and $10,000, with 10 finalists receiving $1,000.
Regardless of the outcome, Rose said music education seems to have already won something.
“This is a luxury in public school,” he said of the subject often cut from school budgets. “For so many students, it’s a place to belong. They need an organized format to perform and they need a family setting.
“It really comes back to my music teachers,” Rose continued. “This honor and this opportunity are to be shared with every music educator, particularly in our district. We’re all in it together.”