And the Grammy goes to…

John Pohland doesn’t expect to hear those words or his name called next January at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards, “music’s biggest night.” In fact, he didn’t even know there was a Grammy for music education until a few years ago. But he is a quarterfinalist for that award and says he is honored that a student submitted a nomination.

The beloved “Mr. P.” has been band director for 12 years, leading the Waconia Marching Band, concert bands, show choir bands, jazz bands and providing other music instruction in the Waconia school district.

He was nominated earlier in the year by student Payton Baumann and learned a few weeks ago that he was one of 189 quarterfinalists out of 3,300 original Grammy nominees. The 15 finalists will be announced in September.

Baumann and other students talk about Mr. P. as “motivational, inspirational.”

“He has an abundance of joy and love for what he does and for others,” said one student.

“He makes you want to get better, to be your best,” students echo.

And the accomplishments speak for themselves. Waconia is recognized as one of the premiere marching bands in the state, frequently topping its class in competitions and often bringing home grand champion awards. And earlier this spring, its jazz band was runner-up in a regional jazz competition in Eau Claire, Wis. Waconia High School ensembles and individuals also routinely earn superior ratings in district music contests.

But it’s not about the competition, Pohland says. It’s about the music.

“Music is what brought us together,” he tells students, and he encourages them to continue music after high school. “I can promise you it will be a way to build strong, positive relationships in your life.”

Pohland often talks about the music community as family, and parents are part of it.

“One of the beautiful things about our marching band program is that John finds a place for everybody,” band parent Nikki Wedge said in a testimonial video supporting the Grammy nomination. “Next year, our daughter is a senior and it will be her last year…Not having John be part of our lives will be really difficult.”

“I can think of no better role model for my son than John Pohland,” adds parent Van Colson.

Pohland said he was inspired by his own teachers, notably his dad Glenn Pohland, who was band director at Glencoe schools for 24 years. Also, his all-state music instructor Jerry Luckhardt from the University of Minnesota, who he says “took the time to get to know each one of us.”

Pohland does the same with each of his students.

Selected as the School District 110 Teacher of the Year two years ago, Pohland said he has also been inspired by many others, including his University of St. Thomas music professors, other teachers and his own colleagues.

“I learn so much from my colleagues,” Pohland said. “This nomination isn’t about me. It’s about them and the community.”

As a footnote, Mr. P. is known by his students for bringing favorite quotes to class and practice, and here is an original from a card he gives to each one of his graduating seniors:

“When you are happy, I am ecstatic,

When you are sad, I am devastated,

When you are proud, I am prouder.”

Author’s footnote

Both of my children were in the School District 110 music program and Waconia Marching Band, and my wife Lori and I can’t think of a finer, more inspirational teacher than “Mr. P.” in building character and love of music. Our kids’ time with him and performances under his leadership have been a joy to all of us.

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