EASTLAND, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Eastland Independent School District band director Stephen Cox was welcomed back to town with an uproar of cheers after receiving the Grammy Music Educator Award for 2022.

On Sunday, Stephen Cox and his wife were walking the red carpet at the Grammy Awards in Las Vegas. On Wednesday, they were walking the red carpet for the second time in a week, this time in the gymnasium at Eastland High School.

“I felt so loved and it was so beautiful,” Cox said. “It meant more to me than anything in my entire life” 

Laughter, cheers and the high school band erupted as his family walked into a packed Marshall Gym, with signs reading “Grammy Award Winner” and “Local Celebrity” waving in the air.

The Early, Texas native had been teaching music for 12 years, 10 at Eastland High and said this when asked if winning a Grammy Award had ever crossed his mind:

“Winning a Grammy? Was that something I dreamed of when I first got here?” Cox said laughing. “No, winning a Grammy is not something teachers do.” 

So how was it for a small town band director sitting alongside some of the world’s most popular musicians, being recognized by talk show host and comedian Trevor Noah as the 2022 Grammy Music Educator Award winner?

Cox called it a “whirlwind” when they arrived at the event, having a personal escort and even getting better seats than some of the celebrities in attendance.

“When we actually got to the Grammy awards, they gave us amazing seats. We were like 20 feet from the stage sitting with celebrities,” Cox said. “There were celebrities who didn’t have as good of seats as we had.” 

Cox said the Grammy Museum and the Recording Academy took incredible care of him and his wife, really emphasizing the importance of music education in school curriculum. He said it was an incredible experience to speak with celebrities about their successes and how it related to their own experiences with their high school music teachers.

“What surprises me the most was readily apparent about the whole red-carpet experience and all the celebrities, they stood for the same thing,” Cox said of the event. “Teachers are important. We care about teachers; we care about education.” 

Cox was nominated by his students for the award, claiming his consistent and constant support, belief and love he pours into each student and their life goals. One faculty member stood up and said this of Stephen Cox during his pep-rally.

“You inspire those students to believe that if they work hard enough and put the effort in, if they want it bad enough, they can accomplish it. Thank you Mr. Cox.” 

Cox said having growing friendships with his students is a goal he’s had since he was a young teacher, and instilling a belief in his students that coming from a small community can be a strength.

“Being from a small community is a strength and not a weakness,” Cox said. “They’re all wonderful, they’re brilliant and have endless potential and once they realize it, they can act on it. It’s beautiful.” 

A humble, caring man even during his once in a lifetime experience at the Grammy’s, Cox said his goal was to show the nation the impact of music education and the lasting impact teachers have on students should be recognized more often.

“If you go into any public school, any school period in the United States, and you spend any time there you’ll see miracles happening,” Cox said. “You’re going to see kids growing and relationships being built. I really feel like what they were highlighting with us is the reality of what’s going on [in schools] and people need to be aware of it.” 

Cox said he was grateful for the opportunity to go to the Grammy Awards, but said he was glad to be back with his band, co-directors and Eastland ISD family where he belongs.

Cox is only the ninth person to win the Grammy Music Educator Award, which was formed in 2014.