Pictured left to right: Ms. Cynthia Napierkowski, Award Recipient, Ms. Nancy Ditmer, Immediate Past President of the National Association for Music Education
Congratulations to Ms. Cynthia Napierkowski, Director of Bands at Salem High School in Salem, Massachusetts, who is the 2014 recipient of the George N. Parks Leadership in Music Education award. Ms. Napierkowski received the award during the opening finals ceremonies at the 2014 Grand National Championships, presented by Yamaha on November 15.
Developed by NAfME, the National Association for Music Education and Music for All, the award is named for George N. Parks (1953–2010), director of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1977 until his death, and honors an exemplary music educator who embodies the characteristics and leadership that Mr. Parks personified.
About Ms. Cynthia Napierkowski
Ms. Cynthia Napierkowski and her family, with Ms. Nancy Ditmer, Immediate Past President of the National Association for Music Education
Ms. Cynthia Napierkowski has been a tireless devotee to her students and music arts for 28 years, creating a lasting impact as an outstanding educator in the Salem, Mass. community and garnering national attention as one of School Band and Orchestra magazine’s 2013 50 Directors
Who Make a Difference.
While her focus lies in band and instrumental music, she has been a champion for all music students and programs. She is known for her tireless fundraising efforts to support music arts in the district, and she works to ensure the accessibility of music in all forms to students, even when scheduling conflicts might otherwise keep them out of music activities. Her belief in shaping well-rounded students means it’s not a rare sight to see football players marching in the half-time show or choir members also playing in the band.
But the accessibility doesn’t stop at scheduling. As a bluecollar community with a significant free and reduced lunch rate, not all of Salem’s students are able to cover expenses. Ms. Napierkowski has been known to contribute out of pocket to help students make ends meet and attend trips they weren’t able to fundraise on their own. She’s given music lessons for free and makes sure her students are taken care of outside the classroom.
“She knows where the kids live and what their home situations are like to know when they may need extra help, not only with getting to or from music practice but also every-day issues like needing a pair of gloves in the winter,” said parent Christine MacTaylor, whose two children have both been impacted by Ms. Napierkowski.
“While Cyndi encourages students to always improve musically, I do not see this as her main focus with the students at all,” Ms. MacTaylor said. “For my daughter, who was insecure, Cyndi helped to push beyond her comfort zone where she could discover how introverts can still be leaders. For my son, who is not shy but has a muscle disorder, she helps encourage him to vary his skill set since his technical skills are being challenged enough just to participate.”
Ms. Napierkowski aims to instill in students that giving their best is what is important, encouraging them to grow not just as musicians but as individuals. Service is encouraged in her
classroom, whether service leadership to fellow students or throughout the community.
It’s no surprise that Ms. Napierkowski has been described as full of energy – no easy feat for an educator with an extensive schedule. She’s often found at school well into the evening and for hours on Saturday, taking one-on-one meetings with students and working with the various band ensembles. She still finds time for additional obligations, including parades, competitions, concerts and trips.
Her personal philosophy toward teaching further illustrates just how dedicated she is not just to music education but to her students. “I believe in the Three Ps: Patience, Perseverance, and Passion,” she said. “A former superintendent once called me ‘fiercely loyal’ to my students
and I guess that about sums it up. It’s always about the kids and that’s the way it should be. It’s the only reason to be a teacher; it’s too much work otherwise.”