COREY SMITH STANDS UP FOR MUSIC EDUCATION

COREY SMITH STANDS UP FOR MUSIC EDUCATION
Corey Smith performs at the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage in Downtown Nashville on Saturday, June 8 during the 2013 CMA Music Festival.

Corey Smith performs at the Chevrolet Riverfront Stage in Downtown Nashville on Saturday, June 8 during the 2013 CMA Music Festival.

CMA has advocated for and supported music education in public schools through its Keep the Music Playing program. But the heart of this initiative is the many artists and teachers who share CMA’s commitment.

As a beneficiary of music instruction in the schools as well as a former teacher, Corey Smith has seen up close how music programs are becoming endangered in public schools.

“There are lots of schools where the fine arts are the first programs to get cut when there are budget shortages,” he observed. “It’s a sad thing. People love their football and their athletics. But sometimes the price you pay for those things is fine arts. I don’t think necessarily that’s a good tradeoff.”

Soon to tour with Darius Rucker and currently at work in the studio with producer Keith Stegall, Smith sang in his elementary school chorus, whose teacher exerted an especially positive influence.

“He was called Coach Nix, but he never really coached anything that I knew of,” the Georgia-born singer/songwriter said. “He was probably the best teacher that I had throughout my education. He had training and could play the piano and sing. And he took a lot of time with me after school, not only to tutor me in math, but also to give me voice lessons.”

When Smith had to miss the fourth quarter of school after undergoing eye surgery, Nix continued his instruction with house calls. “I wear sunglasses now because I got hit with a rock at the end of that year,” he explained. “But Coach Nix actually came to my house and helped me do all the work. He was a tremendous guy. He kept me involved. He was one of those guys that stayed in touch even as I went through middle school. Whenever I would get down and wasn’t living up to my potential, he would get with me and set me on the right course. He had such a great impact.

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Corey Smith greets fans at AT&T U-Verse Fan Fair X in Downtown Nashville on Saturday, June 8 during the 2013 CMA Music Festival.

“That’s the key to being a good teacher,” Smith continued. “Every child is exceptional. You just have to instill that confidence that anything is possible if they work hard, whether their calling is in music, sports, academics or whatever it is. He was one of the reasons why I wanted to be a teacher.”

Smith did teach guitar and high school social studies for four years. It was his students’ encouragement that prompted him to turn to music full-time.

“On Fridays, if the class had been good all week, I would take the last 10 minutes of class and play a song or two,” he remembered. “The kids were always so encouraging. They would say stuff like, ‘Mr. Smith, why are you doing this? Why aren’t you out there playing music?’ It got so that question was harder and harder to answer.”

Smith is happy with his decision to choose music, though he’ll always remember fondly his days in the classroom. “I can’t think of a career more rewarding than teaching,” he said. “There are so many good teachers out there. They don’t really get the recognition that they deserve. I can think of a lot of other teachers who have had a tremendous influence on me. I would not be who I am today without them.”

For more on CMA’s Keep the Music Playing program, visit www.CMAworld.com.