LaPorta Educator Award Announced

Nick Balkin
January 10, 2008
From left: IAJE president Chuck Owen, Donald Cantwell, and Berklee senior vice president of academic affairs Lawrence Simpson.
Photo by Nick Balkin

On Wednesday, January 9, at the 35th Annual International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) Conference in Toronto, the second Berklee/IAJE John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award was presented to Barneveld, New York resident Donald Cantwell, a retired music director who helped build one of the nation' s best music programs at Whitesboro Central School, New York over the course of a long and distinguished career.

During his 33-year tenure at Whitesboro, Cantwell built an award-winning program and taught many students who have gone on to careers of distinction as performers and educators, including Mark Kellogg, trombonist with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and faculty member at Eastman School of Music; David Blask, trumpeter with the Central New York Jazz Orchestra; and Michael Hewitt, chair of Music Education at the University of Maryland School of Music. Cantwell also brought in several jazz greats to perform with his students, such as John LaPorta himself, as well as Gary Burton, Herb Pomeroy, Phil Wilson, and many others. Cantwell has been an active member of NAJE/IAJE for over 40 years, including terms as New York State Unit President, and has been a recognized jazz educator at elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels.

Underwritten in part by Berklee, the John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award was created to recognize an outstanding international high school educator with five or more years of classroom experience who represents the highest standards of teaching and whose results in the classroom have brought distinction to their institution and their students. The acknowledgement includes a $5,000 honorarium and a package of equipment and music for the recipient's school music program, as well as an invitation to speak to the Berklee student body at a major assembly. In addition, all expenses are paid for the recipient to attend the IAJE Conference and receive the award.

The award is named in memory of jazz education pioneer John LaPorta, whose career included stints playing alto saxophone and clarinet with Woody Herman, Charles Mingus, and Lennie Tristano prior to teaching at Berklee. Passionate, opinionated, garrulous, witty, uncompromising as an artist, and an inspiring teacher, LaPorta revolutionized jazz education. He spent more than 30 years at Berklee, becoming one of college's most respected and influential educators.