Growing up in Houlton, his mother, Jan, was a “fabulous musician,” he said Friday, a nurse by trade who would gather her husband, Ted, a bank president, and her children around the piano at night for singalongs.
He began taking piano lessons as a child from “the amazing” Pat Flemington, one of several teachers that he credits with further igniting his passion for music and helping him garner the level of success he has achieved thus far.
That success has once again put him in the running for the 2017 Music Educator Award, a national program that recognizes “educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education.”
Nickerson is one of 10 finalists up for the award, created by the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation. He was also nominated during the inaugural award year in 2013 and advanced to the quarterfinals. The finalists were announced Thursday on “CBS This Morning.”
“This is really overwhelming,” Nickerson said Friday, speaking from his office at Windham High School, where he has taught for 30 years. “I am very flattered by the attention.”
Nickerson, a 1981 Houlton High School graduate, said that the award process included filling out a response to an open-ended question about his teaching philosophy, entering his resume and student testimonials along with videos of his work. The first round of the process happened last winter, and then the nominees were narrowed down to 25 in October before being cut to 10 this week.
Besides Flemington, he credited fellow music teachers and musicians Larry Hutchinson, David McGillicuddy, Mark Scally, Paul Lapointe, Scott Emack and Gladys Tarbell with inspiring him and helping him “become the best musician and teacher I can be.”
“I have such fond memories of my time in Houlton,” he said. “My family and I still try to make it back a couple of times a year.”
Nickerson currently resides in Windham and along with teaching music courses at the high school, he also conducts three choirs and is the music coordinator for the district. His other accolades include being named Maine Distinguished Choral Director of the Year, Maine Music Educator of the Year, and he was runner-up for Maine Teacher of the Year.
Nickerson said the winner of the award will be announced in January, and if he does win, he plans to attend the the 59th Grammy Awards ceremony on Feb. 12.