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Mr. T: Grammy Nominee

John Mooney

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 • 11:47am

SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- SPFHS music teacher Vincent Turturiello is one of 222 quarterfinalists for the second annual Grammy Award to honor the educators behind professional musicians.

For every performer who makes it to the Grammy stage, there was a teacher who played a critical role in getting them there. The special Music Educator Award is open to current, full-time, educators in the U.S., who teach music in public or private schools from kindergarten through college.

“Mr. T,” as he is fondly known by his students, has been teaching in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Public School District for more than three decades. During his tenure he has served as the Fine Arts Supervisor, High School Marching Band director, Wind Ensemble Director, and Jazz Band Director.  In 2004, he was named Master Music Teacher for the State of New Jersey. 

A graduate of Belleville High School, he received his Bachelors and Masters of Art degrees from New Jersey City University in music education. He studied clarinet under David Dworkin of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and saxophone under Charlie “Leeds” Liebowitz. He credits much of his teaching success to Nick Cerratto, the Wind Symphony Director and percussion professor at New Jersey City University.

In 1978, Mr. T began his teaching career at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. At that time the music program’s enrollment was 145 students. By 1987, it had grown to 530 students with a 280 member marching band and a chorus of 250 students. As supervisor of the program he worked to recruit students and encourage parents to develop students’ talents in music.

“I care for my students like they are my own children. I hope my teaching goes beyond the trophies and awards,” the Grammy quarterfinalist said. “I try to teach my students to respect the hard work of their peers, to care for each member of their band, to work hard and be dedicated, and maybe they will not only become good musicians but good people as well.”

“I am in awe at the amount of former students contacting me from when they had my dad as a band director in the year 1978,” said his daughter, Kristen Turturiello.  “My dad is truly an inspiration to not just my family, but also to all former students, staff, and  student teachers that have had the privilege to work with him. Some of these students explain that my dad has saved and changed their lives for the better. As a teacher myself, my dad is my role model and has always been my biggest cheerleader and best friend.”

Mr. T is perhaps best known these days as the director of the award-winning Moonglowers jazz band.  Some of his students have gone on to perform for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Saturday Night Live, as well as numerous Broadway and Off Broadway productions. 

"Mr. Turturiello has provided outstanding leadership to our Music Department. He is most deserving of this honor," said Dr. David Heisey, principal of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School.
 
"I am proud to be nominated, although I feel like I have won more than I deserve just by everyone who has reached out to me regarding the nomination," said Mr. T, who would use any financial support from the Grammys to upgrade the music program and offer scholarships to help students who cannot afford music workshops.
 
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