WESTFIELD - Although it was not the official red carpet in Los Angeles, Kent Knappenberger was walking a different red carpet and being photographed Friday evening. Less than one week after receiving his Grammy Music Educator Award, Knappenberger was honored by a community reception at Westfield Academy and Central School.
The reception had been planned in honor of Knappenberger receiving the first-ever award and "to congratulate Mr. Knappenberger on his phenomenal achievements, incredible abilities and wonderful representation of our students, our school, community, region and state during his entire career here and during this very public time," Superintendent David Davison said.
Knappenberger received awards and honors from the district, his alma mater and elected officials. He was presented with a sign from Davison and Secondary Principal Ivana Hite, which will be hung above his classroom door, and a certificate and citation from the state presented by Assemblyman Andy Goodell. The New York state proclamation was awarded on behalf of Goodell, Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, Sen. Catharine Young and Congressman Tom Reed.
Senior BOCES culinary arts students made Kent Knappenberger various cakes for a community reception held Friday at the school. Pictured, from left, are Ashley DePonceau, Sydney Fafinski, Knappenberger and Nicholas Bausum.
Photos by Samantha McDonnell
"What an honor not only for you, but for the Westfield school district and Chautauqua County that you received a Grammy," said Goodell. "I am so excited and so proud on behalf of all my colleagues all across the state of New York to give you a presentation and citation congratulating you on this incredible honor."
Also presenting awards to Knappenberger was Westfield Village Board Trustee Michael Brooker, who said the district and village have been lucky to have Knappenberger for the past 25 years. Brooker read a proclamation from Mayor Michael VandeVelde certifying Jan. 31 as Kent Knappenberger Day in the village of Westfield.
SUNY Fredonia Director of the School of Music Karl Boelter and SUNY Fredonia President Virginia Horvath were also present to honor the SUNY Fredonia alumnus. Horvath announced a scholarship in Knappenberger's honor for a Westfield graduating senior. She said SUNY Fredonia has a "a very long tradition of instilling in people the love of learning and the love of the role of music and arts in people's lives."
"For 25 years you have changed the lives of so many students and that's what we hope for among our graduates at SUNY Fredonia. We decided the best thing would be to invest in students that you yourself have invested in. I, and other colleagues have given lead gifts to create a scholarship for a student of Westfield," Horvath said.
While Knappenberger was in L.A., he had several adventures and said he learned a lot by being on the West Coast. Throughout the week, Knappenberger met former Beatle Ringo Starr and music producers Paul Williams and Jimmy Jam. He even had a conversation with Dustin Hoffman about a role he is currently portraying. Knappenberger received an email from Hoffman's personal assistant and asked the Grammy Foundation if it was a real email.
"The woman who told me it was OK checked it out with her hairdresser. Doesn't that sound like Hollywood?" Knappenberger joked.
He joked that while the traffic is slower in L.A., compared to New York City, drivers do not use turn signals as often. Knappenberger also said he learned his beard was trending on Twitter during Grammy week. He received various free gifts, from Grammy merchandise to free candy, and Girl Scout cookies to a bacon bowl maker.
In order to receive his Grammy award, he had to sign a three-page contract which rules include not allowing anyone to hold the award in photographs and he cannot sell the award. Knappenberger also choked back tears to read his acceptance speech he gave last Saturday.
"We teach music to our children and we need to teach music to our children because it is a reminder of who we are and a place where we can express who we would like to be," Knappenberger said. "Thank you for this gigantic gift you have given me and my students, and all music educators. We so desperately need your help and you are so generous at offering it."
Knappenberger who traveled with his wife, Nannette, and daughter, Lucy, both said the trip was awesome. Nannette was impressed to learn how much the Grammy Foundation does for education and musicians. She said there is a program, Music Cares, that will help musicians who are without insurance get back on their feet if they get sick or injured. Both Lucy and Nannette were proud of Knappenberger for being recognized.
"I'm very very proud. I'm very glad that they chose to recognize him. It is very humbling for him and for us because there are many awesome teachers out there. We are blessed completely they chose him," Nannette said.
Lucy said her favorite part was when her father gave his speech at the award ceremony. She said so many recording artists and producers came up to her father after the award to speak with him; she said it took him two hours to eat two crab legs.
"I was amazed to see at the after party all these artists, producers come up and say 'thank you.' He is amazing and I love him," Lucy said.
Among those in attendance was Krista Rhebergen and her daughter, Kyla of Sherman. The family attends church in Westfield and performs with Knappenberger in the music ensemble. Kyla said it was "awesome" to see Knappenberger on live TV during the Grammy telecast.
"I'm very proud of him. He's worked for a lot of years and he put his heart and soul into it," Krista said. "He truly deserves it."
Knappenberger was touched for all those who attended the events Friday evening. He thanked everyone for coming to the event saying he was "so moved" by everyone in attendance.
"I live in a great town. I'm proud to be from Western New York and Chautauqua County. I love our school and the people I work with," Knappenberger said.
Davison also wanted to publicly thank and recognize Knappenberger for his dedication to his students and his 25 years of service to the district.
"On behalf of the Westfield Academy and Central School district and school community, I would like to publicly thank you for your professionalism, dedication, ingenuity, creativity, ability and musicianship. Kent, your passion for music education has permeated the entire district and has touched thousands of lives of our students past and present," Davison said.