Schreiber music teacher named quarterfinalist for Grammy

Anthony Pinelli Jr.’s grandfather, James, set him up in front of a piano in his Manhattan apartment, then in front of a drum set, and then a guitar.

Pinelli, a young child at the time first being exposed to music, and his grandfather, a seasoned musician helping him learn, would play Beatles tunes for hours.

Pinelli, now 48, has been teaching music to children, using skills his grandfather had taught him to instruct them on their playing while helping them apply music to other aspects of life.

Pinelli, who has taught at Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington since 2003, said the town’s emphasis on culture has helped expose students to all parts of music, allowing him to expand beyond a regular musical education.

With 15 years of teaching music in Port Washington, and 12 in South Huntington, where he grew up and lives, Pinelli is being recognized for the musical impact he has had on hundreds of children’s lives.

Last week, he was named a quarterfinalist in the Grammy Music Educator Award competition, along with 197 music teachers from across the country.

“It’s a situation that’s just truly humbling,” Pinelli said. “I do what I do because I love it, not because I want to be recognized, but because kids are special to me and the musical process is special to me.”

Pinelli was anonymously nominated and has gone through different stages of the competition, including creating uncut videos of him teaching.

“The nomination was amazing and being named a quarterfinalist was a very humbling experience,” he said.

The award, which was established to recognize educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to music education in schools, will be presented at the 60th annual Grammy Awards.

“It is no surprise that Mr. Pinelli has received national recognition as one of the top music educators in the country and has a chance to represent us during the music industry’s most prestigious awards ceremony,” Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Mooney said.

Pinelli said teaching music to students extends beyond the classroom because music is cooperative.

“In order to be successful, you need to be able to work with people,” he said. “It’s about manners, courtesy and respect toward others. It takes everyone to make something good.”

Pinelli teaches two of the school’s three orchestras, improvisation, sound engineering and directs the jazz band after school.

Aside from teaching, Pinelli has continued to play at concerts, restaurants and other venues.

He said he first began playing professionally at age 16 in a jazz quartet that would play small gigs.

“When I was young, especially in eighth grade, I was excelling as a musician in school for multiple instruments because I had great teachers who had me try new things and new styles,” he said.

Pinelli said seeing students progress in music — as he once did — “is one of the best things in the world.”

“Growth at a young age is exponential,” he said. “When you see the progression of students, it’s amazing. For kids in music, it’s about work ethic and about finding a different way to approach something. That also opens their eyes to see that there’s not just one way to do things.”

Pinelli said he got where he is today because of his grandfather’s no fear approach.

“I’ve wanted to do this since I was old enough to sit up and be interested,” he said.

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Stephen Romano

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