PAyam Javan: A music instructor who works with Oakland public school students has been nominated a Grammy semi-finalist.
For the past 15 years, Zack Pitt-Smith has been teaching middle and high school students. He’s also an incredible musician.
A KTVU crew was present at Rocky’s Market by the Oakland Estuary on Friday night as he performed with the Oakland Samba Revue.
Pitt-life Smith’s is around performing and teaching music.
For his efforts as a music teacher for the Oakland Unified School District, he is now one of the 25 semi-finalists for the Grammy’s Music Educator of the Year award.
“Being a teacher and being a performer to me is very much entwined,” Pitt-Smith said the nomination gives his students a voice and a stage.
“Kids are coming from all parts of humanity and some with more trauma than others,” said the 46-year-old, “It’s about reaching children and it’s about lifting people up to be the leaders of tomorrow.”
Kazeem Elebute, a 16-year-old Oakland Tech High School student, performed with Pitt-Smith on this night.
He is among the thousands of public school students that Pitt-Smith has taught and mentored.
“Holding you to a really high standard. I definitely think he’s played that card on me a couple of times and I felt it. He’s really expected a lot of me. He really believes in me.” said the teenager from East Oakland who’s being raised by a single mother.
Pitt-Smith, according to the student, encouraged him to pursue music and described him as a father figure. Elevate stated, “Always has been a good rock to lean on, always encourages you.”
Pitt-Smith and his Edna Brewer Middle School jazz band performed at Yoshi’s and were hired to perform the music for a scene in the film “Soul” by a Pixar producer.
Pitt-Smith hopes the lessons he teaches his students transcend the classroom. “Learn how to hold your head high and have discipline. To me, that’s much more important than the musical aspect.”
The music teacher will figure out whether he is one of the ten Grammy finalists in December.
However, he said that he has already won in many ways.
It’s about reaching out to students and recognising the magic, as he puts it.