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Six questions with Chris Maunu

Music educator, Grammy Music Educator semi-finalist


How long have you been at Arvada West High and what do you do here?

This is my 12th year at Arvada West. I’m the head choral director and I oversee 340 choral music students grades 9-12. I personally teach five classes and direct an extra curricular ensemble. We have a total of 10 performing choirs.

What is your musical background and what got you into music?

Since I was five years old with my first solo in my church program, “Away in a Manger,” I’ve always loved to sing. It’s been a passion of mine my whole life. I’m from South Dakota and I got an undergraduate degree in vocal music education and a master’s Degree in vocal performance. Then I moved out here to Colorado to start teaching. I taught one year at Manning Middle School and Dunstan Middle, shared between those two and then I came to Arvada West.

You were recently named as one of 25 National Semi-finalists for the Grammy Music Educator Award. What do you think about that and how does it make you feel?

It’s amazing. First of all, it’s really cool that the Grammys do this for music teachers. I think they realize that all the stars out on stage were at one time inspired by a music teacher. I’m really humbled and really excited. Any accolades that come my way are just a pure reflection of the students’ excellence and their dedication and passion. It’s not just a one-man show here. My initial nomination was anonymous, so who knows who it was. I wish someone would come forward so I can thank them.

Why do you think music education is important?

There’s so many incredible life skills that come out of being part of a music ensemble. The teamwork, the vulnerability — especially with singing. Singing is a very vulnerable activity because you create this sound from inside your body and share it for the world to hear and judge. So, if you watch a show like “American Idol,” they’re brutally difficult on the people that try out. It’s a really vulnerable thing. So, building that self-confidence through doing something vulnerable is huge.

What does music add to an educational environment?

You’ve heard the research of the value of music and increasing the other academic areas. That’s really important. But music was recently named nationally as a core subject, which I think is great — music for music’s sake alone.

Personally, what is your favorite kind of music, artists or song?

I’m kind of a nerd, but it’s choral music. If you open up my iPad, it’s literally thousands of choral pieces. But in terms of contemporary, I like singer/songwriter and people who can actually sing — whatever genre it is. Right now my favorite thing is there’s a broadway musical called “Dear Evan Hansen” — it won all the Tony’s. It’s awesome, awesome stuff.


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