It looks like the third time really is the charm for Micky Smith Jr. who was recently named the 2020 Grammy Music Educator Award winner. After a "disappointing loss" in the 2019 finals, Mickey said the win feels absolutely "surreal."
"It's like I'm dreaming. I kind of pinch myself. Did I just imagine this?" he said.
Friday morning, students and staff at Maplewood Middle School, where Smith has served as band director for 15 years, were buzzing about in anticipation of the special presentation pending on the jumbo-sized video screen. Smith appeared via pre-recorded video with Saberly O'Quain, principal, to announce his win.
The crowd erupted with applause at Smith's announcement saying, "It takes all of us together to make anything happen."
This year marks his third year to enter the national contest where he competed against more than 3,000 other educators for the top title. "I literally was not going to do it this year. It hurt so bad to lose last year," Smith said with honesty and candor.
When news of his defeat arrived last year, Smith said his children cried and his was wife, Eugenia, was "visibly moved."
"I was thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?' I knew my intentions were good but am I hurting my family?" he said. "I just underestimated how emotionally invested they were in the process."
Smith had determined to put the Grammy aspiration aside and called his friend Sean Ardoin, two-time Grammy nominated artist. "He said, ‘I hear you. That's cool but yeah, I'm going to give you a couple of weeks to get over yourself and I'm going to nominate you again."
Despite Ardoin's vote of confidence, Smith said he was adamant that pursuing the award was out of his future plans. That was until he noticed his book "The Adventures of Little Mickey: Keep on Going" laying near him.
"That doggone title…I'm thinking, ‘Man, I literally can't stop because I've shared this message with so many folks. It would be wrong to quit for no other reason than I'm disappointed."
If the presence of the book and the support of good friends, weren't enough, Smith said his cousin, the late Lisa Green, served as a source of great confidence for him to continue. She always had a strong sense of Smith's potential, he said.
"The hat, the red, she just had an eye for who I could be. She saw it in me before I saw it in myself."
The hat has become his "secret weapon," a tribute to Green who believed in Smith until the very end of her life. "Wear the hat and you're going to win this year," he recalled her reminding him.
"When I teach those kids. I try to give them what she gave to me," Smith said.
The lesson is not lost to Kyle Cook, Maplewood Middle assistant band director. Cook has worked under Smith's guidance for the past five years since his student teaching time at McNeese State University.
"He says it all the time, ‘They don't care how much you know. They just care about how much you care about them.' His magic is the fact that he cares about their success and he is here to make sure that they have a successful life," Cook said.
Cook said he felt "complete joy" at hearing the news of Smith's win knowing it's his authenticity that earned him the title. "Everything he's been doing, every recognition has been him just being Mickey…It has been a genuine love of teaching and a genuine love of kids and that's why he's being recognized."
Ever the family man, Smith and his wife are currently in California awaiting Sunday's airing of the show. He hasn't been given any guarantee yet of his appearance on television but knows Eugenia is "ready to amaze and dazzle on the red carpet."
His daughter sent him with a list of celebrities he is required to meet and he is also travelling with life long friends who have always supported his dream.
"The biggest thing is I want this to be a shared experience...I'm just a little guy, from a little state, about to take the big stage," he said.
The 2020 Grammy Awards will air Sunday, January 26 at 7 p.m. on CBS.