"When I'm around these kids I'm reminded that we all have a gift, we all have a talent, we all have a sound."
Mickey Smith Jr. Grammy
Credit: Jesse Grant/Stringer/Getty Images

This weekend, between all the applause for the big names and over-the-top performances, the Recording Academy also paid tribute to a music professional making a difference on the ground.

Mickey Smith Jr., a band director at Maplewood Middle School in Sulphur, Louisiana, noted for his ability to make students feel "loved, valued, and wanted," was the recipient of the 2020 Music Educator Award presented by the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum.

He has been nominated for this award five times and was a finalist twice before.

“Life is funny,” Smith told KPLC. “If you would have told me many years ago, that I’d be here today, honestly as a kid, that was a dream.”

Smith currently leads about half of the entire student body in the school's band and has been growing the number since he started. At the beginning of his 15-year tenure at Maplewood Middle School, there were 28 students in the band. Today, there are 146, CBS News reports. He is also president of MusicMakers2U, which helps provide students with refurbished instruments.

Educating "is the noblest of professions because it's so giving,” Smith told the Recording Academy. “These are folks who are not in it for the money, they are not in it for the fame. They are in it to see that the next generation becomes the best generation."

"When I'm around these kids I'm reminded that we all have a gift, we all have a talent, we all have a sound,” he continued. “It's our job to keep on going, discover that sound and share it with others.”

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Smith recalled how his grandmother bought him his first instrument even though she didn't have a lot to spare. And how his parents and community were supportive of him growing up. Years later, in Los Angeles to collect his award, he said he felt humbled. "So, when I stand here today, I feel the weight of all those individuals who saw a little something in me."

Congratulations Mr. Smith!