Multiple MTSU Alumni Named CMA Foundation Music Teachers of Excellence

cma music teachers excellence
John Hazlett, left, graduate music alumna from Middle Tennessee State University, has worked as the band director for McGavock High School in Nashville, Tenn., for nearly a decade and was recently recognized for the third time as a CMA Foundation Music Teacher of Excellence, along with three other MTSU alumni. (MTSU graphic illustration by Stephanie Wagner)

After almost a decade as a high school band director, MTSU alumni John Hazlett has not only shared his expertise with his students — he has advanced his education at MTSU to better serve them and received recognition for his efforts, most recently named a CMA Foundation Music Teacher of Excellence for the third time.

“It is a great honor be recognized, and I’m very humbled,” said Hazlett, who brings his intense passion for music to McGavock High School in Nashville. “Music enhances the lives of young people every day in and out of the classroom, and music performance and music education play vital roles in the development and enrichment of the human spirit. All students should have that opportunity.”

The CMA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association, created the Music Teachers of Excellence program to recognize the best and brightest music teachers from Nashville and beyond, stated a foundation press release. The recipients demonstrate a dedication to bringing a quality music program to their students that also impacts their larger school community.

Among the 30 total honorees were three other True Blue alumni: Susan Waters from Brentwood, Tennessee, Evan Burton from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Michael Holland from Smyrna, Tennessee.

Hazlett attended the October awards ceremony at Marathon Music Works in Nashville to receive his accolade along with $2,500 to invest in his classroom and music program and $2,500 more to use as a personal stipend.

“I haven’t spent the money yet,” Hazlett said. “I plan to use the classroom funds for equipment, materials, instruments and other items.”

Hazlett, who found out he had won again through social media, said the application process for the recognition is lengthy, requiring video samples of his teaching and recommendation letters from his principal, students’ parents and colleagues.

Currently living in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, Hazlett earned his Master of Arts in Instrumental Music Conducting through MTSU’s College of Graduate Studies in 2006, two years into his teaching career.

“I took graduate courses in the evening and taught during the day,” he said. “There was some flexibility in terms of scheduling and course offerings.”

Hazlett said the multiple winners from MTSU show the university has high quality music programs.

“The knowledge and experience gained during my master’s program assisted me in pedagogy and repertoire selection for my classroom program,” he said.

The latest teaching techniques

Craig Cornish, MTSU associate director of bands and professor of music, has kept in touch with his former student Hazlett.

“He’s very dedicated, talented and hard-working!” Cornish said. “I thought it (third recognition) well deserved. I’ve followed his career for about 15 years now.”

Cornish said Hazlett’s multiple recognitions in addition to the wins of multiple other MTSU alumni over the years speaks to the quality of the School of Music’s faculty and their talent at training and teaching others.

“These students are exposed to the latest teaching and organizational techniques available,” Cornish said. “And programs like the Master of Arts in Instrumental Music Conducting also offer students flexibility like earning a degree without a residency.”

To learn more about the undergraduate and graduate School of Music opportunities, visit the website at