SULPHUR, LA (KPLC) - Thirty-four-year-old Mickey Smith of Sulphur is a music educator at Maplewood Middle School and has had a passion for music his entire life. He began playing music in the 6th grade and was a band member at Westlake High School. Smith's skills ultimately landed him a scholarship to attend McNeese State University and now, he wants the music to go on.
"I wanted to teach this as a profession," said Smith. "I wanted to give that gift back so now, in a sense, I've come full circle."
Smith is a quarterfinalist for the Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation. In celebration, the city of Sulphur presented "From the Grove to the GRAMMY's," a free concert featuring Smith and other local jazz players at the Grove Park near Heritage Square.
"I think we're really lucky to have Mickey Smith educating our future musicians," said band director at Westlake H.S. Jay Ecker.
Smith says he was nominated by members of the Sulphur community and is one of 222 music teachers from over 200 states that are quarterfinalists.
"It's really surreal to even think that there would be an opportunity to participate in something as prestigious as the GRAMMY's," said Smith. "I'm just more honored that folks see me in that capacity as somebody that is a role model for their children or somebody that's an ambassador for this universal thing called music."
Sulphur locals watched Smith crank out some of his favorite tunes including Pharrell Williams' "Happy" and Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," in which Smith nodded at his wife, Eugenia, as he played.
His family, including his parents and family from Southeast Texas, say they couldn't be more proud of seeing Smith fulfill his dreams.
"All of his work is really paying off now," said Smith's dad Huber. "It took a long time but it looks like it's finally coming around."
Smith's mom Emmer said Smith has worked hard for this and that he's always been "a good kid" growing up.
"If anybody deserves this, it's Mickey," she said.
Smith's wife Eugenia, and mother of Smith's two children, says watching Smith give back to the community has always been rewarding.
"I love him and I'm so proud of him," she said. "I'm so glad that I'm still his girlfriend after 15 years."
Smith says the message he'd like for his students and anyone with a dream to remember is to simply never give up.
"Find that thing that you're best at and find that thing there's a need for in the community," said Smith. "When you have those two things, then success follows."
The winner of the Music Educator Award will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award and attend the GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The winner will also receive a $10,000 grant.