Grace Alward has her dream job at Gresham MS

Susan EspirituFountain City

Grace Alward realized her dream of being a band director when she came to Gresham Middle School and her journey is inspiring.

The family: (front) Ann Marie Chunn, Grace Alward, Ian Alward; (back) Randy Chunn and Andrew Chunn.

Grace Chunn grew up in Strawberry Plains in a family with parents Randy and Ann Marie plus younger brother Andrew. Grace attended Carter schools from elementary through high school, but it was from sixth grade band and due to the influence of band director Angie Messer that Grace became captivated by the magic of playing in the band. She learned the clarinet and was deeply involved in band throughout high school with her first memorable milestone occurring when she earned All-State band honors during her junior and senior years.

As Grace grew older, her love for music only intensified and she knew she wanted to share her passion with others, to inspire and ignite the same spark of musical joy that her band directors had fueled in her. Grace decided to pursue a degree in music education attending Middle Tennessee State University and earning a bachelor’s degree in 2020, graduating with honors.

After graduation, Grace eagerly embarked on her career, teaching general music at Karns Elementary, achieving another significant milestone by conducting her first student concert.

Then 2022 provided Grace with multiple life milestones. She began teaching at Gresham in her dream job as a band teacher where she would have the opportunity to mold young minds and nurture their musical talents. It was also in 2022 that Grace married and settled into a life with husband Ian Alward, two dogs and a cat. She also achieved another significant milestone by leading her first concert as a band director.

Now Grace Alward, she says she will never forget the gratification felt after the first concert, because it was not only her first time to direct a band concert, but it was the first time the sixth graders had performed a concert. They played Hot Cross Buns plus a few other easy tunes and Grace was overwhelmed with the positive responses to song Hot Cross Buns as well as the band’ performance.

Alward lives the embodiment of one of her favorite quotes and instills it in her students: “You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” (We Bought a Zoo)

The Gresham band has a bright future. Alward has instituted an instrument night, costume concert, winter concert, basketball pep band and is planning for KCS Honor band among other possibilities.

Alward plans to build the Gresham band program because she wants to provide students with a space where they can find themselves and find the joy that playing music with a group brought her over the years. She wants to be the same person for her students that her band directors were for her. She also has found another mentor in Central’s band director, Alex Mink, who is showing her the ropes of being a band director in Knox County.

Alward’s teaching style is innovative and inspiring. She has infused her classroom with a contagious enthusiasm and unwavering dedication. She believes in the power of music to transform lives, and she instills this belief in her students. She encourages her students to think outside the box, to experiment with different genres and styles, and to embrace their unique musical voices.

Grace Alward, band director and teacher, says the power of the word “YET” can really change outlook on things, so always remember, “Yet, but I will.”

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