Grant Harbison teaches his students much more than music—he is passionate about ensuring their success in both the band room and their core classes. Harbison is the band director at The Academies at Jonesboro High School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, the same building where he earned his own high school diploma. He promotes literacy and math in his music classroom, cultivating a positive, welcoming atmosphere that motivates students to reach their highest potential. Harbison is committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in Jonesboro’s music program, actively recruiting students from all backgrounds, including those with learning differences. Students who have struggled in earlier grades thrive under his leadership. The 160 high school musicians in Harbison’s symphonic, jazz and marching bands routinely earn honors at All-Region and All-State band festivals. Harbison also teaches more than 100 junior high students, starting in seventh grade, to build the pipeline for the high school band program and get kids hooked on the culture of excellence and inclusive community he promotes.
An accomplished performer, Harbison has played with world-renowned musicians like Leonard Slatkin and Dave Brubeck, and has recorded with orchestras and wind ensembles at the University of North Texas. He sits on Arkansas’ All-State Jazz Committee and serves as secretary for the Arkansas Jazz Educators. At Jonesboro, Harbison participates on the building leadership team and Equal Opportunity Schools committee. He co-chairs the district’s diversity task force and has mentored students under the Jonesboro “Trusted Adult” program. Harbison started a professional learning community for fine arts teachers that focuses not just on arts education, but on supporting students’ overall academic success.
Even during the changes in education created by the pandemic, Harbison always approaches his instruction with a smile and “can do” attitude. He modified instruments, held rehearsals outside in tents and embraced virtual instruction to keep his musicians safe. Concerned about younger students, Harbison set up a tutoring program for the district’s junior high band members to accelerate student learning. He is committed to every student’s music education, raising funds and securing donations for students who cannot afford instruments. A hometown hero, Harbison builds strong and lasting relationships with colleagues, families, community members, and most of all students, many of whom earn college scholarships thanks to their musical accomplishments.
Harbison earned a Bachelor of Science of Music Education in 2008 from Arkansas State University and a Master of Music in 2010 from the University of North Texas.
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