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Instrumental to Student Success, Music Teacher Nicolas Jacques Scores a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Nevada educator and students band together for better learning at Carson Middle School

October 24, 2019

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — Nietzsche wrote that "Without music, life would be a mistake." But thanks to band teacher Nicolas Jacques, that's a mistake no one is making at Carson Middle School in Carson City, NV. Music is everywhere in the school, the district and the surrounding community as students throng to join Jacques' concert band, marching band and jazz band ensembles. Employing smart technology through music apps for sight-reading and testing, Jacques challenges students to expand their minds to work together communally as well as improve their skills individually. Band students develop superior discipline under his tutelage even as they have fun expressing themselves. More than just a high energy elective, Jacques' band program inspires and elevates student engagement while strengthening academic achievement.

But it was Jacques who was elevated today at a surprise school assembly where he was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Family Foundation Chairman and Co-Founder Lowell Milken and Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert. An elated Jacques was named a 2019-20 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. He is one of two Milken Educator Award winners from Nevada this year, and is among up to 40 honorees for 2019-20.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the "Oscars of Teaching" has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America’s next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, “The future belongs to the educated.”

Jacques is improving that future by working in concert with parents, peers and students. Incorporating the joy of belonging and creating something beautiful together into the daily curriculum, Jacques' band students go on to shine in regional and state competitions reflecting their hard work and dedication. An inspirational teacher who improvises like a jazz musician within the structures of the educational system, Jacques' out-of-the-box approach prepares students for greater performances academically and on the larger world stage.

"Nicolas Jacques cultivates a work ethic and passion for music that will last a lifetime," said Milken. "The rewards of practice, creativity and collaborative harmony are multiplied by his strategic use of high-tech tools and keen insight into his teenage students. As both an educator and a leader, Nicolas inspires students and teachers from primary grades through university. We are proud to have Nicolas Jacques add his voice to the National Milken Educator Network."

"Nicolas Jacques exemplifies what it means to be a teacher of music, and I'm thankful to the Milken Family Foundation for recognizing his talents with this prestigious award," said Governor Sisolak. "Mr. Jacques has taken his students to new heights, performing in numerous festivals throughout Washoe County and utilizing cutting-edge technology to help students become better musicians. It comes as no surprise that the confidence and discipline instilled by Mr. Jacques' teaching has contributed to his students' high academic performance. Improving K-12 education in Nevada is my top priority as Governor, and empowering teachers like Mr. Jacques is how we make real progress."

"I am thrilled that for the first time in more than a decade two very deserving educators in Nevada are receiving the Milken Educator Award," said Ebert. "Two of my top priorities in the state are to elevate the teaching profession and end our teacher shortage. This award not only rewards deserving teachers but signifies how important teachers are in our society. I would like to congratulate Nicolas Jacques for the daily inspiration and music he brings into the lives of young students in Carson City every day."

"It is not a coincidence that our music program thrives at Carson Middle School," said Carson City School District Superintendent Richard Stokes. "Nicolas Jacques gets students throughout all of his classes genuinely excited about music. He started the jazz band in 2013 and they perform admirably every year in the Reno Jazz Festival at the university. Having 264 students in his concert, marching and Jazz bands really shows what a gifted teacher Mr. Jacques is and how students want to be part of his programs. It is very rewarding to observe the joy his students display when they perform and to watch their progress under his tutelage. On behalf of the Carson City School District, I would like to thank the Milken Family Foundation for recognizing a great teacher."

About Milken Educator Nicolas Jacques

Every December, music teacher Nicolas Jacques brings the bands he directs at Carson Middle School (CMS) to play at Carson City's elementary schools. When they hear the familiar holiday tunes, the younger students clap, cheer and sing along, their eyes lighting up as they see the sixth, seventh and eighth graders playing their wind, brass and percussion instruments. The CMS bands perform often at school, in the community and at adjudicated festivals. The jazz band, which Jacques started in 2013, plays at "Jazz in the Commons" before classes begin and has performed at the Reno Jazz Festival and the Jazz in the Schools Clinic at University of Nevada Reno. The concert bands routinely earn "superior" ratings at the Washoe County and Northern Zone Band Festivals, and the groups have even performed at Disneyland. Jacques’ students make up 60% of the Carson City honor band and six were selected to play in the All-State festival last year. His' students excel in academics as well, delivering the highest scores at the school on statewide assessments.

Jacques makes band an integral part of the CMS culture and a "family away from home" for the more than 250 CMS students who participate in the school's concert, marching and jazz bands. He opens the band room for morning jazz band practice and after-school rehearsals and welcomes students at lunchtime. Jacques strives to create an environment of respect, hard work, camaraderie and integrity. He makes a point of getting to know students beyond the instruments they play. Jacques has skillfully created a positive feedback loop: When students work harder, he gives them more challenging music, inspiring them to practice and improve their musical skills. With up to 60 students in each class period, Jacques uses the school’s 1:1 devices with programs like Smart Music to help students learn their parts and practice sight-reading. After Jacques presented at the Nevada Ready 21 Summit on how he uses Flipgrid for video-based instrumental playing tests, several CMS teachers started using the technology in their own classrooms. Jacques keeps parents up to date through a newsletter and website. The band families pour countless hours into the program, managing uniforms, raising funds, chaperoning and driving students to rehearsals, concerts and festivals.

Jacques mentors new and aspiring educators and has coordinated district-wide music-teacher curriculum training. He has guest conducted county honor bands and music camps, serves on the board for the Nevada Music Educators Association and coordinates the All-State music festival. Jacques hosts a summer jazz camp at CMS and directs the Capital City Community Band. Jacques' middle school students develop skills and discipline beyond their years. Some of his young musicians have secured paid performance gigs while still in high school, and one is pursuing a college degree in music education.

Jacques earned a bachelor's degree in 2008 and a master's degree in 2011 in music education from The University of Nevada Reno. He earned National Board Certification in 2018.

More information about Jacques, plus links to photos and a video from today's assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at

Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, the honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals, and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2019-20 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, 2020 where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education. In addition, the Milken Educator Awards' "Why Not Us" program will pair each 2019-20 recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor to explore and prepare for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy.

More than $140 million in funding, including $70 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients' careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.

The cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways; for instance, on their children's or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even on the adoption of children.

To get regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events, follow and use the #MilkenAward hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Everyone is encouraged to watch the tour at,, and

For more information, visit or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards

The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

Lynne Russo 
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