Andrew Cote, Merrimack’s music program director, said he was completely caught off guard when he received an email earlier this year from the Recording Academy.
It stated he had been nominated for the Grammys’ 2024 Music Educator Award.
“It came out of nowhere,” Cote said. “I don’t know if it was a student here at Merrimack or someone at my previous institution who put in the initial nomination.”
After answering a few questions about his educational career and music background, the Recording Academy announced in April Cote is one of 212 quarterfinalists. Semi-finalists will be announced in September, followed by the finalists in mid-October, and the winner will be announced in February ahead of the 2024 Grammy Awards.
“It’s a really cool honor,” Cote said. “I’m excited to continue in the process.”
Cote has worked to expand Merrimack’s music department and Marching Band ever since he was hired in August 2020. The undergraduate music major has grown from one student in 2019 to 28 in 2023. Within that same timeframe, the Marching Band grew from 28 student musicians to 85.
Cote said he wants Merrimack to continue to challenge the idea of what a music major could be. “People think, ‘Ok, I’m getting a music degree. That means I’m going to perform music or teach music,’” he said. “Instead, we focus on, say, students who dual-major in engineering and music. They could work in music manufacturing — redeveloping sound booths for schools or redesigning instrument reeds.”
Cote believes by putting all students at a level playing field allows for a more inclusive learning environment.
“Most music programs are set up like a classical conservatory, even small departments,” he explained. “For us, we wanted to be a little bit different. You don’t have to know how to read music if you want to be a music major at Merrimack. You don’t have to play or demonstrate on one specific instrument — you can come in and say ‘I want to play a lot of different instruments.’ In fact, we prefer that.”
Merrimack’s Director of Bands Paul Geresy said Cote’s work has been immensely transformative for the College’s music program.
“He has enabled us to offer our students so much more in and out of the classroom, both in music performance and music production and creation,” said Geresy. “His student-centered approach is perfectly aligned with Merrimack’s mission, and I’m thrilled to see him get the credit he deserves on a national level.”
In order to build up the Merrimack Marching Band, Cote and Geresy hosted prospective student events and invited high school seniors to play along with the Merrimack band during sporting events. According to Cote, 80 percent of the students who took part enrolled at Merrimack.
And more student musicians means more performance opportunities than ever before. Outside of sporting events, the College would previously hire local musicians to perform at various campus events. Now, it has many music ensembles to choose from including three rock bands, a trombone choir and a brass quintet.
“I’m so excited about our music program’s growth, and especially our band program,” Cote said. “We have more than 100 students involved in some sort of band program at Merrimack and 150 musicians on campus. We already can’t fit in the band room anymore, which is pretty cool. Now we have to rehearse at the Rogers Center for the Arts in order to fit everybody.”