Orchestrating Community: Music Teacher Stephen Lawrence Wins APS Arts Education Award


Excellence in Education: North Atlanta music teacher Stephen Lawrence’s selection for the APS Arts Education Award was an accomplishment that was well deserved and surprising to none of his well-taught students.

Do what you love and love what you do. This is music teacher Stephen Lawrence’s life mantra, and for good reason. The beloved staff member is a musical legend who has been a member of the North community since his high school days. His insurmountable passion for music that he has extended to students, staff and parents of the Dub community alike earned him a nomination and selection for the Atlanta Public Schools Excellence in Arts Education Award. His recent award distinguishes him as a leading music teacher for the district, and the #1 music teacher in the hearts of the school community.

Lawrence has made his mark as a music teacher at his alma mater since 2012, finding a home at the school since his prior positions as a teacher at schools in Rochester, N.Y. and Clayton County. He grew up surrounded by teachers, with both his parents and grandparents in the education field. “You could certainly say that being a teacher is something that runs in my blood,” Lawrence said. 

Lawrence’s passion for musical performance began when he joined the school orchestra in the 6th grade, which led him to pursue a college degree in education, with plans to teach music to the next generation. Lawrence does not take his role in the North community lightly, and he’s known to create interpersonal relationships with his students. He meets his students early on in their musical journey at Sutton Middle School, and helps them evolve their art until they are ready to graduate high school. “My students and I truly share a love for music, and that is what bonds us throughout my time teaching them.” Lawrence said. “Ultimately, I want them to learn that it is okay to take risks and challenge themselves for things that they love.”

Lawrence understands the criteria for an outstanding music and arts education teacher, and embodies these qualities inside and out of the classroom. The music teacher has demonstrated leadership on the school, district, and state level as an advocate for arts education. Lawrence is both a state and APS chair for the arts department, advocating by posting about upcoming activities, concerts and events, and acting as the Fine Arts Department chair. His involvement within the musical community is inspiring to his students, who excel under passionate leadership. Some of Lawrence’s students participate in honors orchestras throughout the state, while others have graduated high school to pursue musical performance or education degrees. “Mr. Lawrence goes above and beyond to provide opportunities that allow us to excel if we are willing to put in the work,” said senior Nneka Otuonye. “Whether that be offering private lessons or hosting mini summer camps, he truly displays his dedication to musical education on the daily.”

Although Lawrence teaches musical education on both the local and state level, he says that seasonal concerts at the school are one of the most joyful parts of his career. After a year of virtual school, the orchestra teacher was nervous for his students to attempt advanced play in front of an audience. Nevertheless, his students pulled through, performing a fall 2021 concert that left faculty and parents on their feet dancing. Lawrence’s dedication to crafting the next generation of artists is not unseen by his students, who express their gratitude for their teacher’s love of musical performance, and how he teaches the finer details of the art. “Going into the AP music theory course, I had extensive knowledge of jazz music theory,” said student Reed Jorgenson. “However, Mr. Lawrence was my guide in diversifying my knowledge. He showed me how classical music theory applies to a lot of the music of the past and the present, and demonstrated skills that I apply consistently to my musical practice.”

Lawrence has successfully combined his love for musical performance and for education to contribute greatness to the NAHS arts department. The music teacher leads by example, and pursues activism across the district. Dubs, let’s congratulate Mr. Stephen Lawrence for a job well done.