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Third time’s the charm for Stephen Richardson at Juno Awards

You can call Stephen Richardson a musician, you can call him a music teacher, but you can’t call him anything without first describing him as a Juno Award winner.

The music teacher at Ecole St. Joseph earned the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award at the Junos in Halifax on March 24. It was the third time he had been nominated for the honour and second consecutive year. The win came with a $10,000 prize for Richardson himself and a sizable contribution to the school’s music program courtesy of MusiCounts.

He arrived back home on Tuesday and spoke with NNSL Media that evening about what it was like being the best music teacher in Canada for at least the next 12 months.

“It’s interesting, you know?” he said. “I don’t look like your usual music teacher, but the whole evening was really unique.”

Richardson was one of five nominees from around the country up for the honour, and while it may seem like it was third time’s the charm, Richardson said it meant a bit more knowing that it happened in his home province.

“I didn’t go into it thinking I would win,” he said. “I had my family and friends I went to university with there at the (Scotiabank Centre). When they announced the nominees, they stayed on me for a couple of extra seconds and I noticed a camera to my left getting closer.”

He kept looking for the red light on that particular camera to signify that things were live, he added, and then he heard his name announced by Nelly Furtado, host of the evening’s proceedings.

“Now the camera is right on top of me,” said Richardson. “When I turned around and shook Dave’s (Dowe) hand, I thought I had punched him in the chest at first (laughs).”

Dowe, who has been playing in bands with Richardson for several years, was Richardson’s guest at the show and made the trip to Halifax with him.

Once he had won, he was ushered off to the next adventure.

“I get taken underneath the building and we go over to the convention centre side of the complex,” said Richardson. “People with walkie-talkies are leading you through and we end up in this room with about 50 or so reporters and they’re all asking questions. It felt like what Joe Biden or someone like that would go through.

“Then we go to another room and there’s (music duo) Tegan and Sara and (artist) TALK there with me,” he continued. “I read a letter from the previous winner and that’s where I got to hold the Juno for the first time. If you’ve never held it before, you don’t realize how heavy it is — it must weigh at least four or five pounds.”

That wasn’t the real one that he’ll get to keep; the real one will arrive later with the proper engraving of his name and category, he said.

Richardson then went to have some publicity photos done with the award itself. How would he do this, he wondered?

“Do I strike the George Costanza pose from Seinfeld or do I do rock star photos?” he joked.

But perhaps the big moment of the evening was getting the invite to play at what was known as the Jim Cuddy Jam Suite, a giant after-party for VIPs who were part of the show. As Richardson described it, it’s a big circle of chairs where people sit around and play as if it was a giant jam session.

Getting inside would be the first hurdle, though.

“You need to know people to get in or you need to be on the list,” said Richardson. “Dave and I were stopped at the front and they asked who we were. I told them who I was and they asked me if I was “the” teacher. I told them yes, and we got to go in. MusiCounts was the key because if I didn’t say that, we weren’t getting in.”

Even though he didn’t return to school until this past Wednesday, Richardson said there were some fellow staff members he bumped into beforehand who offered congratulations.

He even thought of a way to possibly get into the school that first morning back without being recognized.

“Everyone knows me because of my big beard and so I thought maybe I would shave it off and go in disguise,” he joked. “The main thing for me, though, is the kids. That’s what it all comes down to. They come down to the music room and for some of them, it’s a way to be themselves. It could be social for them. It’s all about giving them what they need and helping them write their own ticket in life.”