GHHS Receives NAMM SupportMusic Merit Award and Director of GREAT Academy Receives Yamaha 40 Under 40

By Staff Reports

(Apple Valley)– Granite Hills High School is one of the 148 schools to receive a 2020 SupportMusic Merit Award from the NAMM Foundation. This award is an opportunity for a school “to be acknowledged for its commitment to music education” and only schools with exemplary music programs were chosen from across the country. 

Even with distance learning, GHHS’s commitment to their students’ music education has not waivered, although their approach has changed. Javier Alcántara-Rojas, Director of the Granite Recording and Entertainment Arts Training (GREAT) Academy, said “One of the best aspects of music is to make music with others. It was what allowed full engagement in most of our music classes.” Now that students are not physically in classrooms, they’ve had to switch their focus to individual development rather than the group dynamic they had created that has made the GREAT Academy’s music program so powerful. “It is a change we are adjusting to.”

Regardless of the challenges Javier Alcántara-Rojas has had to face in this last year, he was awarded with the Yamaha 40 Under 40 Award this month, which is given to music educators who demonstrate creativity, growth, action, and courage. Shane Churchill, Director of Vocal Music for the GREAT Academy, nominated Javier last year when nominations were announced. “I can say without hesitation that Javier Alcántara-Rojas is the best thing to have happened to the performing arts at GHHS.” Churchill credits Alcántara-Rojas as the sole reason for GHHS even having a performing arts academy. “Javier’s creative vision, ceaseless drive, genuine dedication to students, unparalleled work ethic and overall terrific disposition made him a natural to nominate for the Yamaha 40 Under 40,” Churchill said. 

Javier has been playing guitar for twenty-two years and has been a music teacher for over fifteen years. His favorite part of being the Director of the GREAT Academy is creating music with his students and helping “young musicians grow in their ability and watching their development. It makes me excited to do my job every day!”

Although Alcántara-Rojas has only formally been Director of the GREAT Academy for just over two years, the program has grown exponentially under his leadership. The GREAT Academy started with just three teachers and three classes; Choir, Instrumental and Recording, and Tech Theater. There are now seven teachers within the GREAT Academy and classes have expanded to include cartooning, drama, dance, and broadcasting.

Churchill’s final statement when asked why he chose to nominate Javier Alcántara-Rojas for the Yamaha 40 Under 40 was, “My nomination of Javier for this award was a thankful way for me to show my appreciation to him for all that he has done for our students…and his colleagues.”

For more information on the GREAT Academy, visit

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