Northwest Guilford band director among nominees for North Carolina Education Lottery ‘School Heroes’ contest

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- The North Carolina Education Lottery continues to show its commitment to schools by rewarding everyday heroes. Through its new "NC School Heroes" contest, the lottery will give 10 "school heroes" $10,000. The public school where the "hero" teaches will also get $10,000.

Brian McMath is the band director at Northwest Guilford High School. McMath is one of the over 260 public school nominees from Guilford County.

"I take an interest in all of my kids," McMath said. "I think they are all valuable and important and I am there if they ask."

Endless hours in the band room and his commitment to students is the reason why parent Anna-Liv Deardorff nominated McMath.

"These are his kids, his babies and he cares very much about very one of them," Deardorff said.

McMath's bond with his students was tested nearly two years ago. Dominic Deardorff plays the trumpet and is an active member of the Northwest Guilford High School band program. While he was on a family vacation, his utility terrain vehicle tipped over, crushing his arm. Surgeons made the delicate repairs to his left arm. But Dominic's mother, Anna-Liv, explained this was only the beginning.

"The very next morning, everything hit the fan, complications. We were told he was going to lose his arm, five emergency surgeries in 10 days," Deardorff said.

Emotions like fear and doubt washed over the Deardorffs. But McMath was there to encourage the family to remain positive. McMath even visited Dominic in the hospital.

"I lost it. I was full of emotion," Dominic said. "I can't believe you showed up. You cared that much to support me through this and to help me any way you can."

Having McMath at the hospital was a good start. But the band director's visits still couldn't put aside Dominic's biggest fear.

"You can play the trumpet with one hand but will it be the same?" Dominic questioned. "That was my greatest worry."

McMath worked with Dominic at the hospital and at home during his recovery. Despite the constant work and encouragement, Anna-Liv Deardorff knew something was off.

"It was the scariest parent moment you could ever have. You bring your child home and you survive the surgeries and you are staring at your son and he is gone, he is not there," Deardorff said.

McMath figured it was time for the next step.

"I said get him back to his habit, get him back what he loves, what he wants to do and hopefully that will be his home," McMath said.

For Dominic, home was being around his fellow jazz players. McMath invited Dominic to a performance. That's when his confidence returned. That's when Dominic's passion for jazz and his trumpet returned.

"I started playing and it felt like I never stopped and lit that fire," Dominic said.

Dominic is once again an active member of the Northwest Guilford High School band program. Dominic and his mother say it's all because of McMath.

McMath said he shouldn't get all of the credit.

"Music helps everybody. It's therapeutic for every living soul. I don't think it's special. It's just what I do and it can help everybody," McMath said.

Van Denton (not to be confused with FOX8 Chief Meteorologist Van Denton) is the communications director for the North Carolina Education Lottery. Denton said nominations for "school heroes" are still being accepted at ncschoolheroes.com.

You can vote for a "school hero" at the website as well.

Most of the 4,340 nominees are from Triad public schools. Denton adds the Triad is also actively voting at the website.

March 31 is the last day to vote. The winners will be announced by May 6.

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