Kylie Griffin is a zydeco teacher at Dozier Elementary in Erath. She was honored as one of Yamaha's 2023, "40 under 40" nominees.
An achievement she says is rarely given to grade school teachers like herself.
"I wasn't aware of the award, but I got the email that said I was nominated. and I was pleasantly surprised because I don't do it for awards. I do it to save our culture but it's nice to be recognized for what you are doing,” Griffin said.
According to Yamaha—-Griffin's love for Zydeco started during her graduate studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she played in the Ragin' Steppers band.
After graduating, Griffin and her husband, Gregg, started their own group called Poisson Rouge.
She says her goal is to create lifelong musicians that will preserve Cajun and Creole music.
“Our grandparents were humiliated and abused for speaking French. That’s why I teach Cajun and Créole French songs to my students as well as use French in my classroom,” Griffin told Yamaha.
According to Griffin, French was banned in Louisiana schools to Americanize the state's population in 1921.
Outside her music classroom, Griffin finds time to promote the area’s music through groups like the Bayou Tigre Steppers, the state’s first school-sponsored, student-led zydeco ensemble, which she started in 2021.
The Bayou Tigre Steppers consist of older students who want to continue playing the music of their families. “My goal with this ensemble is to create lifelong musicians who can preserve and continue our beautiful culture,” she says.
Yamaha launched the "40 under 40" music education advocacy program in 2021 to celebrate and recognize outstanding music educators who are making a difference by growing and strengthening their music programs.
The music production company states—-Griffin has qualities of action, courage, creativity, and growth, and is keeping the music, culture, and language of South Louisiana alive in her classroom.
Griffin also started Petits Cajuns, a Cajun French music camp, with her husband and Jason Harrington — both music teachers in the district. Camp attendees choose to learn accordion, fiddle, or acoustic guitar.
“Our goal as music educators is to create lifelong musicians who want to continue to play in some capacity after they leave our music program, even if that means singing or playing songs for their children later down the road,” she says. “I hope that students in my classes, the Bayou Tigre Steppers, and campers at Pettis Cajuns will continue to play and sing Cajun, Créole French, and zydeco music!”
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