44th Annual Country Music Association Awards
When: 8 tonight
Gainesville High School drama teacher Pam Ware describes her former student, John Hopkins, as a Renaissance man.
"He's a fabulous actor, singer, designer, technician - the works. He can do everything and he does it well," Ware said.
Tonight, Hopkins could add "Entertainer of the Year" to that list as his band, Zac Brown Band, was nominated for four awards by the Country Music Association.
The 44th Annual Country Music Association Awards show airs tonight on ABC from Nashville, Tenn.
Hopkins is a 1989 graduate of Gainesville High School and is the bass guitarist for the Atlanta-based Zac Brown Band. The band's lead singer, Zac Brown, is a native of Dahlonega.
Last year, the band hit the music scene big and picked up several major awards, including a 2010 Grammy for "Best New Artist." They're single "Chicken Fried" became a radio smash hit and the music video earned them "US Weekend Breakthrough Video of the Year" at the Country Music Television Awards.
Though Hopkins resides in Atlanta, he still remains connected to his hometown. His parents, Ralph and Joan Hopkins, live in Gainesville and Hopkins makes regular visits. His father is a retired radiologist from Northeast Georgia Medical Center and his mother volunteers with the high school drama program and served 15 years as president of the Gainesville Ballet Company.
Ralph Hopkins said his son's passion for music was evident from a young age, when as a third-grader he wrote and performed his first song with classmates at Enota Elementary School, known today as Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy.
"He's very intelligent and loves words and language, and I think that's why he likes to write songs so much. I use the term ‘wordsmith,'" his father said.
Ware recalls that John Hopkins' work ethic also developed early. She said he was a powerful singer and convincing actor on stage. As a teenager, he played John the Baptist in "Godspell" and Danny Zuko in "Grease," as well as being in a number of other Gainesville High productions.
Among his other activities, he was a part of the high school swim team and served as senior patrol leader for the Troop 26 Eagle Scouts.
"He was a team player and a leader," Ware said. "He also lifted everyone up. He would say, ‘You can do it and you will do it,'" Ware said.
This evening, John Hopkins' parents plan to watch their son on television, as they baby sit his 2-year-old daughter, Grace. On the show, Zac Brown Band will perform "As She's Walking Away," which is currently No. 4 on the Billboard Country Music charts.
"We enjoy watching him perform. We know he does well and he has a good time when he's up there," Ralph Hopkins said. "I don't know if they'll win, but just being nominated is amazing."
Ware said Hopkins still keeps in touch and calls her "P Dub," an affectionate nickname from high school. It was slang for Ware's initials, P.W.
"When people achieve great success, they sometimes forget the people from the past. But not John. He's grateful," she said.
Her former student has been especially giving to her family, from his high school years to today, she said. In the 1980s, a band he formed in high school played a benefit concert for the American Heart Association after her husband underwent bypass surgery. Last December, he invited her family backstage at a concert in Nashville.
Ware said she feels just like a proud mom, and she expects to be glued to the television tonight to watch John Hopkins. Like many, she's a fan of the songs.
"The lyrics of their music expresses the great American way; there's a lot of heart and soul. Their recent CD, ‘You Get What You Give,' I believe that about life. What you give you get tenfold,'" she said.
Zac Brown Band was also nominated in categories for "New Artist of the Year," "Vocal Group of the Year" and "Musical Event of the Year."