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District 158 nationally recognized for outstanding commitment to music education

by Jennifer Yos

LANSING, Ill. (April 28, 2020) – Lansing School District 158 has been nationally recognized with a Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) award from the NAMM Foundation, a philanthropic branch of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) trade association, which supports music programs, research, and activities.

The BCME award distinguishes schools that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students. District 158 was one of 754 school districts selected nationwide for this distinction in 2020.

District 158 Superintendent Nathan Schilling expressed words of appreciation: “The Best Communities for Music Education award acknowledges the tremendous collaborative work being done both in District 158 and throughout the Lansing community to provide our children with opportunities for a comprehensive music education.”

To be considered for this year’s BCME award, District 158 music teachers—along with their district administrators, principals, and superintendent—responded to a NAMM survey in January. The survey questions addressed various aspects of the district’s music program, including funding, class participation, instructional time, facilities, educational opportunities, community engagement, and program support. According to the NAMM Foundation website, the survey questions “are aligned with goals for equity and access to music for all students, and also with national standards for music education.” The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas develops the NAMM survey questions and reviews all responses.

In an excerpt from his NAMM survey open response, Dr. Nathan Schilling highlighted District 158’s music program achievements:

“Lansing School District 158 provides a comprehensive, articulated, interdisciplinary music curriculum across state-of-the-art facilities for 2,700 diverse students in grades Pre-K through 8.

“Five highly qualified music specialist teachers deliver these services, which include band, choir, general music, theater, sectionals, jazz, marching, private lessons, summer enrichment, and a wealth of community, regional, state, and national performances. Innovative resources like flexible seating and 1:1 technology augment a music curriculum that reflects deep value for multiculturalism and diversity.

“District 158’s band program has a long history and tradition of success, having been awarded the Honor Band designation at the University of Illinois Superstate Concert Band Festival three times; received Division I Superior Ratings at district and state festivals for 53 consecutive years; and served as a clinic ensemble at the 2007 Midwest International Band & Orchestra Clinic. Bands tour and perform nationally, most recently in Tennessee.

“Choir and general music classes provide access to culturally relevant, diverse repertoire, instruments, and methods of communication like foreign and sign languages. These positive qualities and educational opportunities have been sustained and improved despite significant demographic and economic changes over the past decade.”

Reflecting on District 158’s BCME award, Director of Bands Mathew Becker expressed his appreciation for district support: “Music education serves an important and crucial part in the well-rounded education of all students. I am so thankful to be part of Lansing School District 158 as they lead the way in supporting the arts at a very high level.”

Lansing School District 158 provides learning opportunities as outlined in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which recommends music and the arts as important elements to a well-rounded education for all children. District 158 music teacher Erica Stephens notes that this is especially important during the current health pandemic: “During a time of crisis, people all over the world are turning to music for comfort and a way to help maintain a sense of belonging and participation. Music provides an effective way to convey emotions and intentions. In doing so, we can preserve, and even increase, social cohesion even when we stay apart.”

As District 158 continues to transition to remote learning in order to ensure student and staff safety during the quarantine, their music teachers are finding new and innovative ways to facilitate fine arts education at home. Erica Stephens has created a sing-along YouTube page for her students and their families at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyRQG5szedhtTDR9DcTiAGg/

Director Matt Becker is supporting band students through technology apps like Acapella, as shown in this Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2364092920356839.

Jennifer Yos
Jennifer Yos
Jennifer Yos grew up on Walter Street in Lansing with nine siblings. She attended St. Ann’s School and T.F. South, and she earned a BA in the Teaching of English from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and a MS in Education: Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Francis, Joliet. For 34 years she taught English, as well as Creative Writing and Drama, at Lincoln-Way High School. She dabbled in freelance journalism for the Joliet Herald News Living section. Now retired, Jennifer appreciates the opportunity to write for The Lansing Journal and is uplifted by the variety of positive people she has already met who are making a difference in Lansing.