Tuesday, August 11, 2020
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Here’s how Dist. 204 wins so many Grammys

Among the three high schools in Indian Prairie School District 204, based in Aurora, Illinois, there are 16 Grammy Awards, including eight at Neuqua Valley, which is in Naperville, seven at Waubonsie Valley, and next month, one at Metea Valley. The awards from the Grammy Foundation recognize the most accomplished music programs in the country, the Daily Herald reports.

Sony BMG Music Entertainment Grammy Party, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 2005. (Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

Nationwide, only two schools have won more Grammys than Neuqua, and only four top or equal Waubonsie. “It says an enormous amount about the work that the district is doing to focus on music,” the paper quoted Scott Goldman, vice president of the Grammy Foundation, as saying. “It’s truly remarkable. It’s fairly unprecedented.”

Charles Staley, former director at Waubonsie and former fine arts chair at Neuqua, told the Daily Herald for this story that adjudicators at the Grammy Foundation are “going to know when students are performing musically and not just technically: Great teachers will teach the kids how to play with expression.” He once responded to our interview request and submitted three student essays when Neuqua Valley was named the national Grammy Signature School.

We acknowledge that accomplishment here and invite the students of Metea Valley to submit similar work.

Caroline Brown, a member of Neuqua’s choir, wrote this in 2013, describing the dedicated music teachers in the district, going all the way back to elementary school:

Music is unique to many other forms of study: there is never a single way to interpret something. Rather than having to read a novel and pull out a clear definition or solve an equation that only has one solution, there are countless ways to experience and interpret music.

I was able to think creatively in elementary music class. I remember drawing pictures of dancing cats when listening to a Mozart piece in elementary school, writing my own commercial jingle for Barbie dolls, and talking about why the French horn parts of the Harry Potter theme made me happy. I wasn’t able to think like that in other classes. If I hadn’t engaged my imagination that much back then, I doubt that the extent of my creativity would be anywhere near where it is today.

Instead of my directors telling the choir what a song is about, Mr Rimington and Mr Kellner often encourage them to discuss what they think it means. Earlier this year, I was thrilled when Mr Rimington asked my choir to listen to various pieces and describe what we saw when we heard it.

Tara Safavi, a cellist in the school’s orchestra, described how Neuqua’s music programs and teachers had made her more confident and enriched her high school life:

Participating in school orchestra has definitely made me a more confident team player. I’ll admit, when I began high school, I had very little confidence in myself as both a team player and a leader. But being in the Neuqua orchestra program changed that, because every musical ensemble requires its members to take on a variety of roles.

Experiencing these different situations for myself throughout the past four years gave me an idea of what it’s like to be an effective listener as well as a leader. For example, when I was a sophomore there were quite a few seniors in my orchestra, so during that year I gained confidence in myself as a team member, learning to adjust to others’ playing and blend well.

Finally, Andrew Lin wrote for us about the many rewards music and, specifically, the music programs at Neuqua, had brought into his life:

Music education allows each of us to tap into the nebulous creative energy that resides within us and channel it into something powerful and artistic. More than anything else, I have always seen music as being essential to feeling and understanding emotion. People find solace in music in a way that is not seen with any other art or activity.

Music touches everyone emotionally in ways that are unique to each person, but is always able to affect how we feel about something. Music education allows us to understand some of the how and why, so that we can determine how music touches us and learn to similarly touch others. Really, then, music education makes us all better, more empathetic people.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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