Welcoming visitors to Geneseo is a sign proclaiming the community’s six music state championships. Not mentioned are the 10 runner-up honors and seven third place finishes.
Music has a rich tradition in Geneseo — from the marching band on the field in the fall to the jazz shows and musicals staged in the spring.
The program recently caught the eye of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) which named Geneseo one of its 2019 “Best Communities for Music Education.”
“A distinction like this does not just happen by chance or during a small window in time, but rather through continuous hard work, growth, support, and dedication by many individuals and groups over a long period of time,” said Geneseo Superintendent Dr. Adam Brumbaugh. “We hope this distinction will continue for years to come.”
Geneseo was one of only 13 Illinois districts to be honored. It joined districts from Buffalo Grove, Wilmette, Batavia, Algonquin, Aurora, Lake Forest, Morton, Northbrook, Plano, Elgin, Northfield and Yorkville on the 2019 list.
Geneseo High School music department chairman and band director Steve Scherer said he’d first heard about the award a decade ago.
“A colleague heard our band play and encouraged us to apply,” said Scherer. The award recognizes a district’s entire music program — not just that at the high school — and takes into account a district’s music facilities.
With the recent ProjectLEAF construction upgrades through the district — including a brand new concert hall at GHS — Scherer decided the time was right to apply for the honor.
“It’s a 54-page application, so it’s quite an arduous process,” he said.
Before bestowing a “Best Communities for Music Education” award on a district, NAMM officials take into account a district’s funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music making programs.
Music education in Geneseo “has unusually good support from the school administrators and school board” said Scherer.
“There are so many communities that are taking away from their music programs. They view music education as unnecessary. Our administration and board have never treated us like that,” he noted, adding district support has enabled Geneseo to have “a strong program that goes back for decades.”
“Not many districts have a music program that’s been so good for so long, and not just in band or choir, but both,” he said.
Students music education starts in elementary school.
“Our general music teachers at the elementary level all coordinate with each other to make sure what they’re teaching aligns,” said Scherer.
“This award honors our music programs K-12. It’s everybody,” he said.
In addition to district support, the music program benefits from community support and appreciation, said Scherer.
The parent-led Geneseo Performing Arts Council (GPAC) is an “exceptionally good” booster group, said Scherer. “Having strong parental support is essential to what we do.”
Community organizations like the 113-year old Maple City Band and the 11-year old Community Choir of Geneseo allow students to rehearse and perform music throughout the summer months.
The all-ages nature of the groups help emphasize to students the life-long nature of music, said Scherer.
In addition to Scherer, music educators in the Geneseo School District include: Stephen LaCroix (GHS choir), Tony Hernandez (GHS band and 6th grade band), John Versluis (GMS band), Megan Warren (GMS choir), Mike Eckwall (Southwest music), Alesha Gierhart (Millikin music) and Hannah Johnson (Northside music) as well as part-time accompanist and assistant Pam Edwards.