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Opinion: Batavia Music Education, Best of Illinois

By Sophia Jech

After winning the “Best Communities for Music Education” award from The NAMM Foundation for the seventh time, Batavia has proven they really are the best for music education. In fact, they have won the award six times in the past seven years! With multiple levels of band, orchestra, and choir as well as extracurriculars including chamber orchestra, chromatics, the festival of carols, jazz band, marching band, pep band, show choir, string theory, Tri-M honor society, and winter guard, Batavia offers a variety of opportunities to students of any skill. And of course, along with great students and a supportive community, the teachers do a lot for the music program.
One of the main reasons the program is so great is the effect it has on the lives of students.
“I love doing choir and music because it makes me so incredibly happy and it gives me an opportunity to express myself,” said Lily Mamminga, a sophomore at Batavia High School. “I love that I can have that opportunity built into my school day because it’s super convenient and it also makes school a little more fun. I want to study music in college, so being able to participate in such an amazing music program in high school is such a great way to prepare for that. Additionally, I think there is such a tight-knit community in the music program, and I’ve met some people in choir and choir-related activities that will probably be my friends for life, which is an experience that’s hard to find in other classes.”
Another benefit for students is how easy the community makes it to take part in music.
“I think Batavia is really good at introducing kids to music, especially with fifth-grade band and orchestra,” said Eden Sagarin, a senior at Batavia High School. “In addition, Batavia has a really good community surrounding music, with a lot of different groups and support from all angles (parents, teachers, students, etc).”
Having the support of students who are an everyday part of the program really shows how great it is.
An important part of being a good community for music is prioritizing it on all levels.
“In my opinion, Batavia is one of the best communities for music education for several reasons,” Mary Jensen, the music teacher at Alice Gustafson said. “We have an incredible amount of talented students enrolled in our music program K – 12. Because we have so many students interested in music, we are able to create many performing groups and opportunities for everyone. We have tremendous support from parents, community, and from the district as well. ” Jensen, like music teachers at the other elementary schools in the district, teaches first through fifth graders music classes as well as directing a fourth and fifth-grade school choir.
Another uniquely great thing about Batavia is its unique introduction of music to fifth graders.
“There are so many reasons why Batavia is such an amazing community for music education, but one that I think allows us to stand out is the support for all the different musical groups,” said Lisa Hatfield, the band and orchestra teacher for fifth graders. “Not only do the music teachers collaborate with each other throughout the different schools, grades, and ensembles, but the students and families do too. It doesn’t matter if you’re in band, orchestra, chorus, or a combination of the three, you will get to perform a variety of styles and venues with others outside of your classes while inspiring the next generation of Batavia musicians!”
These attitudes are continued onto the middle school level, as well.
“I really enjoy the community and the music teachers. I often tell others that working here can be like working at Disneyland,” said Keith Ozsvathb a middle school band teacher, laughing. “At the middle school level, it’s especially exciting to witness the growth in musicianship from when the students enter sixth grade to when they leave at the end of eighth grade. The improvement is huge and it’s a big reason why I like teaching middle school so much.”
Music education does a lot more for the world than just teaching kids music.
“Music education is important, just like every other subject,” said Allison Liska, who teaches orchestra classes at BHS. “Musicians, similar to athletes, spend time training and practicing together as teams; unlike team sports, though, no one is ever sitting on the bench. Everyone plays. Also similar to sports, musicians do need to spend time in training, building dexterity and agility in order to perform their best. Musicians in ensembles classes learn to listen critically to their performance, assess their skills, and plan their growth. Music also connects with culture, and serves as a time capsule of historical events.”
Music education is very important for communities and Batavia has proven itself to be one of the best. Whether you trust the NAAM, students, or teachers, Batavia has created a community where musicians thrive.

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