Naperville's Neuqua Valley High School was honored Tuesday as the National Grammy Signature School, which comes with an award of $10,000. Only 10 schools nationwide were so honored this year.
President of the Chicago Chapter of the Recording Academy Matt Hennessey presented students with a check and award prior to Tuesday's Neuqua Valley High School Concert.
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"Matt Hennessey has a list of accomplishments that's a mile long so our students will thrilled to meet him," Neuqua's Fine Arts Department Chairman and Band Director Charles "Chip" Staley said Tuesday evening. "As for the award, our students recognize the honor is shared with all of the teachers who have helped them become accomplished musicians from their kindergarten day all through high school."
The honor recognizes "top U.S. public high schools that are making an outstanding commitment to music education." Neuqua Valley was previously named the top school for music education in 2005.
Indian Prairie Unit District 204's other two high schools, Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley, also were selected as semifinalists this year.
The selection process for Grammy Signature Schools begins each year in August when the Grammy Foundation mails notifications to more than 20,000 public high schools requesting information about each school's music program. Applications are completed and submitted online in October.
After the applications are scored, finalists are identified and asked to submit additional documentation, such as recordings of school concerts, sample concert programs and repertoire, which is then reviewed by an independent blue-ribbon committee of top music educators and professionals to determine the schools that merit Grammy Signature School status.
"We took about a three-year break from submitting materials after 2005. We then came back and were named a Grammy Gold school in 2009 and 2011," Staley said when he learned of the honor. "But this year, it's too hard to pinpoint exactly what put us over the top. We just had the total package to gain recognition for a second time."
Staley said the fact Neuqua has a "world class orchestra" and a "stellar band," helps when nominations come out. But the submitted recordings are what he thinks allows judges to really see the program's strengths.