Grammy Foundation honors all three District 204 high schools
With multicultural choirs, steel drum bands and orchestras galore, all three high schools in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 have been selected as semifinalists in the Grammy Signature Schools contest for 2012.
"It's wonderful to have three schools in the same district, all in the same community, be eligible for recognition," said Bill Jastrow, the district's music education coordinator.
Neuqua Valley in Naperville and Waubonsie Valley in Aurora have been recognized by the Grammy Foundation before, but in its third year of existence, Metea Valley High School in Aurora is being honored for the first time.
"It's just really nice for the students to be recognized for all the hard work they've done establishing and building a program, really from scratch," Don Devany, Metea fine arts department chairman, said. "They've just done so much work that we really wanted to apply to see basically what would happen ... Thankfully they did get the recognition, which I think is well-deserved."
The Grammy Signature Schools program recognizes public high schools with strong music programs for their commitment to music education. Out of 20,000 schools nationwide invited to apply, 125 were chosen as semifinalists, with 12 of those in Illinois.
"The most remarkable aspect of this distinction is all three (District 204) high schools represent a quarter of all the high schools in Illinois that have been tapped to move to the semifinals of the Grammy Awards Signature School designation," said Charles "Chip" Staley, fine arts chairman at Neuqua Valley.
Aside from offering uncommon musical opportunities, such as steel drum bands, cello choirs and pop music-playing fiddle groups, Neuqua advances its music education by providing 20-minute small group lessons so each student can practice important skills, Staley said.
"The skill-based part of our curriculum is what we offer that not every school chooses to offer," he said. Students involved in the music program make up about a quarter of the population at both Neuqua and Metea, Staley and Devany said. Waubonsie's program is similarly well-established, Jastrow said.
The schools submitted CD samplings of work by several of their top performing groups and filled out questionnaires about music program funding, ensemble types and participation. Metea chose to send recordings from early fall because it was the first time the school had a senior class with a few extra months of musical experience, Devany said.
But with the application in and the semifinalists chosen, Metea, Neuqua and Waubonsie are awaiting mid-March when Grammy finalists -- called Gold Signature Schools -- will be announced.
"We're hoping all three schools are recognized at the Grammy Gold level," Staley said. "No matter who is recognized in our district, it will certainly be an honor for the entire district."
District 204 serves portions of Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook and Plainfield.