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  • Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.
    Superintendent of Schools
     
    Lancaster Central School District
    177 Central Avenue
    Lancaster, NY 14086
     
    District Clerk/Secretary:
    Sandra Janik
    716-686-3201 
  • Dear Lancaster Parents, Family, and Friends...

    As the song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” The sounds of the season are one of the ways in which the Lancaster Central School District makes the holiday season merry and bright. Any mom, dad, grandparent, fosterparent, or friend who has attended one of this year’s holiday concerts can attest to the feeling of chills­–not from the cold–but from the impeccable sound of music their loved one is making, either by instrument or voice.

    Any parent or loved one who has listened to their little one practicing an instrument at home for hours on end knows the significant dedication and devotion to craft that goes into making these concerts and performances as breathtaking as they are. This level of perfection doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it come without the arduous dedication of a faculty that is second-to-none.

    Lancaster is home to a comprehensive, award-winning music program. We have 20 highly qualified music teachers and students who value the importance of music education. We provide excellent instruction to thousands of students in classes and groups, large and small, not to mention the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts that ushers our high school students onto paths for their desired futures. Our program is a model for other schools across the state and nation and has been called the “Gold Standard.” We were named a GRAMMY Signature School in 2001 and presented with the Top Communities in America for Music Education Award by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation in 2019.

    News of yet another remarkable accomplishment came just as the 2019-20 school year began. Thanks to an application submitted by music department chair, Mr. Daniel DeAngelis, we were recognized with the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Presidential Citation Award, the organization’s highest school district honor.

    Lancaster rose to top for this designation for its well-rounded K-12 music program and students’ extensive participation outside of school. Since its inception in 1984, the Presidential Citation Award has only been given to 23 school districts. Lancaster is the first to receive this award since 2016 and is one of just two in Western New York to receive this high honor. The district was presented with the award at the NYSSMA Winter Conference on December 5.

    Accolades continued to come to light as high school music teacher, Mrs. Lynne Ruda was named a semifinalist for the GRAMMY Foundation’s Music Educator Award. Of the 3,300 nominations, Mrs. Ruda stood out, placing her in an elite group of 25 educators eligible for the award.

    Mrs. Ruda, a Lancaster alumna, returned to teach at LHS in 2008. When she began teaching, she had just 40 students. Now she teaches the symphony orchestra and string orchestra, with a total of 135 string students and 20 full orchestra students. Mrs. Ruda founded the symphony orchestra and is involved in a multitude of other school and civic organizations including engaging students in volunteering with Buffalo String Works to teach refugee students to play instruments.

    The last, but certainly not least, of our music program’s crowning achievements this year came in the form of an invitation for the Lancaster Marching Legends to represent New York State at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in Hawaii. The 91-member national class marching band performed “Into the Yonder Blue,” a tribute composed by Director of Bands, Mr. Richard Goss.

    Mr. Goss co-wrote this year’s piece as a tribute to his late father, Alpha L. Goss Jr., who served in the Air Force in WWII as a pilot, flying supplies over the Himalayas. During one mission in treacherous conditions, the engines of Alpha’s plane caught fire and he and the other troops were missing in action for ten days until they waved down a plane overhead and were rescued. The four pieces are called “Off We Go,” “Missing In Action,” “Rescued” and “Aim High.” Although the progression from cheerful to haunting to hopeful represents Goss’ father’s journey, it also aligns well with the events of Pearl Harbor and the recovery after.

    As for the benefits of having such an outstanding music program, there is significant research that draws a connection between music instruction and brain development.

    Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a nonmusician. “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University.

    We are proud of our music program and all of its accomplishments and can see the impact it is having on the lives of our students. On behalf of one of the best school districts for music education; with an amazing list of accomplished alumni and a faculty that is world class, we thank the Lancaster community for your unwavering support of the music and arts. For without you, none of this would be possible. Have a wonderful new year!

    Sincerely,


    Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.
    Superintendent