Prairie du Chien band director elected to national association
By Caitlin Bittner
For Prairie du Chien High School band director Matt Lenz, the summer is always busy with the plans for the new school year—what music will pump up the crowd at Homecoming, or garner the band high praise during the concert season? Luckily, he now has a new not-so-secret weapon.
In mid-June, Lenz was informed of his election to the American School Band Directors’ Association (ASBDA). “It’s an honor to be recognized by this community; it’s kind of the place to be,” said Lenz.
In order to be considered for election, Lenz was required to fill out an application about his teaching experiences and success of the music programs he has directed. Lenz also needed to receive the recommendation of three current board members. Chris Simonson, of the Riverdale band program, Matt Snow, of the River Valley band program, and Monte Dunham, of various band programs in Westby, all were willing to give recommendations on his behalf, said Lenz.
The final requirement Lenz needed to fulfill was to have been a music teacher for more than seven years. A prerequisite easily met by Lenz’s 18 years of teaching experience.
Now that he’s been selected, Lenz will be in the company of approximately 1,000 band directors from across the United States, all with the goal of providing rewarding experiences for all students of instrumental music.
Lenz was a 1990 graduate of Riverdale High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After substitute teaching for a year and a half, Lenz started a job as the music teacher for grades 5-12 in Wonewoc. Four years later in 2000, Lenz made his final move to Prairie du Chien, where he makes his home with wife Jana, who teaches fourth grade in Boscobel, and their daughters Alaina (fifth grade) and Erin (second grade).
When asked about his 14 years of local experience, Lenz said being the band director is the best job you can have at any school.
“There’s always something to work towards. Every year is a challenge. There’s the challenge of rebuilding, and then there’s the challenge to find the right music to suit the group. You don’t want it to be too hard, but still hard enough that when they finish, it gives them a sense of accomplishment,” explained Lenz.
Seeing all that his students have achieved over the years is one of the things that keeps him doing what he does best, but another is the camaraderie between him and his students. “The fun thing is that the kids that are [in band] have signed up to be there; it makes for a strong connection.”
Over his bond with the students, Lenz is also able to tease their parents. “I joke with them that I see their kids more than they do,” laughed Lenz, who is pretty sure that between camps, practices, class time and events, there may be some truth to that.
Although Lenz was unable to attend the Regional meeting of the ASBDA at the end of June in La Crosse, he is planning to go to the next one and be an active member of the association for years to come. Lenz, however, did not need to attend the meeting in order to uphold the ASBDA’s goals of promoting a musical education.
“It’s a great experience; everyone can benefit from music in schools. “My advice is to try it while you’ve got the time,” said Lenz.