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Richland music program sees growth, success

CREST HILL – Richland School eighth-grader Emily Padilla is taking five years of singing experience with her as she becomes a freshman at Lockport Township High School next year.

Not many high school freshman choir students can say that.

“It’s become a part of me over the years,” Padilla said of participating in the choir since third grade. “I have become more confident. And it has helped academically too.”

Richland fifth-grader Zoe Halatek wanted to join band because her older brother played an instrument, as well. But she has made the flute her own.

“It makes me feel proud because we have a good band,” she said.

One of the most successful pre-secondary education music programs in the state is right at Richland School District 88A.

On May 2, the fifth- and sixth-grade concert band and choir each received a “Best of Day” designation for the region at the 2015 Illinois Elementary School Association State Band and Choir Contest.

Before that, the symphonic band received a “Division I Superior” rating by all judges after performing “Royal Oak,” “Salvation is Created” and “Terminal Velocity” on March 14 at the Illinois Grade School Music Association Band Regional.

The choir also was selected for 2015 “Honor Status” through the IGSMA, designating it as one of six choirs “that demonstrate truly outstanding musicianship at the middle school level,” in the state. Other Richland choirs also accomplished that feat in 2013 and 2014.

Fine arts growth

Richland band teacher Phil Robb and choir teacher Audrie Burk credit the success to the performers.

“It is the students,” Robb said. “It’s a collaborative effort. The teachers here are truly supportive. And the connection we have with area directors and other intervals of support make it a great music program.”

Along with praising the students’ hard work, Burk credits parents for their support. She also said it helps for students to start choir and band at an earlier age.

Richland choirs start in third grade, while band starts in fourth grade. That is earlier than most school districts in Illinois.

“It’s really impressive what the students are able to do at that age,” Burk said.

“Part of the success of the program is the teachers,” Superintendent Michael Early said of Robb and Burk.

Moving the band and choir from after-school programs to part of the regular school day also helped attract more interest, he added.

“All our research suggests academic performance is correlated with kids being involved in extracurricular programs,” Early said.

The success of the band and choir has seen program participation grow exponentially since Robb and Burk came to the district in 2009.

“It’s tripled since 2009,” Robb said, adding that about 200 students now participate in the band and choir programs.

“We’ve had to split our concerts over the years,” Burk said, citing more students participating and not enough seats for their families.

The fine arts program at Richland also is welcoming the construction of a new band room.

Early said the room will be two-and-a-half times the size of the current room to accommodate more interest in the district’s music program. The room will have additional uses, but it will primarily be used by the band program.

The $700,000 project was approved by the School Board last spring and construction started in March, Early said. The last large addition to the school was the new elementary school in 2007.

Back in the current band room Friday afternoon, Zoe was playing classical songs as well as recognizable ones such as “Clocks” by Coldplay.

“I feel like this is a good place to learn how to play,” she said. “I’m going to continue playing.”



What: Richland Choir Spring Concert

When: 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Richland Main Gym, 1919 Caton Farm Road, Crest Hill


What: Richland Band Spring Concert

When: 7 to 11 p.m., Thursday

Where: Richland Main Gym, 1919 Caton Farm Road, Crest Hill

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