Concert celebrates Pioneer GRAMMY, first school to receive national honor twice

Special GRAMMY Presentation Concert

Michael Daugherty
Michael Daugherty

What: A free concert of the Pioneer High School music programs to celebrate Pioneer’s 2011 National GRAMMY Signature School Award.
When: 8 p.m., Thursday, May 26.
Where: Hill Auditorium on the University of Michigan Campus, 825 N. University Ave., Ann Arbor.
Who: The award to Pioneer will be presented by these two special guests:

  • Michael Daugherty, GRAMMY-winning contemporary classical composer, University of Michigan professor and father of a former Pioneer music student.
  • Local entertainment attorney Howard Hertz, a member of the Chicago chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (Grammy Awards) Board of Governors and adjunct professor of law at U-M and Wayne State University.

From AAPSNews Service

Ann Arbor Pioneer High School has earned its second National GRAMMY Signature School Award from The GRAMMY Foundation – the first time any school has been given the top award twice, according to Pioneer Performing Arts Department Chairman David Leach.

“We have a community that really embraces the arts and arts education,” said Leach, who also serves as Pioneer’s band director. “One of the reasons we’re in the GRAMMYs is that we have such a rich program.” He noted that arts education gets strong support from the Ann Arbor Public Schools leadership and that being in the University of Michigan’s back yard is also a huge asset.

Leach said he is exceptionally proud of Pioneer and its music program, especially as it was considered for this year’s award.  “All of the schools competing, they’re really fine programs,” he said. “To see these great programs for years and to know we’re right up there with them is humbling.”

A special, free concert for the community to celebrate the 2011 National GRAMMY Signature School Award honor will take place at 8 p.m., Thursday, May 26 at Hill Auditorium on the University of Michigan campus. Musical groups from the entire department will perform and the GRAMMY award will be presented that evening.

Leach said he is hopeful many from the community will come to hear the free concert and is hoping to get upwards of 1,500 attending to help the Ann Arbor Public Schools and the Pioneer community celebrate.

Pioneer will receive a prize of $15,000 to enhance its music program. Leach said individual programs at the school will share in the prize, but that it also will support a new Music Theory AP class and the music program’s Theory and Technology class.

Created in 1998, the GRAMMY Signature Schools program recognizes top U.S. public high schools that are making an outstanding commitment to music education during an academic school year. A total of 36 schools were named 2011 GRAMMY Signature Schools. The top seven schools were designated Gold recipients and the best of the Gold recipients is named the National GRAMMY Signature School; this year that honor went to Pioneer.

The first time the school received the honor was in 2006.

‘It’s a work of passion when we’re all together. We try to keep the passion and mold it into something of a high caliber. We want our kids to strive to be great musicians.’

– David Leach

“We are proud of these very dedicated student musicians and their excellent music instructors,” said AAPS Fine Arts Coordinator Robin Bailey. In addition to Leach, instructors include: Jonathan Glawe, Orchestra; Steve Lorenz, Choir; Nancy Waring, Band/Music Theory and Technology; and Rochelle Martinez, Piano and Guitar.

Parent David Baum is co-vice president of the Pioneer Band Association. His son, Alex, is a senior who plays clarinet in the Pioneer Symphony Band and was drum major in the 2010 Pioneer Marching Band. Son Aaron, a sophomore, is a trumpet player in the Pioneer Symphony Band.

“My own two boys have benefited immensely from their years playing in the Pioneer High School bands,” Baum said. The GRAMMY award “underscores what I’ve said countless time to friends with children coming up through schools in Ann Arbor: The Pioneer music program is reason enough, by itself, to send their children to school there.”

Leach said one of the reasons Pioneer is often at or near the top of the GRAMMY awards list is that an original student composition is featured as part of the school’s submission. This year, that composition will be performed at the celebratory concert.

“It’s a work of passion when we’re all together,” Leach said of Pioneer’s program. “We try to keep the passion and mold it into something of a high caliber. We want our kids to strive to be great musicians.”

When Pioneer won the 2006 National GRAMMY Signature School Award, local rock musician and Pioneer alum Bob Seger was on hand to present the award. This year, award-winning composer and U-M professor Michael Daugherty – also a Pioneer parent – and entertainment attorney Howard Hertz will do the honors, Leach said.

Since 2002, Pioneer has been named a GRAMMY Signature School six times. Of those, the school received GRAMMY Gold Signature School status five times and, of those, has earned the coveted top prize twice. Pioneer has received $31,500 in GRAMMY awards, not counting this year’s $15,000 prize.

Leach noted that despite two major directorship changes in Pioneer’s music program since 2006, it continues to shine. “We have great clay,” he said. “Our kids come up with excellent skills. It’s a continuation of a journey they began in elementary school here.”

In addition to the GRAMMY announcement, the Ann Arbor Public Schools is among 172 districts in the country selected this month as one of the best in music education by the nonprofit National Association of Music Makers Foundation in its 12th annual “Best Communities for Music Education” survey.

The survey acknowledges districts across the U.S. for their “unwavering commitment” to music education, NAMM said in releasing the results. Districts were measured across curricular and programmatic criteria as well as public support of their music programs. The survey was developed and administered by The Institute for Educational Research and Public Service, an affiliate of the University of Kansas.

View a complete list of winning school districts  at

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