LAPS Celebrates Music In Our Schools Month

The Los Alamos High School Symphonic Strings, under the direction of Michelle Rosette. Photo Courtesy LAPS

An Aspen Elementary School student trying out the guitar. Photo Courtesy LAPS

Chamisa Elementary School 2nd grade music classes performed a musical telling of the adapted Ukrainian folktale The Mitten, by Jan Brett. Photo Courtesy LAPS

Students at Barranca Mesa Elementary School sang outside the school to celebrate Constitution Day. Photo Courtesy LAPS


“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” – Plato

March is designated as Music in Our Schools month, and Los Alamos Public Schools is celebrating the music programs and the teachers who lead them at the elementary, middle and high schools.

Led by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), music educators and students throughout the United States and overseas are demonstrating this March, the powerful role a quality music program plays in the lives of young people. 

LAPS has a team of music educators who teach music to all students as well as offering instruction in band, choir, jazz, and orchestra. Almost 400 students in 5th through 12th grades participate in band; over 250 students, beginning in 4th grade, participate in orchestra, and over 70 students are in jazz bands. In addition, 85 students participate in choirs at the middle and high school levels.

“We are extremely proud of our robust music programs in LAPS,” said Interim Superintendent Jennifer Guy. “Our staff, administrators and School Board members strongly support music and art in our schools as we strive to offer our students and families a well-rounded education.”

The LAPS Music department staff includes Galina Austin,  Jeremy Bleich, Valerie Collins, Ryan Finn, Jacob Lucero, Zane Meek, Nicholas Montoya-Valdez, Michelle Rosette, Jason Rutledge, Deanna Teague and Megan Tholen.

All students at the elementary schools, including preschool students, participate in music classes. Students at the elementary level are able to begin in the orchestra program in 4th grade. Students may begin participating in band in 5th grade. 

Students at Aspen Elementary School, under the direction of Jacob Lucero, recently wrote and performed their own songs, learned how to play different instruments and then performed in front of their classmates.  The majority of the elementary schools have choir groups that perform throughout the year, singing at the senior centers or caroling in downtown Los Alamos during the holidays. 

Megan Tholen’s 2nd grade music classes at Chamisa Elementary School performed a musical telling of the adapted Ukrainian folktale The Mitten, by Jan Brett.  “The students sang and were accompanied by xylophones, and each of eight animals were dramatized by a student and represented as a rhythm performed by students on drums,” explained Mrs. Tholen.  

Students at Barranca Mesa Elementary School celebrated Constitution Day and the birthday of the Star Spangled Banner in an outdoor assembly by all singing the National Anthem led by the Bobcat Choir. The 5th graders performed Fifty Nifty, and 6th graders performed The Constitution Rap under the flag pole. They also honored Veterans with a outdoor Veteran’s Day program where they sang Thank You and Mr. Red White and Blue.

Programs at the middle and high school level have garnered many accolades and awards over the years. The Los Alamos High School Schola Cantorum won the 4A State Choir Championship in 2015 and 2017. 

Last month, the Los Alamos Middle School Jazz Band and Orchestra attended the Albuquerque/UNM Jazz Festival and received Superior ratings. In addition, Anna Simakov, Sara Khan and Kiowa Carlson received “Outstanding Improvisation” awards. Anna, along with Irina Maiorov and Marika Korobvkin were honored with best overall awards, meaning that the judges decided they were the top middle school musicians of the festival.

Earlier this month, the high school Symphony Strings orchestra earned their highest MPA (music performance assessments) scores any orchestra from LAHS has ever received, according to Orchestra Conductor Michelle Rosette. Scores were 100, 100, 99 and a 98. One of the 4 rating judges wrote “I’m not qualified to judge an orchestra of this caliber.” Unfortunately, there is no State Orchestra Contest. 

The LAHS Concert Strings received a 1 on their performance and a 2 in sight reading.  The LAMS Concert Strings garnered a 2 on their performance and a 1 in sight reading, while the LAMS Hawk Strings received a 1 on both their performance and sight reading. They are conducted by Jeremy Bleich.

“Both high school bands received Superior ratings on stage and in sight reading,” said Ryan Finn. “Both middle school bands received Excellent ratings on stage and Superior in sight reading.” The LAMS Symphonic Band and the LAHS Wind Symphony will be performing at the New Mexico State Concert Band Contest in April.

Jason Rutledge, choir director for both the middle and high schools, reported that “all choirs received Superior and Excellent ratings, and will be representing LAPS at the 2022 NMAA State Choir Contest on April 8 and 9.” They will include the Concert Choir and Bel Canto from the high school, and the middle school Unity Choir.

The Los Alamos Middle School and High School Orchestra Concert will be held in Duane Smith Auditorium on Tuesday, May 3, at 6:30 pm. The concert is free and will include advanced elementary orchestra students as well. Everyone is welcome to attend. 

The District Music Festival will be held on Thursday, May 12 at Los Alamos High School.