Iola-Scandinavia band director spent 36 years in education
By Holly Neumann
After 35 years as the band director in the Iola-Scandinavia School District, Janice Lehr is calling it quits.
“I am looking forward to retirement,” said Lehr. “I will have the freedom to visit my mom, who is 92 years old and still lives in her home. I look forward to spending more time with her. And of course, I will go fishing!”
High School Principal Sara Anderson stated that Lehr’s retirement is well deserved.
“Mrs. Lehr has touched the lives of hundreds of students and thousands of community members,” Anderson said. “She has established a strong, well-respected band program that is known throughout the state for having outstanding musicians. I am appreciative of the dedication she has shown and I wish her the best.”
District Administrator David Dyb added that the impact that Lehr has had at Iola-Scandinavia goes beyond the classroom.
“She has inspired students to be leaders through the love of music and to appreciate life through performance and service,” he said. “The school district has been very fortunate to have someone share their gifts and talents for so many years.”
Without a doubt, Lehr will take with her many fond memories from Iola-Scandinavia.
“I would say concert performances, where we share what we have accomplished in class with our family and friends, will always be a favorite,” she said. “And all the incredible memories from our spring band trips as well. We all have so much fun; I still smile and laugh at all the good times.”
Along with all the good memories, also comes a few bad.
“The night I fell off the stage in front of an auditorium full of people was truly the worst memory of all,” she said. “I was embarrassed like never before or since!”
Her career would not be complete without a few funny memories as well.
“About a dozen years ago, our music department took five bus loads of students up to Bowler for solo and ensemble. After checking all of the buses I went back into school to lock doors and shut off the lights,” she said. “Chuck Fritz, the vocal director at the time, thought I was on the bus and had all five buses leave for Bowler without me! This wasn’t funny at the time; however, I get a good chuckle now.”
Lehr feels that her biggest accomplishment is the growth that has been seen in the band program over the years.
“I have 36 years of teaching behind me so I can certainly reflect on the past,” she said. “It takes a long time to build a band program. It takes the support of parents, the community, school staff and administration to allow it to develop and thrive.”
When Lehr first joined the Iola-Scandinavia School District in 1980 there were 72 band students in grades 5-12. Today, there are 210 participating.
Her hope is that music continues to be an important part of our community and in the lives of our students.
“It develops and enhances the creative part of their mind and soul,” she said. “Band and choir teach kids how to work together to create something beautiful. I believe that students flourish in all areas if creativity drives the learning.”
She offers some sound words of advice to that person who fills her position.
“This position requires a lot of time and hard work,” she said. “Always keep the students as your central focus. Never belittle, but work to bring out the best in each young person and help those who are having trouble; they will be incredibly grateful. This job is wonderfully rewarding. Best wishes and good luck.”