From selecting an instrument to stringing together those first notes of a melody, music teacher Lisa Hatfield loves her job.
Hatfield is the fifth-grade band teacher for Batavia School District 101, providing band instruction to students at the district’s six elementary schools. She is about to start her 10th year in the district, and it will be her fifth year helping students embark on their musical journeys.
“I get them right at the beginning, and it is such a trip,” Hatfield says.
She meets her students as fourth-graders, while they try out instruments and register for band. During the summer, she meets with her students for a two-week band camp where they learn how to assemble their instruments, care for them and how to play the beginning notes. By the end of camp, the students are able to play their first tune – “Hot Cross Buns.”
“They learned how to put their instrument together the week before, and then they are performing a demo concert for their parents. The kids feel amazing and it brings it all together,” Hatfield says.
Throughout the school year, her schedule can be hectic as she travels to a different school each day of the week, but Hatfield says that it’s work she loves.
“Lisa is a true gift to her students, her schools and her community,” says former band instructor Susan Ozsvath, who was the supervising teacher for Hatfield during her early years in the district. “She’s the perfect combination of talent, creativity and fun.”
In the last three years, Hatfield’s work has earned her awards and the district has top marks for music education in the state. Hatfield credits her mentors and fellow music instructors for helping with the success of the band program.
“I’m very fortunate to work in a district that really supports music education,” says Hatfield, who started her own music career as a pianist around the age of 4.
“Ever since then, I wanted to pick up every instrument,” she says.
Music is part of her family. Hatfield’s mother played band during her time in school, as did her brother, who – on occasion – will bring out his tuba and join Hatfield in a performance. Hatfield was in sixth grade when she selected the saxophone as her band instrument. She says that her teacher tried to encourage her to try clarinet, but Hatfield says that the saxophone seemed to fit her personality.
“I really enjoyed jazz, funk and rock,” she says.
As a teacher, Hatfield finds that there is a connection between an instrument and a student’s personality, and that her own bubbly, outgoing personality was a good fit for the saxophone. She played through grade school and high school, and attended VaderCook College of Music for her bachelor’s degree. Though she had been able to play with fellow musicians, and in concerts, Hatfield was drawn to music education.
“I really wanted to make a difference, and music education was the way to go,” she says. “When I see my students excel it makes me feel like a good musician.”
From time to time, she plays with an ensemble – such as the Chicagoland Pop Orchestra – bringing out her saxophone or her more recent instrument of choice, the ukulele. She enjoys open mic performances and playing with the VanderCook alumni jazz band.
“That way, I still get my own musical fulfillment,” she says.
She received a master’s degree in music education and instructional technology from Northern Illinois University. In the summers, she teaches graduate classes at VanderCook, helping future music educators understand the role of technology and music in the classroom. Hatfield says that today’s technology, from apps on smartphones and tablets to online programs, are a great way to enrich music education.
“If I would have had some of these things growing up, they would have helped me and made practicing so much more fun,” she says.
And while district enrollment has fluctuated, Hatfield says she is excited to see the enrollment in band remains steady through the years, which means she can continue to see her students from when they first pick up an instrument to performing in the final spring performances.
“To see the joy on these kids faces – it is the coolest feeling in the world,” Hatfield says.