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Hatch Elementary School Receives National Recognition through Advocacy in Action Award

“Find your unshakeable passion, show it to your students, and then share it with them.”

- Evan Jacobson, Hatch Elementary School Music Teacher and Hatch Steel Band Director

The Hatch Elementary School Steel Band and music department received national recognition this month through an Advocacy in Action award, presented by Music for All. The school received the Elementary Excellence award for the exceptional programming and strategies of the Steel Band and music department.  

Evan Jacobson, Hatch music teacher and steel band director, has been teaching general music at Hatch since 2010, the year he discovered a small set of steel pans in a district warehouse. Though he didn’t know how to play or teach the instruments, Jacobson began to integrate them in his curriculum, teaching his young students–and eventually the band’s audiences–about the steel pan and its place in Caribbean music and culture. Nearly 15 years later, Hatch is home to one of the only elementary steel bands in Illinois.

“With experience, I have come to learn that my primary objective is simply to help young students experience the joys of making music in a group setting,” Jacobson shared with Music for All. “I am able to facilitate this sense of ensemble by having students sing, play recorders, ukuleles, and orff xylophones, but my advocacy initiative involves using a much less common instrument within the general music setting… steel pans.” 

Advocacy in Action is a signature program of Music for All designed to collect, recognize, and share effective practices and initiatives that support music education.

“There are so many examples of excellence that led to this recognition, but what stands out to me is Evan’s focus on joy,” said District 97 Superintendent Ushma Shah. “This rich experience of learning to play steel pans develops Hatch students in multiple ways—not only are they learning music, but also connecting with their peers and the broader community through creativity, collaboration, and cultural appreciation.”

The Advocacy in Action awards are presented each year in seven categories: Community Involvement, Decision-Maker Engagement, Elementary Excellence, Innovative Fundraising, Marketing and Promotion, Parent/Booster Support and Student Recruitment, Engagement, and Retention. 

"We are honored to receive the Advocacy in Action award in recognition of our commitment to providing exceptional music education,” Hatch principal Sarah Mendez said. “This award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our students, teachers, and community who believe in the power of music to enrich the lives of our students."

For Jacobson, the recognition speaks to the work of music educators who came before him, as well as the value and appreciation of arts education in the Oak Park community. The Hatch PTO has played a critical role in supporting his drumming ensemble, which has grown from six fifth- and sixth-grade students in one ensemble the first year, to more than 70 students enrolled in four ensembles.  

“The success of our steel band band program at Hatch is the direct result of a legacy of great support for the arts in Oak Park schools. I've known this to be true as the son of a storied Oak Park music educator, a graduate of its schools, and now a teacher myself,” Jacobson said. 

“Thanks to this legacy, along with amazing support from the Hatch community, the Hatch PTO, school staff, and my co-directors–Paul Jacobson, Scott McConnell, and Matthew Kiser–the steel band program has been able to thrive.” 

The Advocacy in Action Awards recognize and celebrate the commitment of school administrators, community leaders, teachers and parents who believe in music education and are advocating to ensure that it is part of a comprehensive education for all children.

With this well-deserved recognition, Hatch’s musical legacy and impact will continue to grow. The music department and steel band will be featured on Music for All’s Advocacy in Action Archive, making their events and ideas accessible to music educators across the country and spreading the joy of the steel pan beyond Oak Park. 

For more on the Advocacy in Action program, or to view the archive, please head to advocacy.musicforall.org