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Grant Interview: Mr. Nick Juknelis 
By: Cayla Stubler

Grant Awards

By: Cayla Stubler

Interview with Mr. Nick Juknelis by Cayla Stubler
Classes Taught - Bare Voices, Troubadours, Cantilena, Cadet Choir, Concert Choir
LZHS - Been at the school for 20 years (this is actually his 20th year!)


When did you hear about the grant? 

  • Received the drums in the summer of 2017. Mr. J first heard about the grant via email in regards to the Foundation asking people to donate so that they could issue a grant to whoever needed it within the district.


Mr. J has donated to the Foundation for years now: 

  • “Previous to that, i think my own giving to the Foundation was maybe a little bit hit or miss because i thought about it a little bit differently once my own kids were in school so then I just had it taken out of my paycheck regularly because I saw how that particular grant benefited just a small population of students and knowing that my own two kids could be the recipient of that at their. That’s when I started to give regularly because of what I saw it do for my own students as well.”

When asked about the drum circle, Mr. J led me to a cabinet where the drums were stored as well as pictures of the drums (each in their specific place on the shelf):

  • “So this [specific cabinet where the drums are kept] our integrated Special Ed/Regular Ed Choir, so it might seem like a small thing but then coming back and matching your drums to where [the drums are supposed to go] is a whole lot more than just playing the drums.”


How has the grant impacted you as a teacher as well as how has it impacted your students? 

  • “As a teacher, I needed to learn a whole new tool bag of tricks because we weren’t just singing anymore […] I needed to learn how to play the instruments and how to care for the instruments. I needed to learn lessons with the instruments.” “The students: what’s been awesome is, we focus a lot on […] basic musicianship skills, and any of my students in any class would probably tell you that, to me, the number one important skill is rhythm. For them to be able to like externally produce that rhythm into a way that they can hear it in the whole room also to be able to play with everybody. So when we have 20 drums going, it’s pretty easy to hear when somebody’s not on [rhythm], and it’s pretty easy to identify who that is. So, two  things happen: We know who we need to help, and that person also knows [they can hear their own mistake amongst the other drums that are on rhythm] and they can start to self-correct.”

  • “They have grown a lot through that [having the opportunity to self-correct], and I don’t think people would associate playing the drums with being in choir, but it has actually helped our choir skills so much.”


What do you feel is the benefit of these grants beyond their monetary value? 

  • “Choir students were given an opportunity that they never had before.” “[…] we have used these drums in every other choir when we need a percussionist. Instead of going to find a band kid who’s going to do it, we open the cabinet, we bring out a drum, and someone is always willing to try!” 

Cayla is a senior student at Lake Zurich High School. She is a strong community advocate for diversity, inclusion, and change. Cayla is involved in various clubs and is an ambassador for student input at the district level. 

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