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In December, we awarded more than $33,000 to school districts throughout the St. Croix River Valley to enhance the quality of their music programs. School districts throughout the region will use funds from our competitive Music Education Grant program in a variety of creative ways.

RECIPIENTS A total of 12 school districts received Music Education Grants. Stillwater and Hudson school districts collaborated with University of Wisconsin River Falls to bring the internationally renowned Barcelona Clarinet Players to the valley for instruction in improvisation and high-energy masterclasses, as well as performances. The professional ensemble also performed alongside UW River Falls’ Symphony Band. 

“The Barcelona Clarinet Players inspired our students to see what is possible in performing music in small ensembles," said Tark Katzenmeyer, lead band director at Stillwater Area High School. "The energy, charisma and kindness of the musicians earned instant respect from the musicians at Stillwater Area High School.  Additionally, our students saw that music is truly an international language that can open doors to travel and other life-changing experiences."

Above: Members of Barcelona Clarinet Players perform for students; students perform alongside the Barcelona Clarinet Players at Stillwater Area High School; Barcelona Clarinet Players smile with students at Stillwater Area High School; students participate in a masterclass with Barcelona Clarinet Players. Photo Credit: Stillwater Area Public Schools

Turtle Lake School District and St. Patrick School will use their grants to encourage broader understanding of music from around the world. St. Patrick School plans to introduce students to Congolese musician Siama Matuzungidi. Based in Minnesota, multi-instrumentalist Matuzungidi specializes in performances for children and families. A guitarist and singer, Matuzungidi also plays a number of traditional African instruments like mbira (thumb piano), lokole (tone drum) and balafon (marimba).

Several other districts will purchase new instruments and equipment, including a sousaphone (Luck), a euphonium (Spring Valley), marching band equipment (Baldwin-Woodville and Osceola), and microphones (River Falls).


THE GRANT Music Education Grants are the result of a lifelong love of music for Nyda Swanson, a generous donor who established the field of interest fund before her death. A retired music teacher, Nyda wanted to ensure that K-12 students could benefit from her gift forever. She established an endowed fund – the Valley Music Education Fund – specifically for music education. Since it was established 20 years ago, the fund has awarded more than $600,000 in grants to area schools.

“It’s humbling and inspiring to think of the countless ways Nyda’s donation has benefited students in our area,” said Angie Pilgrim, Director of Community Impact at St. Croix Valley Foundation. “School districts use these grants creatively and the result is often the beginning of a lifetime interest in music for their students.”

Field of interest funds like the one Nyda established allow donors to specify their preferred grantmaking area – like the environment, early childhood development, or the arts, to name just a few. St. Croix Valley Foundation carefully manages those funds, and with help from devoted review committee members, grant recipients are chosen during a competitive grant process. Full list of 2023 Music Education Grant recipients:

To donate to the Valley Music Education Fund, click here or scan the QR code below.


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