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Chanute educators honored at SEK District music concerts

Posted Date: 02/11/2020

Two Chanute Public School educators have been recognized for their efforts in promoting music education and programs in their schools and classrooms.

Assistant Superintendent Matt Koester was selected as the Kansas Music Educator Association’s Honor Administrator for Southeast Kansas and Royster teacher Lance Burnett was named the SEK KMEA Middle School Teacher of the Year. Both were recognized and presented plaques at the SEK District Middle High concert performances in January. sek music award winners koester and burnett

Up until this year, Koester had been a principal at Chanute Elementary School which employs two vocal music teachers for grades K-5. When he became head principal, he said he learned how to keep an open dialog with teachers and the advantages of being able to share ideas.

Music teacher Mendy Burnett said she regularly provided articles to the principals about the benefits of music education and its effect on the brain as well as its impact on other curricular areas. She wanted to begin teaching keyboard skills to students and last summer Koester responded by asking her to figure out how she could do it and the school purchased a dozen keyboards.

As an administrator, Koester said his role is to enable teachers to put their ideas or concepts into practice if possible.

His approach has changed.

“I’ve learned to ask, ‘Could this be possible? Is there a way we can make this work?’” he added.

At Royster Middle School, Lance Burnett has been teaching vocal music for 13 years. He conducts a sixth grade choir, seventh/eighth grade choir, a female ensemble called the Bellas, a male ensemble called the Treblemakers and a Vocal Plus audition choir.

Principal Don Epps said that the RMS choirs are “a huge source of pride in all situations. They are out there to showcase their talents but they are also supporting their community.”

Last year, his Vocal Plus  group sang at the opening ceremony for the annual school bus races among area districts.

He’s always loooking for ways to get his kids involved in the community,” Epps said. “I’m honored to serve as his principal and empower  their efforts.”

Burnett regularly takes his large groups, ensembles and soloists to competitions, but he has also initiated several programs, including a ukulele club, directing a musical performance at RMS every other year, and creating the Vocal Plus audition choir that “tours” Chanute and performs for schools, nursing homes, civic organizations and more.

His students are often selected for the All-State Honor Choirs, one of the top vocal opportunities for Kansas students, and his choir was selected to perform at the KMEA annual conference for music educators from across Kansas. That was an honor on its own, but Burnett took it a step further. He commissioned a song to be written by a former student and CHS graduate/songwriter for his choir to premier at the KMEA performance in Wichita.

Congratulations to these two men and their contributions to the music education of Chanute students and enhancement of the music programs in Chanute Public Schools.

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Mr. Don Epps

Asst. Principal

Mr. Chris Shields



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Contact Information

Royster Middle School
400 W Main St
Chanute, Kansas 66720
Phone: 620.432.2520
Fax: 620.431.7841