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By Lisa Moore
Hometown Weekly Correspondent
Newly-appointed WPS Director of Performing Arts Mike LaCava was honored last week as the recipient of the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA) 2018 Outstanding Service Award. The MMEA recognizes one individual each year to receive this distinguished award, and recipients must meet a set of rigorous criteria to be considered for the award.
The MMEA is an educational corporation whose mission is to promote the advancement of music education by conducting programs and activities that foster music culture.
Though new to Wellesley Public Schools, having started the position in July, Mr. LaCava has an impressive resume that reflects his dedication to music education. As somebody who has been a teacher, music department head, elementary school principal, conductor, college professor and more, he understands the importance of music education and the many benefits it offers.
“Music education is important because music is a natural part of our lives and many life lessons can be learned through music education, like teamwork, collaboration, and responsibility,” says LaCava. “99 percent of students don’t go on to work or teach in the field, but they all become supportive of music, because any student can participate at any level - there are no cuts, and there is a level for all, regardless of ability. We need more of it. It’s about the joy of it.”
Coming into the district over the summer Mr. LaCava’s first priority was to create a sense of community, collaboration, and trust within the department. He invited his staff to stop by his office to get a chance to meet and discuss how he might best be able to support them in their roles within the school. He believes in the team approach, and that everyone needs to work well together in order to move forward with the curriculum.
This year, he has observed, listened and began evaluating the program as it stands at the start of his tenure. With his staff, he wants to learn from the history of the department, not dwell on the past, and devise a plan to move the department forward.
Wellesley POPS President Darlene Howland recalls her first encounter with Mike LaCava. "The depth and breadth of his performing arts and public school systems knowledge was quite exceptional at his job interview,” says Howard. “Mike was passionate about the importance of performing arts and presented a plethora of ideas and strategies to make sure that all staff are supported and program excellence is maintained across the district. It has been a joy to work with Mike; he is a supportive listener and problem solver, whose positive energy and smile have brought new energy into the role of performing arts director. WPS is very lucky to have him at the helm of our exceptional performing arts program."
Mr. LaCava’s over 15 years of experience in music education establish him as an individual who truly cares about the students and ensuring they have access to quality music education.
But the recent attention he has garnered by winning this award has made him a bit uncomfortable.
“The award is not about me, but about the teams I have worked with. I never see myself as the sole person responsible,” says LaCava. “The staff at WPS is exceptional in individual areas. I am the facilitator, here to help make them a collaborative group, so all can reach a shared vision and goals. The goal is to have positive student outcomes. I am affecting student progress by ensuring I have strong teachers and programs to support the students.”