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Don stinson Yamaha 40

Yamaha today announced that it has named Don Stinson as an honoree of the newly launched 40 Under 40 music education advocacy program.

Stinson, director of bands at Joliet Central High School in Joliet, Illinois, joins 39 other innovative, creative and impactful music educators under the age of 40 who exemplify the highest level of music education in the United States.

Stinson proves that you can go home again. Stinson is the director of bands at the high school he attended — Joliet Central High School. “I’ve thought about teaching at Joliet Central since I was 14,” he said. “Being only the fifth director in the program’s 110-year history is very daunting, but the students continue to rise to the challenge of honoring our band’s history and innovating for the next generation.”

The school’s demographics have changed since Stinson was a student there 20 years ago. It now serves a 75 percent low-income area with high mobility. “There may not be as much money in our population as there used to be, but we turn negatives into positives,” said Stinson, who is proud of the diversity and accomplishments of his ensembles.

Stinson has created more music-making opportunities at Joliet Central High School, including a second jazz ensemble, guest artist series, jazz lab experience and an introduction to band class. He also founded and directed the Joliet Young Musicians Mentor Band, a two-week summer program. “I ‘borrowed’ the idea of the mentor band from another school and tweaked it. By the end of the program, junior high students receive some musical instruction, and our high schoolers experience some authentic leadership opportunities,” Stinson said.

On top of his teaching responsibilities, Stinson wrote a book soon to be published titled “Teaching Music to Students from Underserved Backgrounds.” The three key points in Stinson's book are: “Money doesn’t solve all of our problems in education, effective and committed teachers are the key; working to identify and combat implicit bias can help teachers help students and communities; some students from low-income areas may not have the time or place to practice or focus on music outside of school; therefore, we must take the job of structuring our class time with rigor and flow seriously.”

The 40 Under 40 music education advocacy program was established by Yamaha to celebrate music educators at all grade levels, public or private, as well as private music instructors, selected from hundreds of music education leaders nominated by students, parents, other teachers or administrators, local instrument dealers and mentors last fall.

All recognized educators possess outstanding exemplification of one of four qualities: action, courage, creativity or growth. The profilees were selected based on their ability to proactively take the necessary steps that lead to a stronger music program; propose and implement new or bold ideas; show innovation and imagination in achieving plans and objectives; and establish and grow or improve music education in their schools and communities.

“Despite immense challenges, educators are undertaking the most innovative, creative and impactful programs to truly make a difference in strengthening music education nationwide,” said Heather Mansell, segment marketing manager, Education, Yamaha. “Yamaha shares the same commitment to high-quality music education for all, and we look forward to supporting and encouraging the efforts of these 40 outstanding educators and the thousands more like them across the country.”

To see what other program honorees are doing in their local communities, please visit

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