Mrs. Loy Honored

Melanie Loy recently was notified as being awarded the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council (SMAC) “Prairie Disciple” for 2022. SMAC’s Prairie Disciple Award provides awareness and recognition of one individual per year from southwest Minnesota (SMAC’s region is 18 counties), whose activities and involvement have substantially contributed to the arts over an extended period of time. In 2022, SMAC’s Prairie Disciple nomination process was for teachers/educators only. Melanie is District 518’s orchestra teacher for Prairie Elementary School’s fourth graders, along with Worthington High Schools’ Varsity Strings and WHS Orchestra. 

When Melanie arrived at Worthington District 518 Schools in 2006, there were 94 students throughout the district playing in the orchestra, her tenacity and leadership has grown the program to well over 350 orchestra students school-wide and have had to add 2 additional full-time instructors at the middle school level to maintain the growth. Students from her program that go onto college and playing or majoring in music have received the highest dollar amounts awarded in scholarships in the school district.  

With the pandemic, SMAC made the decision to adapt this award to honor an educator, we wholeheartedly agree with this effort. Melanie Loy is a rare educator. She does not stop her efforts at 3:30pm each day, she even works on Saturday and Sunday to provide opportunities for her student’s past, present and future. One of those efforts is recognizing that as a music artist and teacher, you need to fill your own cup in order to inspire and fill others cups. There are not many communities in our region that have orchestras that players of all ages can participate in. Worthington unfortunately was one of those communities until 2008. 

Melanie and 3 local orchestra players had made the journey and dedication to play in the Sioux Falls Community Orchestra. They joined together as a quartet and have played at local events as a string quartet for fundraisers, graduation, weddings and many more. After a couple of years playing in Sioux Falls in their community orchestra, the discussion occurred about “why not Worthington?” and how this could happen much closer to home. The Great Plains String Quartet was the founders of the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra, first as just string players and then adding winds and percussion after a couple of years.  

Melanie has been active in the shadows in writing the grants, picking out the music, collaborating with musicians and music departments in the region, and the list could continue forever. Who would have ever dreamt in the beginning stages of WASO that a nationally known artist that has deep roots in Worthington would choose their group to be his bands orchestra for a televised program with music, stories, Native American dances, and video effects? The Brule concerts have been some of the most intense, yet unbelievable experiences for musicians and attendees alike.  

 It truly has been a labor of love for Melanie to have WASO develop and grow to provide music experiences for her students of all ages to have another opportunity in a different level of performing. Even after her students graduate from the program, Melanie seeks out local orchestra players to continue to play. She has even established an Alumni Concert at Christmas time for her past graduates to join current students of WHS performing in the lobby of the Worthington High School. Over 20 alumni students make the effort to come and play each year. And if you know Melanie’s style at all, you know that she is tenacious and very difficult to say no to.   Worthington District 518 Schools, community and the region have much to thank Melanie Loy for. We appreciate the efforts to provide an opportunity to honor special teachers and artists for their work. Melanie Loy is the face for us as a Prairie Disciple Educator.

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