Out of the 197 high school students named to this year's Northeast Kansas District Honor Band, 40 are from Lawrence.
That's one out of every five, even though Free State and Lawrence high schools were part of a pool of 48 high schools in 14 counties where musicians were chosen.
"When you look at the numbers, it's incredible," said Patrick Kelly, fine arts facilitator for Lawrence public schools.
At Free State High School, 26 students made the cut, the highest number of any school in the district.
Olathe East and Olathe Northwest high schools tied for second most, each with 16. Shawnee Mission East and Shawnee Mission South had 15, Lawrence High School had 14.
Lawrence also had a good showing in vocal music.
"We're allowed to audition 20 for choir," said LHS choral director Cathy Crispino. "Because of illness, we auditioned 19. Seventeen were chosen."
That's the most for any school in the district. Shawnee Mission West was second with 16; Free State third with 15.
"The music programs in both high schools - LHS and Free State - are part of a long, great tradition of excellence," Crispino said.
How it happened
OK, but why? What makes the Lawrence programs better than most?
"We have the best music teachers in the state. No question," said Kelly, who also is band director at West Junior High School.
Perhaps, but much of high schools' success, Crispino said, begins in the junior high schools.
"They are crucial to our success on the high school level," she said.
In Lawrence, all four junior high schools offer choir during what's called "zero hour" - a free period before the start of the regular school day.
"Kids who really love music can sing as well as play their instruments," Crispino said. "They don't have to choose between one or the other."
"These kids come to high school already excited about music because they're coming from schools where it was cool to be in choir," said Pam Bushouse, choral director at Free State.
The junior-high programs, she said, are bolstered by both the elementary schools' efforts and the Lawrence Children's Choir.
"By the time they get to high school, these kids are really serious about music," Bushouse said. "Guest conductors love to come in and work with our groups because they're so prepared and so well-disciplined."
Mike Jones, director of bands at LHS, said he sees the same thing happening with elementary and junior high bands.
"There is some really good teaching going on," he said, "because if (students) don't get the training on the sixth-through-ninth-grade level, it's not going to happen in high school."
Another secret: With Kansas University in its back yard, Lawrence tends to offer more music than most cities its size.
"There are so many public performances here - like the (KU) Band Spectacular! and Oom-Pah Fest - that let us hear what really good musicians sound like," said 16-year-old Evan Hunter, who plays trumpet in LHS' symphonic band.
"Because there's so much music here," he said, "Lawrence attracts a lot of musicians."
That's certainly the case with Kelsey Pike, 16.
"My school in Kansas City (Kan.) wasn't meeting my needs, so we went school shopping. Out of all the schools we looked at, we decided Lawrence High School's music program was the best," said Pike, who plays bassoon.
She and her sister, Bailey - now a music history major at Oberlin College in Ohio - commuted from Kansas City to Lawrence all of last year. Her parents, Anthony and Brenda Pike, moved here last summer.
"Lawrence is unique," said Anthony Pike. "We like the town, we like the fact that KU is here, and we're very pleased with Lawrence High School."