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2024 Yamaha "40 Under 40" educator Lily Ianaconi

Lily Ianaconi

9-12 Instrumental Music Teacher
Franklin Academy High School
Malone, New York

Providing meaningful and memorable performance opportunities is vital to Lily Ianaconi’s role as a 9-12 Instrumental Music Instructor at Franklin Academy High School. Last year, the wind ensemble performed the piece “I Am Enough” by Marie Douglas, which was part of the 2023 California Band Directors Association Social Impact Consortium. The piece is a three-movement suite on the topic of mental health. “Our students truly appreciated the opportunity to perform a piece with such relevance and purpose,” Ianaconi says. “We really made a memorable connection with this music throughout our preparation and performance through deep conversation about mental health, underrepresented composers and diversity of wind band literature. The audience sincerely enjoyed the piece and could hear and feel the emotions of anxiety, self-doubt, motivation and fear through the music.”

Ianaconi is always looking to add new experiences for her students, so she added chamber ensemble performances at concerts. Parents, families and audience members enjoyed hearing the different combinations of instruments and styles of music. “As music educators, we’re always searching for ways to highlight the wonderful things that our students are doing. A chamber ensemble is a terrific opportunity for students to work together toward a common goal. The student-led rehearsals give them the artistic space to make musical decisions, communicate their ideas and create lasting memories of making music together,” she says.

A few years ago, Franklin Academy had the opportunity to host a college wind ensemble while the musicians were touring New York. “One of my former students was studying at this university to become a music teacher,” she shares. The college students spent the day with us putting on workshops, masterclasses and performances. That evening, our high school band students performed in a combined concert with the college students. It was a tremendous musical success for everyone involved.”

In 2018, Ianaconi along with other band teachers in the county worked together to add an All-County Festival that had two additional ensembles so that more students could participate in an honor band. “At these amazing and memorable festivals, students become better musicians, make long-lasting friendships and learn more about themselves as performers,” she says.  

Each Friday, Ianaconi ends rehearsal by challenging students’ scale playing with a fun game called “The Scallenge.” The full ensemble plays all 12 major scales together. “After the practice round when mistakes and scale sheets are allowed, students must play The Scallenge again without the use of their scale sheets,” Ianaconi explains. “If they make a mistake, they are out! After a student finishes all 12 major scales, their name appears on the wall in the band room. It’s an exciting way for students to support each other as their technique, practice and concentration improve throughout the year.”

Ianaconi’s dedication to her students was clear during the production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” She not only directed the pit but played woodwinds and percussion throughout the show. “I quickly turned pages in my score while giving cues to students on stage with a baton in one hand and a flute in the other. I wetted my Eb clarinet reed in my mouth, tried not to touch the windchimes with my left foot while my right foot rocked a mounted tambourine with a bass drum pedal on 2 and 4 of the tune.”

The audience enjoyed the performance and the students had an incredible time making the show a success. Ianaconi says the experience helped her grow as a director and musician.