They call it the “LVA rule.”
In years past, the Grammy Foundation allowed magnet high schools to win Grammy Signature Schools awards two years in a row before having to sit out for one year.
Last year, they tweaked the rules to give other schools a chance against the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, a record-setter with 11 awards. Now schools must sit out for a year after one win.
“They created a special LVA rule,” said Bill Swick, music department chairman at Las Vegas Academy. “They didn’t use our name, but I happen to know a few people in the office because I’ve worked with them for so many years. That’s what they call it in the office: the LVA rule.”
Twelve schools nationwide have been named Grammy Signature Schools for 2014. The program gives money to public high school music programs based on excellence, financial need or both.
Las Vegas Academy was one of two gold-level schools to receive $5,000, with Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Diamond Bar High School in Diamond Bar, Calif., claimed top honors and $6,000.
Las Vegas Academy accepted the award Wednesday during its spring band concert.
Qiana Conley, a music executive who presented the award on behalf of the Grammy Foundation, said judges were impressed by the number of LVA students enrolled in music.
“There is a large variety of ensemble classes, hand bells, musical theater and a mariachi band. Great energy in the jazz band. Congratulations on a great job,” Conley said.
The award is given in four tiers. The top school receives the national award for overall quality; gold awards are given based on string, wind and percussion and choral performance ensembles; signature schools are recognized for performance and high-quality instruction; and others receive enterprise awards based on financial need. The prize money and number of awards given varies each year based on sponsorship.
“We have been the leader nationwide,” Swick said. “There’s no school that has even come close to winning as many Grammys as we have.”
To qualify, Swick completed a written application detailing the size of the music department, including number of full-time music faculty, as well as demographic indicators such as population density and economic and racial makeup of students.
At LVA, a school with an enrollment of about 1,700, more than half of students are music majors studying choir, orchestra, band, guitar, mariachi or jazz band. The staff includes 12 music teachers, where an average school has three to five.
About 150 schools are asked to submit a collection of 1½-minute recordings showcasing diversity and alternative music ensembles.
“It’s the best CD we can put out,” Swick said. “It’s 20 minutes of music showing what our music department has to offer. The biggest thing is diversity. They’re really into diversity. They’re also into alternative music ensembles.”
At the concert, LVA Principal Scott Walker congratulated students and staff and thanked parents, the Grammy Foundation and Ford Motor Co., which sponsors the awards.
“In a day when programs are being cut all over the place, I’m so grateful I can live in an area, in a school district, where the arts are still supported,” Walker said.
Contact reporter Kristy Totten at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3809. Find her on Twitter: @kristy_tea.