Award Presented During AASA’s National Conference on Education in San Diego

San Diego Feb. 16, 2020Keely Roberts, superintendent of Zion Elementary School District 6 in Zion, Ill., is the 2020 recipient of the Save The Music Foundation’s 15th annual Administrator Award for Distinguished Support of Music Education. 

This prestigious award was presented in San Diego, Calif., at the annual National Conference on Education, hosted by AASA, The School Superintendents Association.   

This award recognizes one superintendent or school district CEO who has exhibited outstanding commitment to restoring music education in his or her school district. Roberts was chosen for her deep commitment to providing elementary students across Zion District 6 with a well-rounded education that includes music.

Since 2017, the Save The Music Foundation has donated nearly $300,000 worth of new musical instruments to all Zion Elementary School District 6 schools in partnership with the Country Music Association Foundation. AASA’s National Conference on Education brings public education’s best thought leaders together each year to discuss the most critical issues facing the nation’s public schools.

“Dr. Roberts has been a champion of bringing more music education to Zion,” said Chiho Feindler, senior director of programs and policy for the Save The Music Foundation. “We are pleased to be a part of music education rebuild in Zion.”

The Save The Music Foundation began a partnership with Zion Elementary School District 6 in 2017 and committed to providing instrumental music grants to all District 6 schools. They have completed their rebuild as of last fall.  

Roberts has worked in education for more than 20 years, including serving the last five years as superintendent at Zion Elementary School District 6, a district serving nearly 2,600 students, 224 teachers and 23 administrators at seven schools.

Under her leadership, Zion District 6 has built pathways that have expanded musical programming opportunities district-wide. Her guiding principle, that District 6 children deserve what every child deserves, is evident within the band, orchestra, choir and mariachi programs. Students are now able to experiment with many musical instruments, enroll in a variety of music classes that are outside of their core content and are given opportunities to showcase their talent and skill to the community through multiple concerts from ensembles with varying playing abilities (beginning band and orchestra, intermediate band and orchestra, middle school orchestra, concert band, elementary choir, combined choir and mariachi). Additionally, students now have the opportunity to enroll in summer music camps for both band and orchestra.     

Beginning in 2017, the first annual Fine Arts Festival, which included the Zion’s Got Talent Show, was introduced. At this festival, all Zion community members are invited to enjoy the wonder of music, art and talents of District 6 students. Such programmatic expansions have provided students with an increased exposure to a variety of musical opportunities that they may have otherwise not been afforded prior to Roberts’ leadership.    

Roberts praised the work of the Save the Music Foundation. “The Save The Music Foundation has perhaps been most impactful in Zion District 6 in helping instill in our children the belief that they deserve the experiences and opportunities of music,” she said. “The partnerships with Save The Music and the Country Music Association have been absolutely transformative for our school district. It is through their generosity that we have been able to build our first-ever orchestra and mariachi programs. The commitment to supporting our vision for building a world-class music department is so greatly appreciated.”

The Save the Music Foundation has not only invested in District 6 schools through instrument donations, but has helped to provide all students in District 6 the opportunity to enroll in band, mariachi or orchestra, while encouraging them to reach their full potential through the power of making music.

Past recipients of this award include: Francisco Escobedo, superintendent, Chula Vista Elementary School District (Calif.), Nancy Sarra, superintendent, Consolidated School District of New Britain (Conn.), Kevin George, superintendent,  St. John the Baptist Parish (La.) Public Schools; Russell Freitas, superintendent,  Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified (Calif.) School District, Kristi Sandvik, superintendent, Buckeye (Ariz.) Elementary School District, Reginald Mayo, retired superintendent, New Haven (Conn.) Public Schools; Rita Bishop, superintendent, Roanoke City (Va.) Public Schools; Kathy L. Kelly, superintendent,  Columbia Heights (Minn.) Public Schools; Duncan N. P. “Pat” Pritchett Jr., past superintendent,  Indianapolis (Ind.) Public Schools; John Lange, past superintendent Adams County (Colo.) School District 14; Carol Johnson, past superintendent,  Memphis City (Tenn.) Schools and current superintendent,  Boston (Mass.) Public Schools; Richard Kaplan, superintendent,  New Brunswick (N.J.)  Public Schools; Eugene White, superintendent, Indianapolis (Ind.) Public Schools; and James A. Williams, past superintendent,  Buffalo (N.Y.) Public Schools.    

About Save The Music Foundation
Save The Music Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps kids, schools, and communities realize their full potential through the power of making music. Founded in 1997, Save The Music partners with school districts and raises funds to restore music programs in public schools. Since inception, we have donated over $58 million worth of new musical instruments and technology to over 2,159 schools in 276 school districts around the country–impacting the lives of countless students. Learn more about us and our efforts at    

About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to equitable access for all students to the highest quality public education. For more information, visit       

About Zion Elementary School District 6
Founded in 1936, Zion Elementary School District 6 is a Financially Tier-1 PreK-8 district of approximately 2600 students and is located in Lake County, Illinois. District 6 has one Preschool, five Elementary schools, one Middle School, and is made up of 49.3% Hispanic students, 37.8% Black students, 7.3% Two or More Races, and 5.3% White students. English Learners make up 26% of the student population.


Save The Music Foundation 
Lia Peralta

P.O. BOX 2096 New York, NY 10108-2096 
Office (212) 846-1891

AASA, The School Superintendent Association
James Minichello  
Director, Communications & Public Relation
1615 Duke Street

Alexandria, Va. 22314

Office (703) 875-0723
Cell (703) 774-6953

Zion Elementary School District   
Donelle Staples

Director of Communications & Instructional Program Management
2800 29th Street
Zion, IL 60099

Office (847) 379-0111