November Top Notch Teacher: PDC’s Matt Lenz keeps music alive through pandemic

Matt Lenz always found a home with music, inspires students to shine as part of a team

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, Wis. (WKBT) – The football gridiron is the battleground where teams clash and crown a winner. But not for the Prairie Du Chien High School teacher. For him, the football field is where his team shines and people just have to listen.

Anyone who has marched in a high school band asks the question every Friday night. What is that football team doing on the marching band’s field?

“We hit the ground running,” said Matt Lenz, the band director at Prairie Du Chien High School.

“We got a game Friday night. Ready, set, go.”

Lenz has conducted this gridiron symphony for the past 22 years at Prairie Du Chien High School. However, the music stopped for the first time last year.

“All that stuff was gone,” Lenz said.

The performing arts didn’t match the tempo of a pandemic where crowds couldn’t gather to watch the work Matt’s students put in every day.

“It was difficult to keep the kids motivated,” Lenz said. “They’re not signing up because they just wanna practice and I got great jokes.”

Matt experienced unpredictable changes during his childhood.

“I actually attended three different high schools,” he said.

Despite moving from place to place he found a consistent rhythm.

“Band was always my constant,” Lenz said. “I knew that wherever I ended up, I could find a home with the band.”

Senior Amy Foster shares this experience.

“I’ve just always found an escape through music,” Foster said.

A once shy person searching to find herself, found her place as part a team.

“Being in band, I’ve kind of broken my shell,” she said.

Here everyone plays a part, no role more important than another.

“We’re gonna take everybody. I want the smart kids and I want the athletes,” Lenz said. “I’ll take those kids that are struggling in other things. Give them a place to try something different; try and shine.”

Shining on a field built for a group of young minds where everyone earns their place.

“I’ve never been so proud of my kids as I was,” Lenz said. “Just because they stuck with it.”

Marching through a pandemic thanks to a coach they all believe in.

“He just understands students,” Foster said.

The music never died due to their unwavering ability to overcome adversity and leave it all on the field.

“Days like this when you’re out here, I make music for a living,” Lenz said. “What’s better than that?”

Lenz said he has no plans to retire yet. He said he can’t wait to inspire more students to join his team.