Many know Lisa Lang as a citizen of Independence, but everyone knows Lang as the current 5-6 grade director and the assistant high school band director at Independence Community Schools.
Following her graduation from the University of Iowa with a degree in Music Education, she began her teaching career at Urbana as a K-12 music instructor, she taught there for three years, then received a job at West Delaware. As of this year, she is in her 33rd year of teaching, and shares that she enjoys starting many beginners each year.
Ever since Lang was a child she knew she had passion for music, and her passion continued throughout her high school years. She was taking private lessons in high school from a teacher that played in the Omaha Symphony, which he encouraged Lang to keep doing her best in everything that she did. When college conversations started to come up, she just assumed she would do music, and didn’t think of anything else besides pursuing music. She then received a full ride scholarship to the University of Iowa to pursue her musical talents.
Along with being a band director, she is also a wife to David Lang, who is the high school band director at Independence High School. They are parents to cats Coco, Meowsers, and Louis, and sun conure bird Kita.
Lang is a member of the DAR, The Mayflower Society, Jamestowne Society, Daughters of Indian Wars, Daughters of Union Veterans, Order of WWI, Orders of WWII, Iowa Pioneer Certificate, Founding Fathers of New England, Colonial Dames XVII Century, Daughters of Colonial Wars, and Daughters of American Colonists just to name a few. Lang was on the Board of Directors of the Iowa Ambassadors of Music, an organization she served from 1988-2006, touring to Europe every two years.
She and her husband, David also served as local hosts in Champery, Switzerland, for the nation-wide Ambassadors program. Lisa was also a member of the Cedar Rapids Symphony for 14 years where she played the English Horn. She served 13 years as the Iowa Bandmasters Association Elementary Band Affairs Chairperson. She was selected for this position because of her excellent work at Independence, where she is part of a team that consistently produces one of the strongest comprehensive band programs in the state. During her tenure, she completed projects on Elementary Band Incentives, Elementary Band Assessment, Elementary Band Recruitment, Elementary Band Tips and Techniques, and an Elementary Band Literature project.
Throughout the years of teaching music, she has accomplished many things with these students. Her bands have been chosen to perform at the Iowa Bandmasters Conference two times. Lang is active as a clinician for double reeds, reed making and elementary band topics. She has directed many honor bands including the 5-Seasons Honor Band, Mt. Pleasant Honor Band, SEIBA Middle School Honor Band, Marion Junior Hight Band, Coe College Elementary Honor Band and many conference festivals. Lang was awarded the NEIBA Distinguished Service Award for Elementary Band.
A benefit she has received from being a music teacher all these years is keeping a comprehensive program where all the directors work together for a common goal. With all the directors being on the same wavelength this can happen if directors stick together and help each other out.
“Mr. Smith and Mr. Lang and I like to be at each other’s rehearsals and help each other out, it’s great to see the kids at the beginning levels and all the way through high school,” said Lang. “Mr. Lang comes down to help with the elementary and sees them all throughout high school, so it’s kind of like a big band family, and we are like mom and dad.”
Lang shares many memories throughout teaching these past 33 years in Iowa.
“I like seeing those light bulb moments,” said Lang. “When students start off not being able to read the rhythm, but then suddenly they get it. That’s real fun to see that happen throughout the year, those are some of my favorite moments.”
Lang says the most difficult part about being the 5-6 grade band director and the high school assistant band director is making sure kids find the time to practice each and every day.
“Finding that time to practice and getting that accomplished, is the biggest obstacle,” said Lang. “Just looking for that level of excellence and trying to keep it up at a good level all the time.”
Experiences is what Lang has had ever day while teaching here in Independence. From very touching to funny experiences, she will leave with them all.
“I have many experiences where the student being in band or music just made a big difference in their life and then those funny moments where a student said something silly or had an excuse to whey they couldn’t practice,” said Lang.
Over the years, Lang kept a notebook of all the excuses students brought forward to her, with reasons why they couldn’t practice. Some of those excuses included the student’s hamster’s ears were too sensitive to a student getting new toothpaste so it made my tooth hurt, to the student being honest with Lang.
Lang has many reasons to be thankful for the opportunity to teach in one place for as many years as she has.
“The sense that I get to be with the kids through all the years, from 5th grade to 12th grade, you really can build some neat relationships with your students,” said Lang.
Lang has kept up with many of her students even after graduation, and even sees some of them in the audience during concerts. Many of the former students have kept music in their lives, and have gone on to be famous musicians, teaching themselves, and some eventually became band directors.
“It’s fun to stay connected with all the students throughout the years, we are a big family of people,” said Lang.
After band students graduate, Lang just hopes they keep one thing steady in their lives.
“I hope they keep the joy of music in their lives, wherever they go I hope they appreciate music, whether they continue to play in the future or not,” said Lang. “They can at least appreciate it whether that’s having their future children play, or them playing in a church or community band. It’s really nice to see that appreciation of music.”
Her attitude each day is what brings the kids around. She shares that the whole experience has been wonderful for her, but there is not a specific student or a specific class that has made the experience wonderful, but rather everything about it. Lang believes that she can make a difference in somebody’s life that day.
“I always make sure that when I’m in front of my band, if they have a good day and kids are doing well, it’s probably because of me. But also, if they’re having a bad day and it’s not a good rehearsal or practice, it’s also probably because of me,” said Lang. I think the group is a direct reflection of their director, so I always put that weight on me. If they’re going to have a good experience, I need to give them that good experience. I need to be their cheerleader, leader, coach and teacher. I need to keep it all together and make it a good experience for them.”
Leaving this place and this job will be bittersweet according to Lang. Going into retirement, she wanted to make sure that she left while she still loved what she did every day. Even though she will not be working for the Independence Community Schools, she has plans to stay around and help. She wants to continue helping by volunteering for the school eventually.
“It’s a farewell to me being officially here, but I want to still be in the community helping students in any way that I can,” said Lang. “I got to this age teaching this long and it went by in a blink of an eye.”
Lang’s future is to be determined. Her mother who is about to turn 90, and Lang plans to have some fun outings with her once retirement starts.
Along with spending time with her mother, she plans to spend her free time with cooking, baking, volunteering in the community and getting more involved with her genealogy societies.
“Between genealogy, cooking, volunteering and helping here at the school,” said Lang, “I’m sure I will keep myself busy.”