Making Beautiful Music

Posted on Apr 3, 2017


“You can make beautiful music no matter where you are.”

That is the one thing Hayley Ainsworth learned at Rock Valley College that will always stay with her. In fact, it has followed her from RVC to NIU and places in-between before she decided to make some beautiful music at Harvard High School. Although she only took over the Harvard music program in August of 2016, she is already making a big impact.

What was once a thriving music program with hundreds of students participating had been suffering in recent years. Prior to Hayley’s arrival last fall, numbers in the program had fallen dramatically and the school had seen five music program directors come and go in five years. Hayley was brought in to try to build the program back into what it used to be. If her first several months are any indication, she might be able to do that and more.

Behind Hayley’s leadership, the number of students participating in the school’s Concert Choir has risen from 7 to 20, while the numbers in the Madrigals Choral Ensemble has increased from 3 to 17.

“I’m trying to put the fun back into it,” said Hayley. “I can tell the students really are excited and having fun.”

Part of Hayley’s plan for rebuilding the program was to get more involved in the Harvard community. December was a big month for the Madrigals Choral Ensemble as they made an appearance at a local radio station and performed Christmas carols downtown, at a town parade, and at a local senior center. They also revived the Madrigal dinner.

“The Madrigal dinner used to be a huge event and we’re trying to make it big again,” said Hayley. “We had a great turnout last year so hopefully we can build on that.”

The 2016 Harvard High School Madrigals Choral Ensemble.

The 2016 Harvard High School Madrigals Choral Ensemble.

Beyond making the program more visible in the community, Hayley is taking a grassroots approach to recruiting by approaching students in the halls at the high school. She is also making an effort to connect with students from the middle school to plant the seeds early and hopefully get some students interested before they arrive at the high school. Her peers at the high school have taken notice of Hayley’s efforts.

“I just feel honored to be a part of it because it’s such a supportive and welcoming community, and they are showing a lot of trust in me.”

Hayley gives Rock Valley College a lot of credit for her success. By the time she came to RVC after graduating from Hononegah High School in 2010, she already knew she wanted to focus on music. In fact, she had been starring in musicals since the sixth grade. She chose RVC because she had grown up attending musicals at Starlight Theatre and assumed the college must have a great music program. Although she found out later that the two were not necessarily related and that RVC offers music classes but not a degree in music, she still fell in love with what RVC had to offer.

“You can make beautiful music no matter where you are.”

To say she kept busy while at RVC would be quite an understatement. She took 22 credit hours one semester and managed to graduate in two years while also teaching voice lessons on the side and working at Culver’s. In her sophomore year she also was the Choral Assistant, a student worker position in the music department. It’s no surprise that Hayley says time management was one of the most important things she learned while at RVC.

After graduating from RVC in 2012, Hayley went on to major in Music Education at Northern Illinois University. She landed two long-term substitute teaching jobs after graduating from NIU in 2015, first at a school in McHenry, and then at Northbrook Junior High. It wasn’t long before she had a decision to make. She had two full-time job offers, one that would take her back to McHenry working for an elementary school, and the other was the opportunity at Harvard.

Hayley was torn.

“So I asked the teacher I was subbing for at the time for her advice and she said, ‘I think you should do the one that challenges and scares you more.’”

Although it has been challenging, Hayley has risen to the occasion. As she continues to rebuild what was a fledgling program, the motto she learned from her time at RVC has served her well and she will keep making beautiful music wherever she goes.

Hayley Ainsworth directs the Harvard High School Choir during a recent visit for a workshop at Rock Valley College.

Hayley Ainsworth directs the Harvard High School Choir during a recent visit for a workshop at Rock Valley College.

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