Hi! In case you don’t know me, I’m Rich Cruz of Greater Chicago Consulting, a marketing and management consultant in the Chicagoland area. I want to, in this short blog, introduce you to someone very special to me, my wife Lisa Banos-Cruz. Lisa is a mother of three, a music educator certified K-12 in Illinois and teaching middle school kids, and a terrific person to know… I should know, she’s been my best friend since 1990 and my wife since 2000.

I’m writing this because Lisa, who has been a leader for as long as I’ve known her, has recently exhibited leadership at a whole new level this week, and I’m incredibly proud of her accomplishment. I think this leadership is worthy of sharing with the academic, business, and community-volunteer worlds. In her life, I’ve personally witnessed Lisa serving as:

  • Flute section leader in all four years of high school
  • Drum major for three years in high school (mind you, she was in the high-school band since 7th grade)
  • Section leader in college at St. Xavier University
  • Drum major at St. Xavier
  • Marching and music instructor back at St. Rita where we taught together for band and band camp
  • Music teacher and department head at Maria High School
  • Co-director of Flutes Unlimited! — a flute choir
  • Music director for the Maria drama club and chorus
  • Music teacher at Central Middle School (CMS)
  • Team leader for the Specials Team at CMS
  • Choir director at CMS
  • Chairperson for music competitions at CMS
  • Former president of the Music Parents Association at Palos South Middle School for several years
  • Vice-president of the Stagg High School Music Boosters

Among many other volunteer roles throughout her career as a professional musician, educator, and community leader.

But, this year, Lisa stepped up to be the Chairperson for the Stagg High School Marching Band Jamboree. This event welcomed thirteen local-area high schools to the Amos Alonso Stagg High School campus to compete in marching-band competition. While the Stagg Marching Band performed “in exhibition”, they did not complete. Nonetheless, with a team of parent volunteers, student volunteers, and coordinated efforts of the band staff and band students, this complicated and important event to the success of the Stagg music department enjoyed a much-deserved win. Lisa, along with her team whom she acknowledges at every turn, led this endeavor to victory raising a substantial amount of money to benefit the department and setting the tone for a successful marching-band season for not only the Stagg Marching Chargers, but for those participating bands.

Why Is This an Amazing Feat?

A little bit to understand about Lisa… my wife suffers from some auto-immune disorders which gravely affect her levels of pain and endurance. Each day for many years has been a struggle to move about freely. However, every working day Lisa is up and about early in the morning (usually well before the sun is up) getting the kids off to school and then attending to her day as a middle-school music teacher. Several times per week she conducts an extra-curricular choir before school hours which she had led to state championships many years over in her career.

Usually, Lisa works until later in the day with some after-school activities including team meetings, event preparation, and other volunteer or work-related activities. You’ll often find her helping someone out with some project as a contributor, or she’ll become the project manager on a new endeavor. 

At home, Lisa provides tasty and nourishing meals for our family most days of the week. She maintains most of the order of the copious amounts of paperwork for the household, and she’s often up late at night grading papers and maintaining files for work. 

Just a few years ago, she was doing much of this AND going to school for her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with Olivet University. Lisa is always learning and always finding new ways to teach others. She is never satisfied with the status quo, and has introduced engaging new ways to teach music with:

  • A keyboard lab
  • A ukulele curriculum
  • A drumming circle curriculum to teach world music
  • A bucket-drumming curriculum

So, between the problems of her physical issues and time, her ability to get things done at a high level of quality (did I mention that she also is quite the crafter creating wood-burning and other art projects?) simply astounds me. 

Her tenacity for excellence is amazing and infectious: I cannot tell you how many of her students have become professional musicians or music teachers throughout the years. Moreover, she is able to recruit willing and talented volunteers to pitch in happily to help.

How Did She Do It?

Due to some quite last-minute changes, Lisa, who was originally supposed to be a “second-in-command” in this, her freshman role as a volunteer for the Jamboree, assumed the position of Chairperson with a short amount of time to prepare. The old adage, “some have greatness thrust upon them,” stands to be quite appropriate here. 

With a growth mindset, the love of her children in her heart, and the experience of chairing other music-related events in her life and career, Lisa set to seeking advice and counsel from Ian, the past chair of this event, who generously volunteered his time even though his kids are no longer in the band program. Like a heroic comic-book character, she assembled a winning team of committee people who volunteered their time and unique talents and abilities.

The success of this event was truly the work of many individuals coming together to work as a team to deliver superior results. After many late-night Zoom meetings, phone calls, text messages, and COVID-safe in-person conferences, the planning was complete. The band director, Mr. Mecozzi, and the Stagg executive faculty and administration were wonderfully supportive. Through effective communication, appropriate delegation, and a lot of grit and sweat:

  • Scope was defined
  • Work breakdown structures were created
  • Schedules and budgets were documented and distributed
  • Stakeholders were kept in constant communication
  • Goals were set
  • Work was managed, monitored, and controlled
  • Quality was assured and controlled

The results were miraculous. In addition to successful fundraising with controlled costs, people felt valued, camaraderie was high, and, despite everyone being tired, smiles were seen everywhere because a job was well done, and the gift of music was delivered by the hard-working and talented performers in the bands and guard squads throughout the day.

Furthermore, I was thrilled to see a wrap-up communication sent via email from Lisa expressing gratitude and acknowledging the hard work and contributions of her elite team and the Stagg staff and student body.

What’s Next?

I see great things ahead for the Stagg Chargers and the music boosters. I see amazing opportunities for families to get involved to further the music program. I see continued success for our children and their peers in their academic and artistic endeavors. But, I also see that the woman I love will continue no matter what to give what she has because that’s just how she’s built; and it wouldn’t have it any other way.