This article originally appeared in the Bartlett Press.
Bartlett, IL – Bartlett resident Rita Lopienski has a collection of drums and percussion instruments from Asia, Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the Native American culture.
With a degree in music therapy and a master’s in music education, Lopienski began using her expertise to lead drumming circles with senior citizens nine years ago.
“It’s using music in a unique way to make people feel good,” Lopienski said. “And it fits in so well with cultural diversity programming.”
Because of her music therapy work and other community involvement, Lopienski was one of 44 Illinois residents who received the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award this year, and one of 450 recipients since 1999.
Every two years, the Illinois Humanities Council invites mayors throughout the state to nominate one individual who has shown a sustained and significant contribution to furthering public understanding of the humanities in their community, according to its Web site.
At Bartlett’s board meeting Nov. 1, Village President Mike Kelly recognized Lopienski for her accomplishments and presented her with the award.
Lopienski is the Community Life Manager at Victory Centre of Bartlett and was nominated for the award by Kelly. Kelly has known Lopienski for 15 years through her work at Lexington Health Care of Streamwood, the Mental Health Board in Hanover Township and Arts in Bartlett.
“She exemplifies what all of us should strive for,” Kelly said. “She looks for the best in people. She brings out the best in everyone she is around — her ability to sing, draw or just talk with people.”
About two and a half years ago, Lopienski said she created the Bartlett International Chorus because music lovers told her they wished there was a community chorus. The group is composed of 17 female residents and puts on more than a dozen performances around Bartlett each year.
Lopienski also facilitates drumming circles at the Bartlett Park District’s Earth Day celebration every year and has performed in various community musicals.
Kelly called Lopienski a “organizer extraordinaire” and said she has the ability to organize and create just about anything.
“It’s an honor for Bartlett to have a fine woman with community force,” he said. “Her additions to Bartlett have only just begun.”
Lopienski echoes that thought.
“It’s quite an honor to be acknowledged for something that is dear to my heart — promoting humanities in the community,” she said. “It encourages me to want to do more.”