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For Immediate Release
Contact: Catherina Hurlburt at NAfME or (703) 860-4000

Dr. Lance Nielsen Honored as 2024 Lowell Mason Fellow

HERNDON, VA (July 1, 2024)—In June, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) honored Lance Nielsen, executive director of Nebraskans for the Arts and a retired music educator, as the 2024 Lowell Mason Fellow. This distinction is one of music education’s most important honors, designed to recognize the accomplishments of music educators, music education advocates, political leaders, industry professionals, and others who have contributed to music education in their unique way. Nielsen was recognized as the 2024 Lowell Mason Fellow during the NAfME National Leadership Assembly in Reston, Virginia, attended by music educators and association leadership from around the country.

Nielsen Lance headshot

“A leader and mentor, teacher and encourager, colleague and friend, Nielsen has devoted his life and career to music education,” said NAfME President Deb Confredo. “His contributions to NAfME and to the music education profession are countless. We are indebted to his service for the cause of music education for all students. Lance will tell you that as a collegiate member of the association, his leadership career began after he was encouraged to serve as collegiate members chair for the Nebraska Music Education Association. The rest, really, is history and clearly evident in his lifetime of giving to the profession. In Dr. Nielsen’s words, ‘Plant the seeds and a forest will grow.’ Lance’s influence will persist for generations. His Lowell Mason Fellow designation is greatly deserved.”

Lance Nielsen has been an active member of MENC, now NAfME, since his days as a college undergraduate. His service to the organization and to music education began as he served on the Nebraska Music Education Association (NMEA) board as the collegiate representative. He went on to serve in various capacities on that board including president and is a past president of the North Central Division of NAfME where he again was asked to serve on and lead numerous committees. He has served students and teachers in K–12 public schools and at the collegiate level. His selfless dedication to the music education profession continues in retirement as he currently serves as Executive Director of Nebraskans for the Arts. He advocates for music education on a daily basis, at both the state and national level, encouraging others to do the same.

Lance Nielsen with Deb Confredo at 2024 National Leadership Assembly being presented the Lowell Mason Fellow honor

Lance Nielsen with Deb Confredo at the 2024 NAfME National Leadership Assembly. Photo: © Ashlee Wilcox Photography, LLC

Nielsen is from the small town of Stromsburg, Nebraska, where he garnered his kindness toward others and his strong work ethic from his Swedish family on their family farm. He played trombone in high school and attended the University of Nebraska where he was the drum major for the Cornhusker Marching Band and earned his undergraduate, Master’s, and PhD degrees. He began teaching band in Kimball, Nebraska, and later taught in Norris and finally Lincoln. Nielsen began his service to NMEA as an undergraduate, and later served as band chair and president. Service to the NAfME North Central Division followed where, as a National Executive Board member, he was appointed chair of the Professional Development Committee (now the Professional Learning and Partnerships Committee), where he worked on the National Research and PreK–12 Educators Conference. He then left the K–12 world to prepare preservice teachers at Doane University where he and his colleague (also a Lowell Mason Fellow) prepared future music educators.

After several years at Doane, he pursued the position of Supervisor of Music with Lincoln Public Schools where now he supported more than 100 teachers and thousands of students through his curricular and advocacy efforts. During this time, Nielsen wrote many grants to provide needed resources for students, and Lincoln Public Schools was chosen by NAMM as one of the best communities for music education—eight years in a row. Nielsen continued his service on the NAfME Council of Music Program Leaders.

Nielsen has presented sessions on many different aspects of music education at state, regional, national and international conferences throughout his career. An avid reader, he has always been on the cutting edge of research and an advocate for equity and diversity. This past year, Nielsen retired after 32 years in music education, and now continues his advocacy efforts through his work as Executive Director for Nebraskans for the Arts, serving on other local arts boards and conducting the local municipal band in his spare time.

“What is most impressive about Lance Nielsen is how he develops relationships with the people he comes in contact with,” shared Judith Bush, NMEA Past President and NAfME North Central Division Past President. “He is a mentor and encourager, many times keeping teachers who might otherwise have left the profession. . . . He models kindness and collaboration, and it is never about ‘him’—it is about the bigger picture of excellence in music education. I and many others have benefited from his selflessness and learned what it is to be a true servant leader.”

“Through our work on the NAfME Council of Music Program Leaders, I was honored to serve alongside him and witness firsthand his amazing leadership, profound wisdom, and beautiful kindness,” added Annamarie Bollino, current Chair of the NAfME Council of Music Program Leaders and Virginia Music Educators Association Immediate Past-President. “His generous spirit and innate gift of mentorship and support of early career educators, aspiring leaders, and current colleagues is one of his greatest strengths. . . . His dedication, passion, and contributions have had a profound and lasting impact on students, educators, and communities across the nation. Dr. Nielson is a gift to the music education field.”

The prestigious Lowell Mason Fellows award is named for educator, musician, and composer of more than 1,600 hymn tunes, Lowell Mason, who is considered to be the father of public school music education in the United States. He has been credited with introducing music instruction to American public schools in the 19th century, and with establishing teacher training in music education. In 2002, the importance of his contributions to music education inspired NAfME to create the Lowell Mason Fellows award. 

Lowell Mason Fellow designations also provide an opportunity to support the efforts of NAfME through the donation made in the honoree’s name. This donation goes to NAfME to support future generations of music educators through the organization’s programs. Individuals or groups (corporations, universities, foundations, student organizations, etc.) may fund designations. 

Read more about the Lowell Mason Fellows distinction and past recipients of the honor on this page.


The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) is a collaborative community that supports music educators and advocates for equitable access to music education. The only association that addresses all aspects of music education, NAfME, together with its affiliated state music education associations, advocates at the national, state, and local levels and provides resources and opportunities for teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Founded in 1907 and representing more than 57,000 members teaching millions of students, NAfME advances the music education profession and promotes lifelong experiences in music.

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April 2024 Teaching Music

Published Date

July 1, 2024


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