Nancy Stewart named Mercer Island Citizen of the Year

July 11, 2016 | by Erin Sirianni

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Nancy_StewartThe City Council began recognizing outstanding efforts of citizens in 1990 and has continued this tradition for more than 20 years. Honorees are individuals or entities whose achievements may have gone unrecognized in some settings, but who have improved Island life through a broad base of community service, fundraising, or other means.

This year, the Council selected Nancy Stewart for this honor. Before a crowd of community members, Mayor Bruce Bassett revealed the 2015 Citizen of the Year at the Tuesday, July 5th, Council Meeting.

Nancy Stewart moved to Mercer Island in 1981 with her husband Judge Wayne Stewart. She has used music and songwriting to build local community and bring generations together ever since. She’s known for enthusiastic appearances at all manner of Island festivals and events, in the library, the local bookstore, and City’s community center.

Her Sing With Our Kids program began as a pilot project on Mercer Island in 2012, in which she created, tested, and documented singing events that foster early learning and literacy, while connecting children to their surroundings. Her program goal has always been to create a national model that any school, library, family, or community can use – free of cost.

“Simply put, music powers the young brain,” Nancy said. “Singing with a child connects neural pathways and increases the ability to retain information. In other words, it builds memory. Music builds a strong sense of rhythm, which leads to a better ability to understand and produce language. Singing develops spatial reasoning with allows children to recognize patterns, and later helps in problem-solving. Songs are rich in vocabulary and by nature build phonological awareness.”

After launching her career at the age of 15 and spending a decade touring and performing at clubs nationwide with well-known stars like Lily Tomlin and Burl Ives, Nancy decided to turn her musical talents to children and created her Animal Crackers program. She’s promoted the connection between singing and learning for kids ever since, including training teachers how to incorporate music into their lessons.

As a winner of numerous local and national awards and a recording artist, Nancy explains her passion: “Musicians don’t choose to become musicians. It’s what they are. What they are born to be. Music chooses them. It’s not about money; it’s about loving music. It’s about getting to share something that they love more than themselves.”

The City and Council congratulate Nancy and look forward to many more years of creativity and inspiration.

Learn more about Nancy Stewart here.  Click here to view past Citizens of the Year.

[City of Mercer Island]