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Members of the Shoreview Home School Band performed at last year’s Christmas concert.

, Provided by Tony Burand

Ensemble for kids schooled at home

  • Article by: ALLIE SHAH
  • Star Tribune
  • November 3, 2009 - 4:44 PM

As a home-school parent, Kim Burand discovered she could teach her boys many things.

How to play a musical instrument was not one of them.

Enter the Shoreview Home School Band, an ensemble made up of nearly 80 home-schooled students from around the metro area. It's one of about a dozen home-school bands in the Twin Cities area and perhaps the largest.

Band director Bruce Bissonett formed the band in 1998 as a way to reach what he saw as a growing market.

"I just saw it as a new area that was about ready to explode, and it did," said Bissonett, a music teacher for 35 years who also teaches at a couple of private schools. "It became real big. A lot of families got interested."

Some of the home-school parents who were taking their kids to a local Schmitt Music store asked if there were any teachers willing to offer group lessons for their children, and Bissonett volunteered. The music store started a program in 1965 to bring music to students attending private and parochial schools that did not have a full-time band director. In 1992, the program expanded to include home-school children.

Now, once a week, kids in grades four through 12 meet at the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Shoreview for instrument lessons, followed by rehearsal.

And three times a year they perform concerts at the church before their families and friends. The band's Christmas Concert will be held Dec. 10.

Families pay $49 a month for the first student and $42 a month for each additional student to participate in the nine-month band program.

So large is the program that it's divided into three bands -- the beginner's band, the concert band and the symphonic band.

While the younger kids tend to fall into the beginner's group and the high-school age kids typically play in the higher-level symphonic band, the students advance from one band level to the next according to their ability, not their age.

Allowing students to learn and move at their own pace, instead of by grade level, complements the approach many home-school parents use in teaching their own children.

As with his other students, Bissonett expects his home-school students to practice regularly between lessons. What he finds with the home-school kids is that they tend to have more time to practice because their schedules aren't as packed as his students who have six hours of classes followed by sports activities.

'A teacher's dream'

Several past members of the Shoreview Home School Band have gone on to study music in college, and others have composed pieces of music performed by the band.

"It's a teacher's dream," Bissonett said of working with the kids. "They sound as good as or better than so many of the high school bands around the city."

Being involved in the band has given Burand's two sons a valuable chance to grow and develop their love of music, she says.

"They really wanted to perform," she said. "With the band, it gives them that opportunity to perform and to play with other kids."

Band practice also provides a major social hub for the kids involved.

When the weather's nice, the kids will show up at the church a half hour before lessons and toss a Frisbee. They spend the winter months huddled around board games before practice.

Said Burand: "They do love coming and being together."

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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