Home-school students bring ‘The Sound of Music’ to local stage

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published July 22, 2014

METRO DETROIT — On Aug. 6-9, students from all around southeast Michigan will come together to perform their rendition of the timeless musical “The Sound of Music” at the Waterford Kettering High School Performing Arts Center.

The musicians and thespians involved in the production are part of Oakland Homeschool Music, or OHMI, a nonprofit organization that gives home-schooled K-eight students and other kids without access to music curriculum the opportunity to have a music education. The group serves nine counties and has around 300 children involved during the school year.

“It’s a tuition-based program, and we have Waterford and Troy meeting places,” said Merlyn Beard, music director and president of OHMI. “We do one musical in the summer, because (the students) are involved in regular music programming year-round, and there just isn’t time. The kids meet several times a week for six-seven weeks, but for them, it’s just a great way to get together and spend time with their friends.”

OHMI was founded 12 years ago, and since then, Beard said, enrollment has been on the incline. He’ll admit that he’s not sure if that’s because more parents are opting to educate their children at home or if those parents are starting to see the resources available to them to supplement their curriculum.

“The parents are very involved. I think, since we started (OHMI), there has been an increase in those looking for ways that will best suit their children’s learning needs. For some kids, that may be in a public school classroom. For some, being in a classroom with 30 other kids might not be the best way to do it. And others don’t want certain influences or have certain values that the schools don’t have,” he said.

No matter the reason, OHMI draws families from Port Huron to Detroit, who come in during the week to meet with other students and be a part of a choir ensemble, orchestra and other musical ventures. Beard said the instruction can give musically inclined students the outlet they might not get at home without a professional music teacher. For others, there are life skills to be gained, like socialization and discipline.

“The students are eager to get involved, and I think it has as much to do with things musically as it does with being with other students,” he said. “Most home-schoolers actually do a lot of things with other kids during the week. Is that part of it? Yes, but they’re all there for the music education and the performances and going to festivals and solo ensembles. Everything you’d expect from your local school system, these kids will have that opportunity.”

Gillian Tackett, of Davisburg, is 16 and going into her junior year of high school. She started taking lessons with OHMI five years ago as a middle school chorus student.

“It’s a lot of fun. You learn a lot and have a lot of fun with people you can relate to because they’re all interested in music, too,” she said.

Tackett will be playing the role of Baroness Elsa Schraeder in “The Sound of Music.” She’s joining more than 80 students in sixth-12th grade who will be on the stage, behind the curtain and in the orchestra pit to make sure the family-friendly fifth-annual show will go off without a hitch.

“The cast and orchestra have been diligently rehearsing, while the set crew is busy building a mountain. The Von Trapp family story is inspiring, and the music is beautiful. You won’t want to miss it,” said Cherub Beard, the musical’s director.

Tickets are $10 at the door or $8 in advance through the OHMI website. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.ohmimusic.com.