Students at the Kurn Hattin home are tuning up, getting ready for a holiday concert. But this group is not just about making music; it's about healing.
"It's a small community where a lot of magic happens," music director Lisa Bianconi said.
Kurn Hattin is a year-round home and school in Westminster for 105 kids with difficult lives. They can be homeless, living in poverty or abused.
"I had some troubles at home," said Emebet Stott, 12.
Emebet is from Ethiopia. Both of her parents died when she was young. She was adopted by a couple in New Hampshire, but she could not trust after so much trauma.
"I wasn't accepting the fact that I had a new family because I didn't want to lose them like I did to my first family," Emebet explained.
She started getting in trouble at school, so her family sent her to Kurn Hattin so she could grow and get the help she needs. Emebet arrived lonely and angry. She said no to a lot of activities, including music. But then she met the director, Mrs. Bianconi. And that's when she says everything changed.
"She never gave up on me, even when I failed at something," Emebet said.
Lisa Bianconi has worked at the school for 29 years. She says she sees every student for who they are and what they can become, not what they've been through.
"The kids have had really difficult lives and when you work here you really appreciate everything you have. I see them overcome such obstacles, anxieties and fears, and a lot of sadness when they're here. In the music program there's a lot of joy," Bianconi said.
"Mrs. Bianconi is the best music teacher I've ever seen or been with," said Jamie Minor, 12.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Has music changed your life at all?
Jamie Minor: A lot, it's made people know who I am, where I'm from.
Bianconi puts every student in the spotlight, but now she's the focus. Bianconi is nominated for the first-ever Music Educator Grammy Award, recognizing people who have made a significant and lasting contribution to music education. Out of 30,000 applicants from around the country, Bianconi is 1 of 10 nominees.
Gina Bullard: Why do you think you made it so far? Thirty-thousand people and you're in the top 10.
Lisa Bianconi: l think I'm different. I think that's why I made it this far.
Different because she says she knows how to motivate her students, believes they're all good enough to perform on stage and she stays positive.
"She taught me a lot of things," Jamie said. "She made me go into the choir because she told me not to give up, which is how I got my solo."
Bianconi works on building students' inner strength, giving them the confidence to step out and do something different, and making music a part of each of their lives.
"Oh my gosh, she's amazing," said Chrystal Longe, 13. "I love her; she's really changed my life."
Both of Chrystal Longe's parents are deaf. She was bullied in school and became depressed. She says Bianconi has shown her music can help her heal.
"She changed my perspective on music," Chrystal said.
"She's always happy, she's funny and she deserves the Grammy award," Jamie said.
But Grammy or not, her students say Mrs. Bianconi is already number one.
"Even if she doesn't win, she won in my heart and everyone else's heart," Emebet said.
"If I can change one of their lives into a better life, then I feel like that's the same as a Grammy," Bianconi said.
Teaching students to survive life's tough notes with the help of music.
Bianconi finds out if she will take home a Grammy sometime in January. If she does win, she'll be flown to Los Angeles for the 56th annual Grammy Awards ceremony.
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