Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vt. Music Teacher In The Running For A Grammy

A Vermont music teacher is in the running for the first-ever Grammy Award for a music educator.

Rutland native Lisa Bianconi directs the music program at Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Westminster. She’s one of twenty-five semi-finalists for the award, selected from a pool of  thirty thousand nominees.

Bianconi believes that music can change people’s lives.  Every day after lunch she rehearses in the Kurn Hattin auditorium with one of the school’s choruses or instrumental groups. On this day it’s the 60-member select choir.  They’re scheduled to sing on Friday for the Kurn Hattin Incorporators and Trustees.

As the students arrange themselves on stage, Bianconi plays a few notes from the song they’re working on. But her eyes are everywhere.  “Wissa, who’s next to you?” she asks one child. “Kaley, have a seat,” she orders another. “Ladies, chill.” 

Bianconi  tells the chorus that they’re going to warm up starting with the middle part of ‘Somewhere.’ “Ready?” She starts counting the beat, and the children begin to sing.

Since 1894, Kurn Hattin has offered an education and a safe, year-round home for children in difficult situations. It currently has about a hundred children in grades one through eight. They come from all over the Northeast.

Bianconi says each child has his or her own story. “There are kids of divorce here,” she says. “There’s kids that have been in the state system, there’s kids whose parents are just having a very difficult time. There’s children that have no parents, and there’s adopted that the placement wasn’t a good fit the first time.”

Every child at Kurn Hattin is involved in the music program. Everyone from the fourth grade up studies a musical instrument. Bianconi has led the school’s music program for almost 30 years. She believes that every child has talent and that it’s her job to help students unlock their talents. Her goal is to get them to feel good about themselves – and to love music.

Bianconi says students often arrive at Kurn Hattin with a backlog of bad school experiences. “So they don’t understand the joy of music,” Bianconi says. “So it’s about finding the complete joy, and making them part of it.”

It’s also about giving the children a chance to feel like super stars.

Bianconi seizes every opportunity for the kids to perform. In recent months, the marching band played at the Big E Exposition in Springfield, Massachusetts. The jazz band played the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. The choir sang at a televised competition on New England Public Television and came in first in the gospel category.

Bianconi says the students learn a lot in their travels -- about teamwork and responsibility and about interacting with people in different social situations. “They love to perform,” She says. “They love to have people say, ‘You are amazing!' Because they are!”

The Grammy will be awarded in February. Ten finalists will be named in December. Bianconi’s students are excited that their teacher is in line for the prestigious award.

Vincent Jarvis, an eighth grader who plays baritone sax, says Bianconi never gives up on her students.  “I think Mrs. Bianconi should win the Grammy because she shows that she cares,” Jarvis says. “She doesn’t ever let a person stop working. She always says, ‘Don’t ever stop chasing your dreams.’” 

Seventh grader Jamie Minor says he used to be too timid to sing. But that’s changed. “When I started singing here I felt it was a whole new world,” Minor says. “I just felt like I can do anything.”

Eighth grader Breanna Holmes, who plays saxophone and sings, says she’s discovered that music is something she can count on, even in hard times.  I didn’t really have a big heart in music until I came here and joined the jazz band and stuff,” Holmes says. “It’s all because of Mrs Bianconi.”

Bianconi says good things happen at Kurn Hattin because everyone there cares deeply about the children and goes out of their way to help. She loves it when students come back to show their own children the place that helped turn their lives around.

No matter how long it’s been, Bianconi says, she tries to get them back up on stage and singing.

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR.
Latest Stories