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Mooseheart's annual Christmas Concert opened with selections by the drum line. This year, the drum line worked from a musical score as it played its pieces.
Some 30 strong this year under the direction of Kristin Shuman, Mooseheart's Chorus sang a series of holiday songs at the annual Christmas Concert.
High school junior Aaron Moka played saxophone at Mooseheart's annual Christmas Concert.
Sitting in the back of Mooseheart's band was Jaren Schindler, playing the tuba.
Among the soloists at Mooseheart's Christmas Concert was senior saxophone player Salta Kendor.
Senior Chris Gustafson played solo clarinet selections during Mooseheart's Christmas Concert.
MOOSEHEART, Dec. 19 - Christmas always seems to get a little closer at Mooseheart when the annual Christmas concert takes place at the campus’ House of God, and this year, the vocal and musical talents of the campus were put on-display on Dec. 14.
The concert began with the high school’s drum line, continued with the Mooseheart Chorus then finished with a variety of pieces by members of the Mooseheart Band.
“The kids look forward to this concert, probably more so than any other concert of the year,” Mooseheart Band Director Steve Schmidt said. “It’s the holiday season. It’s about a week before most of them are going to go back home and see their guardians. The concert is a really good send-off.”
With fewer than 150 students in its high school and middle school, Mooseheart is able to offer a number of students a chance to perform where larger schools might not. That was apparent when looking in the ranks of the chorus or in the chairs of the band, seeing students who are seen in many arenas on-campus.
“The starting quarterback is playing snare drum,” Schmidt said. “We’ve got some of the basketball players and some of our female athletes. I’ve got a football player on tuba - and a football player on flute too. It’s one of the special things about Mooseheart, that it gives the students an opportunity to do things that maybe they wouldn’t be able to do in a larger public school setting.”
This inclusiveness is not new, and it extends beyond the Music Department. In its 99th school year, Mooseheart has a long history of allowing students the opportunity to see where their talents lie - and then allowing them an attempt to forge ahead in that direction.
“When a child comes to Mooseheart and you say ‘what would you like to do?’, there really are very few limits,” Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart said. “Where their behavior takes them is one thing. But, if they want to be involved in 4-H, and athletics, and the band and the choir, and their vocation -- there are so many opportunities for them.”
There are certainly challenges in both the Chorus and the Band in blending students from seven different grades into a unified group.
“The challenge is to keep the more experienced and older kids interested while you’re getting those less experienced and younger kids up to a decent level,” Schmidt said. “On the other hand, where else can a sixth grader who’s played for a year sit next to a 12th grader who’s played for seven years and get that guidance on a day-to-day basis?”
In recent years, Mooseheart students have been able to sing in the chorus and play in the band. Both groups have benefited, especially the chorus, which has grown from roughly a dozen singers to more than 30 this year.
“It is great to see the numbers in the chorus growing,” Schmidt said. “Around here, it is very common for a student to not have the kind of confidence they might have if they were in a larger setting. If a kid is singing in a choir of 30 kids, he will be much more apt to take a risk than if it’s 10 or 15. To see those numbers grow is great.”
The Mooseheart Music program is funded by the Women of the Moose and Schmidt took a moment during the concert to ask all WOTM members to stand and be recognized; and also for all Loyal Order of Moose members to stand as well, for it is their membership and donations that make Mooseheart possible.
“The Women of the Moose step up year after year and provide a wonderful gift for the music program,” Hart said. “They donate year-round and they work to provide the gift of music for the children at Mooseheart. I really feel like the students think that this is their way of giving back.”
The Christmas concert is the final large-scale school activity on-campus before Christmas. High school students have been taking final exams, leading to the final day of the fall semester on Friday, Dec. 21. For elementary and preschool students, Dec. 21 is another special day -- for that is when Santa Claus makes a special stop at Mooseheart to deliver them presents at 10 a.m. in the school library.
“You look forward to the (Dec. 1) Wisconsin Tree lighting to sort of kick off the holiday season with that tradition,” Hart said. “This is really the peak of the holiday season, to have the band and choir perform. They are talented youngsters who have been preparing for this moment. If the tree lighting ceremony didn’t put you in the Christmas mood, this will put you over the top.”
Since its founding, Mooseheart has operated a complete, accredited kindergarten-through-high-school academic program, plus art, music, vocational training and interscholastic sports. It is an extremely nurturing and student-tailored program, with an average student-teacher ratio of 12-1.
Mooseheart students who complete their studies with a 3.0 GPA or better (4.0=A) are eligible for up to five years of annually renewable scholarship funding, covering tuition, room and board in an amount comparable to that required for an in-state student at an Illinois public university.
Mooseheart is currently home to roughly 210 students, ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors. Applications for admission to Mooseheart are considered from any family whose children are, for whatever reason, lacking a stable home environment. Mooseheart boasts its own U.S. Post Office and a fully functioning branch of Fifth Third Bank.
In addition to Mooseheart, Moose International also supports Moosehaven, a 70-acre retirement community near Jacksonville, FL founded in 1922; and conducts more than $70 million worth of community service programs annually.