In the year 2000, a small group of homeschooling parents joined together for the purpose of adding a music component to their childrens’ plans of study. These parents and their families, now a cooperative, teamed up with Mr. Donald “Doby” Dobrosky and Ms. Katherine Johnson, both notable area musicians and educators in their own right, to form the organization we know today as National Homeschool Music Ensembles, NHME. Starting with only a handful of students comprising a single wind-ensemble, NHME has grown into as many as 5 satellite locations; has added more ensembles like choir, string orchestra, and percussion ensemble; and has become an unconventional yet innovative, educational model. We successfully exported that model, our way of doing things, and our ideals across the country into several organizations with similar goals in mind. NHME is a founding member of the Michigan Home School Music Network, MHSMN. Along with the twelve other MHSMN music programs, NHME provides an instructional experience that’s become the envy of educators statewide and that’s drawn the attention of university directors looking to augment their bands and orchestras. This musical endeavor has seen over 400 students pass through its ranks in the past twenty years with many of these NHME alumni becoming leaders and professionals in their chosen fields. In 2016 with the invaluable support provided by Mr. Jack Barrett, NHME secured the acquisition of our operational home-base in Tecumseh, the former Tecumseh Grange. At NHMEs beginning, Mr. Barrett, the last Master of Grange #166, suggested holding music classes at the under-utilized Grange Halls in Southeast Michigan. Later, Jack’s suggestion and advice cemented NHME’s place within the community with the purchase of the hall. As we start a strong new year and an exciting new season at NHME, we look forward to continuing and growing our commitment to preparing tomorrow’s leaders today through music.
Mr. Brian Gorski, Director of the Adrian City Band, sharing thoughts on teaming-up and sharing experiences with NHME's students.
These kids can come play with us anytime!
Scott Boema - Director of Bands WMU
What you're doing here is nothing short of amazing [...] This group plays as well or better than any group in the area.
Wes King - Director of Bands SHU
It was a pleasure to get a chance to meet and work with such a fine group of musicians [...] Their attitude and work ethic was a pleasure to experience. I can only imagine the impact of these students on your program! It must be a real treat to have these wonderful young people in your band.
Sam McIlhagga - Director of Bands Albion College
Read an open letter from a mother of five homeschooled children, peruse an endorsement from a homeschool parent in Ypsilanti, hear from one music mom about the program, and read what our students say about NHME!
Donald S. "Doby" Dobrosky, Sr., founder and director, passed away at his home in November 2021 with his friends and family by his side. Donald earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one in economics from Lake Forest College and another in music from Skidmore College. Mr. Dobrosky performed with the Nutley Symphony, the Montclair Symphony, the Skaneateless Summer Band, and even with his own dance band at local clubs and venues. A Naval Reserve bandsman, he directed the Naval Air Technical Training Center Band in Memphis. Doby served as a percussion specialist with Lenawee Schools, as staff percussionist for the Croswell Opera House, as principal with the Lenawee Pops Orchestra, and as founder of the Tecumseh Pops Orchestra. He also directed the pit orchestra at the Tecumseh Center for the Arts, conducted the Saline Players, appeared with the Ann Arbor Light Opera, and performed with the Dexter Community Band. "If there was one thought I would leave with my students, it is: never lose your ability to dream."
Co-Founder & Director, Choir
Ms. Katherine O. Johnson, co-founder, director, and board advisor, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from Swathmore College and a Bachelor's degree in Music from University of Michigan majoring in choral education and piano. She also studied theatre at Cornell for two years. Kathe teaches piano privately, performs on organ, plays ‘cello, and strums bluegrass guitar. She has worked extensively with area theatre groups, jazz ensembles, and even a rock band. Ms. Johnson currently sings with the Willis Patterson Our Own Thing Chorale.
Ms. Donna V. Smith is a third-generation, professional musician involved in violin and viola performance since the age of six. As a young child, she participated in her first orchestra at Interlochen Arts Academy. Ms. Smith credits her mother as her first music teacher starting Donna on piano as a preschooler. Donna’s mom earned a Masters in Music at University of Michigan. When studying music and orchestral conducting at U of M under Ms. Elizabeth A. H. Green (published author and today’s foremost authority on modern conducting), Donna discovered she had the same conducting instructor as her mother! Ms. Donna earned a Bachelor’s Degree in music education from Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from George Fox University in Oregon. She enjoys playing, performing, and teaching violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, lute, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, trumpet, horn, trombone, saxophone, and even bassoon! Ms. Smith founded the Lakewood String Quartet, coached Malaika Strings in Nairobi, Kenya, and competed in the National Old Time Fiddlers Contest in Weizer, Idaho. With unique experiences and perspectives in both music and psychology, Ms. Smith brings a practical, person-based approach to interacting with and instructing musicians of all skill levels including those of special ability. Her youngest student began at age three and played complete songs using a bow by age four. Donna trained in the Suzuki Method for strings and also performs regularly at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
So what exactly is NHME?
Although we use terminology familiar to educational establishments and structure our service similar to academic environments, NHME is not strictly a school, private or otherwise. Grades, report cards, or transcripts are not recorded or given, and credit may or may not be awarded by other institutions for participating in NHME's programs. NHME is not in it for profit-making either, even though we strive to be business-like and professional in all of our operations. We're also not a collection of tutoring services, although our directors and instructors individually may be qualified to tutor. While neither a professional association promulgating standards nor an academy establishing set pedagogy, NHME's methodology nonetheless has become a model for other organizations across the nation. We do things other educators say can't be done, and we accomplish what competing groups say is unattainable. Indeed, our students achieve competent, early-college skill sets and proficiency levels after only a few years. Many of our former musicians now perform professionally. NHME is a collection of civically inclined and musically-minded volunteers. We provide an opportunity for pupils outside of traditional public or private school settings to play, perform, and grow in a musical ensemble setting—an avenue of artistic expression and intellectual study not normally available to this underserved body of students. NHME enlists the area's top professionals in creating the best possible learning experience. Our leaders engage our students with expert guidance and thoughtful mentorship. NHME accomplishes its mission at a cost comparatively lower than other groups or methods. Our ensembles present performances and concerts admission free to the public as a service to our communities. NHME is, therefore, a certified non-profit, tax-exempt, licensed corporate entity with recognized charitable status. NHME draws funding solely from donations, grants, and member contributions. We're parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and guardians just like you looking for ways to help our children grow into the best possible future versions of themselves. We believe we're training tomorrow's leaders today through music. We strive to provide the highest quality, musical-ensemble experiences at a price point affordable to our homeschooling families. Our motto: Excellence! First learned in music and later incorporated into habits, Excellence then becomes not just an act, but an approach to life's pursuits guaranteeing success in any endeavor or enterprise.
David Rennie is our administrative assistant taking care of all things monotonous and mundane. A lifelong, amateur musician of little distinction, Dave sings baritone unremarkably and plays almost all the instruments with equal mediocrity. Often described as a dilettante of the arts and jack of no trades, our defacto factotum can be found taking out the rubbish as janitor, fixing a leaky faucet as plumber, or repairing a broken horn as minor tinkerer in residence. A grateful beneficiary of Doby & Kathe’s vision, Dave happily fulfills the roles of Registered Agent and Program Director with state authorities for NHME. He also functions as a third-string, backup, substitute conductor whenever Ms. Donna or Ms. Evelyn must be absent, earning him the moniker “semiconductor.”
What's the "N" for?
We often get asked about the “National” part of our name. How can NHME be a national organization with only a few locations in southeast Michigan? The short answer is: we dream big! Our original families and founding directors envisioned a multitudinous network of homeschool musical ensembles sprouting up and thriving together all across our great, fruited plain. To that extent, this vision has largely been realized. New, independent groups spring up spontaneously every year, and former satellite organizations branch out on their own into exciting, new directions. NHME and other pioneering ensembles have successfully exported their ideas all around the map. Rather than a hierarchical structure of franchises, the homeschool music community has become a wonderfully collaborative framework for sharing innovations, solutions, and encouragements. Thank you Doby, Kathe, and all of our friends in homeschool music-making!