Many residents may not realize one of the state's only homeschool bands is here in Aiken and it has been for 20 years.
The AAA Homeschool Band, also known as the AAA/South Aiken Baptist Christian School Band, is a group of local homeschool and private school students who rehearse in Aiken and perform together throughout the year. The band members are made up of fifth graders and up.
The band was founded by Barb Rollins, who is the ensemble's director, and her husband Roger in 1999.
“The whole thing really just fell into our laps,” said Barb, who has a master’s degree in instrumental music education from the University of Illinois.
"The AAA Band was first formed in 1990s, but it only existed for one year before it died for a bit – due to different reasons," Rollins said. "We decided to bring it back in September 1999 and, since then, the band has just continually grown."
The band averages of about 30 members and perform 42 times a year. To prepare for these performances, the students rehearse once a week at Rollins' residence on Banks Mill Road, which has a large band room.
There are currently only five homeschool bands in South Carolina.
"When we started this there was only one other homeschool band in the state, but now there's five – and all five bands get together once a year for a concert in different places around the state," she said.
Rollins has developed the idea of the AAA Homeschool Band over time. She said it all started when a woman asked her to teach her home-schooled son how to play the trumpet.
"I was playing my trumpet at a National Day of Prayer meeting," Rollins said. "I was showing slides with (my right) hand and fingering with the same hand. Afterwards, this lady walked up to me and said, 'It looks like you can play the trumpet with one hand?' And that was exactly what I was doing. She then asked me if I could teach her son."
The woman's son was in third grade and only had the use of one of his arms. She told Rollins she really wanted her son to learn to play music. Rollins said she agreed to take the boy on as a pupil, but not until he was in the fifth grade.
That boy, Matthew Coffin, came back to Rollins for lessons two years later.
This was the beginning of the Homeschool Band, which Rollins started to advertise at different homeschool organizations.
"It really started to grow by word of mouth," she said.
Rollins also placed a sign outside her residence, which has attracted many of her students over the years.
"I've gotten some of my best students from that little sign," she said. "Over the years, the band just became bigger and bigger until finally – it became what it is today."
The oldest student to join the AAA Homeschool Band in Aiken was around age 70.
"He was a wonderful student who played saxophone," Rollins said. "He came to all the classes and really loved being around the kids."
Any fees charged to band participants are used to fund the group, and students can request private lessons from Rollins.
“This isn't a business for me, as much as it is a ministry," Rollins said. "It’s my passion and what I’ve been called to do. I love every minute of it and don't plan on retiring anytime soon. I want to open doors of musical opportunities for the kids, and if I change a life or keep a child from going in the wrong direction, then I’ve fulfilled a purpose.”
In honor of two decades of music, the band will perform at their 20th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday at South Aiken Baptist Church.
The performance will feature three former band members who have returned with original music to lead the band, Rollins said.
The composers for Saturday will be:
Hannah Herlong, a recent USC Aiken graduate with a degree in music.
Issac Parks, who studies music at Berkeley University.
Sarah Rochester, a sophomore at Anderson University with a major in commercial music and piano.
Rollins said she will soon be accepting new students wanting to join the band.
For more information about the AAA Homeschool Band, call Rollins at 803-640-4689 or visit www.aaaband.org.