The harmony of music

It really does build a bridge

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The holiday season is fast approaching… heck, Thanksgiving is less than a week away. Black Friday is in a week, rifle season in Pennsylvania is the next day (and for two full weeks after), and then Christmas concerts, work events, parties, birthdays… before I know it, January will be here.

I had a busy Monday and Tuesday prepping the Holiday Gift Guide and then the newspaper. Add to that a glossy insert that had to be printed early and the cold weather and by the time Wednesday rolled around I was beat.

Mid-day on Wednesday I got a text from Alex.

A: Hey mom…
Me: Yeah?
A: That music thing is tonight
Me: What music thing?
A: The one where we go play some music for the seniors at Bethany Village.
Me: … Crap
A: Guess you’re not going?
Me: … *sigh*

About an hour later my desk phone rang.

“You were supposed to remind me,” I said when BettyAnn Robson, the HHS band director, answered the phone.

“Me? Remind you?” I could hear the amusement in her voice.

If I remember correctly, a loud laugh was what came next. Right… well… she had a good point. She also has a hectic schedule with concerts and planning and a little bit of hunting too.

“I’ll be there,” I promised.

And so, I left work Wednesday night and headed up 670 to Bethany Village to take some photos of these kids as they did their first event with the Harmony Bridge program.

The primary activity of Harmony Bridge is for band students to go into their communities to share music—a simple idea with huge benefits.

Harmony Bridge focuses on three main areas of development:

1.Community Outreach
2.Personal Growth
3.Musical Development

The program presents an opportunity for students to realize the power of music, and the power they have, to bring joy into the lives of others—particularly for those who are in dire need of joy in their lives.

It takes the students’ musical achievements beyond the band room, and beyond the school band concert, to provide additional performances and reach audiences that aren’t always able to attend an event.

Typically, if this sort of activity takes place, it is done at Christmastime. The idea of Harmony Bridge is to carry the “Christmas spirit” throughout the year and to encourage community growth and bonding through generations of people.

Besides giving students the opportunity to showcase their abilities, Harmony Bridge encourages interaction and public speaking. It teaches them to engage with their audience and to learn from them.

Following each performance the students spend time visiting with the residents. The goal is to learn about the residents and to gain an appreciation for who these people really are.

The students ran through a number of classic songs and had the residents of Bethany Village singing along with them. There was plenty of clapping and toe tapping as they continued. They started with Beethoven’s "Ode to Joy" and continued with "Home on the Range." In between songs, handfuls of students stood up and introduced themselves, offering a little background in what they did outside of playing in the Honesdale High School Band.

A handful of students got up to dance with a laugh as the young musicians played "Cotton Eye Joe." After the laughter from that died down the line dance, a few more students talked. The crowd warmed up to the kids and laughed along with them as a surprise visit from Santa occurred. Santa being none other than Dan DeCroate. Ever the happy, comedic kid, Dan was more than happy to be able to pass out candy canes as the band played "Up on the Housetop" and then "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

To finish off the musical part of the performance, the students played "America." With a World War II veteran among the crowd gathered, the song seemed to really hit home for many. As the young and young at heart sang along with the band, it really was evident that programs like this bring everyone "all together now."

The students then headed out into the crowd and mingled. They met a former Honesdale High School cheerleader, a man who sings in the local barbershop quartet group, the last one-room schoolhouse teacher Wayne County had and the former Mayor of Bethany. The students seemed more than interested in hearing about the stories the seniors had to offer and the seniors were generally enthusiastic about talking to the kids as well.

Though it didn’t seem like it, over two hours had now passed from the time the students played their first tune. With many long goodbyes and promises to return in the spring to play again, you could feel the sense of community in the room. The harmony of the music really did build the bridge.

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