In 1983, Michael Levine founded the Dallas Brass www.dallasbrass.com, “one of America’s most foremost music ensembles.” Although he has a long and successful history as a professional musician, Michael found his calling in bringing young people and seniors together through music.
It all began with a tour stop at a small town in the Dakotas, where he and a fellow musician visited with a 100 year-old Twins fan. After playing a few rousers, one of the staff members called them out into the hallway. There they found a “traffic jam” of wheelchairs, filled with residents who had rolled themselves out into the hallway. Michael saw how the music triggered memories in these peoples’ lives and brought them to life. This is when Michael says he truly understood the power of “music therapy” and felt he was given a mission to bring together the worlds of student musicians and senior citizens.
Harmony Bridge’s mission is “caring and sharing … through music.” It bridges generations, providing students with an opportunity to understand and respect another generation – and vice versa. It helps young people develop into caring and contributing adults.
Bringing Harmony Bridge to schools is a challenge, as band directors are already overwhelmed with their day-to-day responsibilities. Mike believes it is time for us to re-think music education, which is currently focused on (1) technique and (2) competition. While Mike agrees we should strive towards excellence, he is concerned that band programs are becoming increasingly focused on competition. We are teaching kids skills that can be shared, but are not giving them the opportunity to go out and share them. Providing student musicians with the opportunity to share their music and bring joy to others is what Harmony Bridge is all about. Students visit nursing homes to play for residents and then spend time socializing with them after the performance.
After performing at a nursing home in New Jersey that is part of a national organization with hundreds of locations, Michael got a call from the national activities director, who told him that she believes that the two greatest influences on their residents’ lives are music and children.
Harmony Bridge is committed to providing a comprehensive program, including on-site training for facilitators and clear direction for rehearsals. To make this happen, Harmony Bridge needs the support – moral and financial – of organizations like Rotary. He envisions performances where performances could be not only supported by Rotary, but where Rotarians could play an active role, helping to set up, displaying the Rotary banner, perhaps even sitting in on the performance. He’s also like to see an annual awards banquet for Harmony Bridge students, where Rotary could recognize students’ contributions.
The presentation ended with a musical performance by local students directed by Meyer Middle School band director Mike Fuller. The students performed easy songs likely to be recognized and enjoyed by seniors, including “Skip to My Lou,” “This Old Man” and “Ode to Joy.” Mike noted that one of the unique things about Harmony Bridge’s arrangements is that they “pass the melody around,” providing more students with an opportunity to play the notes that people are listening to most. Michael Levine noted that while he envisioned Harmony Bridge as a program for second year students, Mike Fuller launched it this year with students who have only been playing since August. They started playing in November and are hoping to start performing locally this spring.
If you have questions about Harmony Bridget, Michael Levine invites you to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rotarians in Action
Volunteers Help with Improvements at Grace Place
Member of the River Falls Rotary Club, along with other Rotarians from the area, have been helping Grace Place update their new shelter in New Richmond. Ceiling panels were the project of the day!
Our club has a strong emphasis on youth programs. Projects and programs include:
Sponsorship of incoming and outgoing Rotary Youth Exchange Students, including Gary, our current guest from Taiwan.
The Strive Program - helping high school students maintain a focus on their education and encouraging future educational goals.
Westside Readers - helping grade school students at Westside Elemenbary strengthen their reading skills.
Support of schools in need in other areas of the world, including Haiti and Peru.