Building Community Through Local Music Store Connections
Many local music stores bring musicians together by creating highly successful in-store programs. They give back to their musical communities by interacting with them in new and innovative ways. “It’s all about making music and the richnessof community and experience,” explains Mary L. Luehrsen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation and NAMM director of public affairs and government relations.
West Music Sponsors Choirsfor Adults and Teens with Disabilities
SoundReach, sponsored by West Music, is a performing choir for adults with disabilities. “We want to give them an opportunity to fulfill their passion for music, while participating and socializing with other peers who have similar interests,” Kelly Carlson, director of music therapy, says. The program, started in 1994, serves about 200 choir members each semester who belong to four choirs and also hosts a TeenReach choir, started in 2011, which serves teens and “tweens” with developmental disabilities. TeenReach takes place in Marion, while SoundReach is located in Marion, Urbandale, Coralville, and Davenport, Iowa.
Catherine Swiderski, 17, of Cedar Rapids, not only enjoys the music, but has found new confidence through TeenReach. “Catherine joined the program because she loves to sing,” her mother, Mary, says. “While she is a member of the choir at her high school, since she has Down Syndrome, the speed and complexity of the music is sometimes a problem for her. The smallness of the group, the comfort of being with friends and meeting new ones, and the chance to be a part of decisions regarding music chosen are all beneficial for her.”
Maureen McCue and her son, Michael, have participated in the SoundReach program for a decade, and she says the program provides the best therapy. “Singing in the choir helps frame and order our week and distracts and calms Michael when he’s in a cranky or oppositional mood,” Maureen says. “Laughing and singing are cheaper, more reliable, and more enjoyable than medications for bad moods or behaviors. Over the years, we’ve gained many friends and a deep appreciation for the many thoughtful, caring, and creative members of the community. The program has enriched our lives in many ways: more confidence, self-esteem, friends, and all that such experience implies. Besides that, we’ve learned a lot of new songs!”
Valley Keyboards Connects with the Community through Piano Classes for All Ages
Debra Perez and her husband, Matt, own two Texas piano stores, The Piano Gallery in Corpus Christi and Valley Keyboards in McAllen. The stores host keyboard classes for all ages. Musical Moments is for adults who have always wanted to play piano or have played previously and want to come back to music. Way Cool Keyboarding is for teens who want to play, but aren’t interested in a traditional learning path. And Way Cool Keyboarding 4Kids provides children six to 10 years old a positive learning environment to begin their musical experience.
“These types of programs are a win for everyone involved,” Debra Perez says. “The students benefit greatly at many levels and the teachers find the experience enriching to their own lives. The store creates a place for people of all walks of life to come together and make music. Instruments and music are sold to enhance the journey.”
Currently, there are more than 30 piano classes weekly in each city, and Way Cool Keyboarding summer camps are held in June and July. After school music classes are provided in schools that aren’t able to support a regular music program.
Perez developed the programs with composer/arranger Will Baily. “We discovered that a fun, encouraging learning environment helps nurture creativity and the many life benefits that are available when playing music,” says Perez.
That positive energy is confirmed through the students who participate. Cherie Hodges, 45, takes lessons at the McAllen location and joined to continue the musical education started in her childhood. “I love the piano and believe music, especially playing music, is beneficial for the mind and the soul,” she says. “I’ve gained a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment and I think it’s amazing and wonderful to be in this program created by Debra and Will. They have developed a truly unique method that offers the opportunity to learn so much while simultaneously maintaining a relaxing and fun atmosphere. I’m hooked!”
To learn more visit: MusicalMomentsRMM.com