Harmonikids Holiday Session at Ferris Youth Detention Center
14 January, 2020
On December 13, 2019 I returned to provide a Hohner-sponsored special holiday Harmonikids session to 3 dozen participants at the Cleveland White School at Ferris Youth Detention Center in Wilmington Delaware; a full-security juvenile facility for youth whose mission is to “provide educational and therapeutic services to adjudicated youth in a safe, staff-secure and gender sensitive environment preparing them for successful re-entry into the community.” The students were entertained and taught fascinating history while learning to play several blues songs on the harmonicas gifted from Hohner. The session ended with the students being thrilled to learn to play “Jingle Bells” in honor of the approaching Christmas holiday.
Over the years Harmonikids' ongoing programs to assist the youth at Ferris have become among my personal favorites because the participants (many of whom have been neglected, abandoned, and/or abused) receive much-needed self esteem and confidence from the experience. Harmonikids provides a healthy and positive form of creative expression and emotional release for detained youth in this crucial time in their lives. Simply stated, the lessons often become an inspiration for these adolescents to grow, change, forgive the world – and themselves. The harmonica often becomes a powerful but gentle tool to help kids get back on track. Long ago I learned to never underestimate the strength of music and the harmonica as a remarkable instrument to reach out and make a difference in young lives.
In her insightful thank you note below, Principal Erica Holt describes the Harmonikids session as an unforgettable educational experience that provided the troubled youth a positive outlook, stress and behavior management, and a coping strategy. It also provided a skill “that helps to encourage the students while creating feelings of warmth and happiness as they approach this holiday season away from their families”. And as she says, “Not only did this experience soothe the students, but it brought laughter and joy.“
~ Gary Allegretto, Founding Director of Harmonikids, www.harmonikids.org
“I would like to thank you for your visit to the Cleveland White School (at Ferris youth Detention center). The students really appreciated having the opportunity to learn a new skill and experience a musical instrument they had limited knowledge of. Learning about the history of the harmonica and is role across various genres of music was equally as interesting. The instructional practice you provided will allow students to utilize the harmonica to decrease stress, manage behavior, and as a way to mentally escape from their current placement. Music has the ability to give students a more positive attitude toward life and gets us all through tough times. Learning to play the harmonica has broadened the kids musical intellect and provided a new coping strategy. This skill helps to encourage the students while creating feelings of warmth and happiness as they approach this holiday season away from their families. Not only did this experience soothe the students, but it brought laughter and joy. Our students will never forget your visit. We look forward to your return and thank you again for the time and investment into our youth.“
~ Erica Holt, Principal, Cleveland White School at Ferris Youth Detention Center