Harmonikids Session at Salt Lake Valley Youth Detention Center
26 March, 2020
On February 6, 2020 I returned to bring my Hohner-sponsored Harmonikids session to the Salt Lake Valley Detention Center (SLVDC), In Salt Lake City Utah. SLVDC is a full-security facility designed to rehabilitate troubled youth detained by court order. Such facilities have become among my favorite to provide Harmonikids humanitarian services. Sadly, many of these teens are there ultimately as a result of abandonment, neglect, abuse, or violent childhood environments. Their confidence and self-esteem are likely shaken if not shattered – leaving them feeling broken, hopeless, and trapped. In fact, their nervous energy, tension, and apprehension was quite apparent as they were instructed to sit at attention for the session - and within minutes, lessons and music made on harmonicas changed all of that.
Harmonikids provides youth such as these a healthy and positive form of creative expression and emotional release in this crucial time in their lives. Simply stated, the lessons often become an inspiration for these adolescents to grow, communicate, change, forgive the world – and themselves. The harmonica often becomes a strong but gentle tool to help kids get back on track. Long ago I learned to never underestimate the power of using music and the harmonica as an extraordinary instrument to reach out and make a difference in young lives. As one of the young attendees wrote in the attached thank you letter “Playing has been fun and helps me become a better person.” Attached below is some feedback for Harmonikids sessions received from SLVDC counselors and coordinators.
~ Gary Allegretto, Founding Director of Harmonikids, www.harmonikids.org
"Among Gary’s lessons to the youth, he teaches them to follow their dreams and passions. Often they are preoccupied with those that are famous. While teaching them to become successful on harmonicas, Gary instructs then to be concerned about becoming good - not famous - and that is accomplished by finding and following a positive path towards their hearts passion.
"The youth were engaged and attentive enjoying learning - not just how to play the harmonica - but some life lessons that Gary was speaking about. Gary was interactive and inspirational. He gave a great example tying harmonica playing into life itself when Gary said; "When you make a mistake on a harmonica what do you do? Give up? No! Of course you don't give up! You correct your mistake and move on. And that's true with everything else in your life. When we make mistakes, we correct them and move on." This simple but important lesson really hit home with our teens. Everyone had wonderful time as they learned to play actual songs."
~ Justin Olson, JJS Counselor I, Division of Juvenile Justice Services, Salt Lake Valley Detention Center, Salt Lake City, UT
"Salt Lake Valley Detention Center is a 160 secure bed facility, serving juveniles who are awaiting adjudication of their cases in the Juvenile Court system, awaiting court ordered placements or have been committed to detention for up to 30 days as a court ordered sanction. Our facility provides services to males and females, ages 10-18. Common risk factors for youth placed in the facility are family dysfunctions, abuse (physical, emotional and sexual), neglect, lack of support systems and poor parenting. This poor development is a gateway to school failure (poor reading and math skills etc.), truancy, substance abuse and criminal activity.
"All the youth in the session actively participated and listened. We have a range of youth incarcerated for many things ranging from contempt of court (most common) to aggravated assault and attempted murder-and everything in between. Anything hands-on really works for our kids. For them to be able to experience listening and learning music is priceless. Music really can transform people. The kids were excited to practice!"
~ Lonny Burton, Volunteer Coordinator, Salt Lake Valley Detention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah