HARMONIKIDS SESSION FOR KIDS IN NORTHERN UTAH
06 May, 2020
On March 2 - 6, 2020 I provided Hohner-sponsored Harmonikids programs to 842 school children (grades 3-12) in the Cache Valley School District in Northern Utah. Most of the schools I taught were in rural areas categorized as “Title 1” or “schools with high percentages of children from low-income families”. Some who I taught had learning disabilities and other challenges. As the teachers explained, many of the kids involved may not have otherwise ever received a musical instrument let alone learn to play it through lessons. The weeklong sessions were a resounding success and all of the children were overjoyed to learn fascinating history, receive their own new Hohner harmonicas on which they all learned to play four songs instantly and accurately through my method.
Below are a few of letters of thanks I received from Millville, Lincoln and Canyon Elementary School staff members. Included are some joyful comments made by very excited kids. A few of my favorites - “I’m so happy I got my first instrument, and I can play it!… I LOVE the sound!… You just lit up my day… I just want to learn. I want to play it forever!” Of special note, in the weeks following my sessions the COVID 19 pandemic arrived and all the schools in the area closed. The kids are confined to their homes and classes are being held on-line. As suggested in the letter from 5th grade teacher Brad Hawkes, the gift of the harmonicas and the songs I taught are likely now being used as a coping mechanism by isolated children providing them a positive, educational, therapeutic, creative activity to express themselves in their homes during this daunting and challenging time in their lives.
~ Gary Allegretto, founding director of Harmonikids, www.harmonikids.org
To Whom It May Concern,
I have worked as a school counselor in the public school system for over 25 years and I’ve seen a lot of assemblies. I’m sending you this letter to let you know that I’ve never seen one better than Gary Allegretto’s classroom harmonica assembly. Although I had heard great things about it in the past, I was recently able to hear him present at two schools.
He manages student behavior well, in large part because of the engaging subject matter. Students are actually given a harmonica and taught how to play four songs within a half hour. He appeals to elementary students by formatting his presentations so that students actually learn a song within the first 10 minutes, and makes sure to celebrate this success. He embeds humor, teaches about the importance of repetition in learning, the nature of muscle memory, embouchure, and much more.
“Growth Mindset” is a catch phrase that is used in education a lot. In a nutshell, it means “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This is an important concept that we work hard to teach children. He supports this basic academic philosophy by explaining that it’s going to be more fun if you work hard, challenge yourself and and get good at it. He also let’s students know that they can look up more songs for the harmonica online when they get good at the songs he gives them.
Many students have given me notes to express their appreciation of Mr. Allegreto, getting a new harmonica and learning some songs. (Some are attached below).
Thank you for supporting our students in acquiring music appreciation and skill via these wonderful assemblies.
Jaynan Chancellor, Counselor
Millville and Lincoln Elementary Schools
Cache County School District
COMMENTS FROM THE SCHOOL CHILDREN:
“I am so glad I get my own harmonica. Thank you so much. I can’t wait to go hom and play You Are My Sunshine for my mom."
"I LOVE the sound! I just want to learn. I want to play it forever."
"I loved to learn how to play the harmonica. You just lit up my day."
"I loved seeing you play the harmonica. This was a fun thing to do and I will enjoy this so much."
"I’m so happy I got my first instrument, and I can play it!"
"I had so much fun! I’m going to learn Happy Birthday!”
"Thank you for the harmonica. I am going to practice it everyday and perform for my parents. My mom and dad will be so proud. Thanks to you. You’re the best."
"I so, so, so love my new harmonica!"
"It felt great to get a harmonica. Today was totally awesome!!! I loved it!"
"I love playing the harmonica. Thanks for teaching me. It’s super fun."
"I love the harmonica and I want to play it right now."
"I liked how you played the harmonica really fast and with your nose. THANK YOU!”
"He was a very good teacher. He was easy to understand. His directions were easy to follow. Everything he did was indescribable!”
Thank you so much for sharing your talent with the students of Canyon Elementary. Your workshop has inspired the students of our school. Having a professional artist close up in a classroom with students is such a wonderful experience. Most students will only hear a professional in an auditorium or concert hall. Having you in these smaller groups, instructing them on how to play the harmonica was a once in a lifetime experience for them. Students have been playing their harmonicas ever since your workshop. We are currently teaching classes on line because of the Covid 19 outbreak. I was in a video chat with several members of my class this past week and I heard a harmonica song being played in the background. There are students from this group that may very well continue in the field of music because of your presentation. Thank you again for providing this opportunity for young children. Best wishes to you and your music career and we hope to see you again at Canyon Elementary
5th Grade Teacher
I wanted to thank you again for your visit to our school. It was an experience our 4th graders won't soon forget. As was evidenced by their behavior, every child was very engaged and eager to participate in every facet of your presentation. I really appreciated your direct, yet appropriate, style of working with the kids and introducing them to an instrument that they wouldn't have an opportunity to learn in any other setting. I appreciate the musical significance of the harmonica and I enjoyed your ability to weave in its history throughout the lesson. Thank you for your generosity and that of your foundation and sponsors for supplying the kids with a harmonica of their own. This is a fantastic program that I hope to participate in next year.
Millville Elementary School