Harmonikids Session to Challenged Youth at Chief Jacob Bearspaw School
08 November, 2016
On October 24, 2016 I provided a Hohner-sponsored Harmonikids session to the Stoney Nation children at the Chief Jacob Bearspaw Memorial School . Nestled in the Canadian Rockies on the Eden Valley Reserve in Alberta, the school is named for Chief Jacob Bearspaw who signed a treaty at Blackfoot crossing in 1877 as head chief for Bearspaw Band. The Indigenous youth in the area face many challenges in their development. They are at risk to substance and alcohol abuse as well as domestic violence.
Many are challenged by fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). The school provides a safe and nurturing environment for children to study and learn with the principle’s positive message, “Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain!’. I was escorted to provide my Harmonikids session by Constable Jason, a Canadian Mountie who lives and works on the Eden Reserve. When I arrived I was greeted warmly by the very friendly staff. The session consisted of 24 child participants from ages 5 to 13. Although initially you could feel the apprehension and tension in the classroom, the kids were soon giggling with their eyes sparkling and jaws dropping in astonishment as I performed some of my more “dazzling” harmonica acrobatics and theatrics - designed to fully engage their interest and curiosity. I then gave them shiny new Hohner-donated harmonicas and all sat focused for the next hour as I taught them to play four songs accurately and rapidly.
It was a rousing success and the children were very enthusiastic and proud of their newly discovered musical ability. Furthermore, they were extremely delighted and proud to have been given musical instruments of their own. Many kept asking in astonishment “Do we really get to keep these?”. Harmonikids programs provide the therapeutic joy of learning music while elevating self esteem and confidence of youth at a crucial time in their lives. Perhaps the best way to illustrate the many benefits gained from the experience is to share the following inspirational feedback I received from the school teachers and vice principal
~ Gary Allegretto, Harmonikids Founding Director, www.harmonikids.org
"On behalf of Chief Jacob Bearspaw Memorial School, I would like to thank you for coming out to our school. The students loved learning the basics of a harmonica and they really enjoyed learning the four songs you taught them. It is events like this that build up confidence within our students that allow them to feel successful, not only with music but within their lives as a whole. You gave them a wonderful gift by giving each of them a Hohner Harmonica. They are showing a desire to learn more and develop their skill further by learning a Christmas song to perform for their community during a pageant here at the school. I would like to thank you for giving them this amazing gift of new skills."
~ Spencer Dean Bernard, Teacher, Chief Jacob Bearspaw School
"Thanks again for coming to Eden Valley to put on the harmonica workshop. We would also like to thank Hohner for donating harmonicas to each of the students. Many of our students really enjoy music so this was a wonderful opportunity for them. The students have been practicing on their new instruments and I notice that is seems to be very calming for some of them. Gary, without you and the generousity of Hohner, this would not have been possible. We hope you can visit us again. Thank you!"
~ Jean Whitehouse, Teacher, Chief Jacob Bearspaw School
"We appreciate you volunteering to entertain and teach our children how to play the harmonica. Many of our children face learning challenges such as FAS, ADHD, and ODD and this event provides a very special learning experience for their educational development."
~ Robbie Gordon, Vice President, Chief Jacob Bearspaw School