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    Harmonikids - Snowden Cottage Detention Center

    04 December, 2013

    Snowden Cottage Youth Detention Center

    Sometimes Harmonikids programs focus on youth who have been abandoned, neglected, abused, and/or are at gang risk – including some who have gotten in trouble and have been admitted to correctional facilities.

    In a Hohner-sponsored session on July 29, 2013 I returned to Snowden Cottage in Wilmington Delaware; a division of Ferris School, a full-security juvenile facility for boys 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.”

    This was not my introduction to Snowden. Part of my adolescence was spent within a few miles of its door. In fact, back then, the name of this full-security juvenile detention facility, “Ferris” was sometimes mentioned by adults as a deterrent to keep kids from getting into trouble – and more than once in my youth I heard; “keep it up Gary and you’ll wind up in Ferris.” This was about the same time as when I discovered solace in playing music on a harmonica, which may have actually saved me from that path.  Consequently, I’ve made it an ongoing  personal mission to provide the youth there the proven benefits of my Harmonikids programs. Ironically, I did "wind up there", though it was many years later as a teacher.

    The response from the young men there was unanimously positive. They learned quickly and delighted in the experience. In less than an hour they were thoroughly entertained and playing four tunes. They especially liked the Bo Diddley riff from “I’m A Man” - to which several made up their own lyrics and took turns rapping, as the other boys played along. I was amazed by how openly they expressed themselves - and how they each found joy and solace in their new musical talent.

    To illustrate, Treatment Specialist Supervisor Lester Whidbee was present during the session and writes:

    On July 29, 2013, at 4:00pm, the youths of Snowden and Mowlds Cottage were graced with the presence of Harmonica Player Mr. Gary Allegretto. Blues Revue Magazine indicates, “Mr. Allegretto is one of the finest harp players you’ll hear”. I can truthfully say, “Mr. Allegretto lived up to his name”.

    Mr. Allegretto stopped by to give the youths a great message about chasing your dreams and having to work hard to achieve your dreams. Mr. Allegretto told the youths about the love, passion, and enjoyment that music has brought to his life.  Mr. Allegretto once lived in Delaware.  He now resides in Los Angeles, California.  Mr. Allegretto started his workshop off by giving the youths their own harmonica.  Mr. Allegretto showed the youths how to play several songs with their harmonica.  These songs included, “When the Saints go Marching In, I'm a Man, and Harmonica Blues”. The youths were engaged and excited during the entire program.  Mr. Allegretto allowed all of the youths to play a solo song.

     Several of the staff members played along with their own harmonica’s.  It was very refreshing to see the youths enjoying themselves.  Music is chicken soup for the soul.  Mr. Allegretto encouraged the youths to keep hope alive, and to never give up on their dreams.  We thanked Mr. Allegretto for stopping by the Residential Cottages.   It would be an enlightenment if Mr. Allegretto came back to the Residential Cottages in the future.  This was such a blessing.


    Lester Whidbee

    Treatment Specialist Supervisor

    Snowden Cottage B – Shift