Hohner Sponsors Gary Allegretto's Harmonikids Visit to a School for Severely Disabled Youth
02 June, 2016
Harmonikids returns to teach a Classroom of Students with Formidable Life Challenges to Play Harmonica
On June 2nd through the sponsorship of Hohner, I returned to New Castle County's Vocational Tech (NCCVT) school for "severely disabled" youth in Wilmington, DE. What was accomplished that day is again among Harmonikids' proudest achievements. Remarkably, all of the students present found a path to make music in spite of formidable challenges. Among them, a teen with cerebral palsy and severe cognitive difficulties literally rose up from his daily challenges to participate - inspired by hearing and learning the Blues on a new Hohner harmonica... and a song by Elvis. As Harmonikids programs have proven for decades, learning to play music on a harmonica can lead youth across daunting boundaries.
The magic of the session is best shared in the thank you letter and photos I received from program coordinator Deborah Scott who wrote,"Again this year we witnessed a miracle..". Please read it below to discover what was achieved in this "miraculous" Hohner-sponsored Harmonikds session.
Founding Director of Harmonikids
Dear Harmonikids and Hohner,
Thanks for Gary Allegretto's return Harmonikids visit to our facility to provide the magic of music to the students in our Life Skills Program. For many of these students it is hard for them to open themselves up to someone new and try something different - but not with Gary Allegretto’s Harmonikids program!
Gary opens with his own amazing skill on the harmonica and within seconds you see frowns, and uncertainty turn into smiles with students and staff moving to the beat, clapping or snapping their fingers.
Again this year we witnessed a miracle with one of our students who has Cerebral Palsy and a severe cognitive disability. This is a student we work with to keep his head up, keep him focused and paying attention, to participate with classmates and staff, and to demonstrate some gross and fine motor skills. We constantly have to prompt him and provide cues to participate. We provide opportunities to practice his gross and fine motor skills daily. Our results vary day by day sometimes hour by hour and we often feel we are not reaching this child’s strengths or true abilities. “Enter Gary and his sparkling silver HOHNER Harmonica” Gary starts playing the Blues and this student is now sitting up straight. Then the student begins to tap his fingers to the beat. His head begins to sway in a controlled movement to the beat of the music. He speaks to Gary and tells him, he likes this music!
Then Gary starts instructing students how to blow into the harmonica. This student picks it up instantly without looking. He is holding it in his hand and begins to blow the correct notes. I am almost in tears as I watch him take the lead from the others who are desperately trying to catch up with him. I was thrilled. But the best was yet to come. The student (remember who rarely communicated) told Gary that he liked Elvis. The student and Gary perform a duet of an Elvis song. I took a picture with my cell phone and will attach it to this e-mail. I thought “Wow” how can this be topped? You hear the bad and the ugly about teenagers, but this group gave this student a standing ovation when the duet ended and shook his hand or patted his back and told him he was “Awesome”.
I cannot express my gratitude enough to Harmonikids and Hohner for bringing your beautiful harmonicas and lessons to our students. I will never forget this day! Thank you so much.
Deborah L. Scott
Program/Transition Coordinator, Exceptional Children and Title 1, New Castle County Vocational Technical School District
A fellow teacher's feedback on the session
I just wanted to drop you a quick note and thank you for the harmonica workshop you did with our students. They thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot. I really enjoyed it was well. You have a knack for blending musical and cultural history with entertainment to hook the children and draw them in for the harmonica lesson. That is the sort of approach the best teachers always use. Please pass on our thanks to Hohner as well, they are a fabulous company for supporting such a projects. I hope that we can have you back again next school year. Please let me know if there any opportunities to see you play live in the area.
Thomas A. Gears
Instructor, Life Skills Math Delcastle Technical High School Wilmington, DE