Music Hall is the Site for New ‘Melodic Connections’
At a music conservatory in Cincinnati, a group of dedicated musicians meets daily to practice, study music theory and rehearse for performances. They are immersed in their craft for six hours a day, and they perform about 15 times a year. It’s a practice schedule that would be very familiar to any conservatory student or professional musician. And while they work really hard and have accomplished great things, these musicians never imagined their efforts would one day get them to Music Hall.
They are musicians with Melodic Connections, a non-profit organization in Cincinnati that provides music therapy-based music instruction and performance opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. This year the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra opened its doors to a group of our musicians, inviting them to volunteer every Monday.
Among the volunteers are Kara, Carole and Tommy. Kara is a singer with Down syndrome who knows every word to “Shake it Off” and loves to rap. Carole is a guitar player who learned to walk independently again when the music she played made her want to tap her toes. And Tommy is so dedicated to his adapted guitar that he has become the “go to” guy for his friends and family who want to learn to play.
On volunteer days, Kara, Carole and Tommy help with a variety of tasks in the CSO office. They restock merchandise in the lobby at the Bravo Shop, replenish concert brochures displayed around the hall, organize the mailroom and help with special projects. They love their new jobs; but even more, they are thrilled to be part of Cincinnati’s music scene in a way they never imagined possible. Tommy’s volunteer experience inspires his original drawings, one of which he gave to JMR as a birthday present. Recently, they were invited on stage to explore the percussion instruments, and they demonstrated their adapted instrument playing skills as participants in the CSO and Pops Music Lab before a Cincinnati Pops concert at Riverbend.
Our musicians are not the only ones who are changed by their volunteer experience. “As our staff gets to know the volunteers from Melodic Connections, we are reminded that beautiful music comes from many diverse places, and dedicated musicians come in all abilities,” said Erica Keller, Director of Audience Engagement at the CSO. “We love it when the volunteers are on site. Here we look forward to Mondays.”
The CSO is continuing to open doors for our musicians from Melodic Connections. If you see them in the future, ushering at concerts or demonstrating their adapted instruments at events, please welcome these new faces that are a unique part of the CSO community.
Melodic Connections is a Cincinnati-based 501 (c)3 organization that provides music therapy-based instruction and performance opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. They serve over 450 individuals ages five to 85 each year. For more information visit melodicconnections.org.
Volunteers Tommy and Kara meet percussionist Richard Jensen on stage at Music Hall. “It was an honor to meet people who are moved by the music we make,” Richard said. “Meeting Kara and Tommy and seeing the excitement and joy that a symphony orchestra concert can bring to them was an honor, joy and inspiration for me. It charged my batteries that day!