Integrity introduces ARC Industries to the Commons in Harmony

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Sandy Frey – LEED Green Associate, PV1

Integrity Sustainable Planning and Design


I love music. It’s truly the universal unifier. Especially, singing.

You can break out into a rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, or follow a call and response East African chant, or sing Happy Birthday almost anywhere in the word and total strangers will be able to join in and sing together, in unison and harmony, having never met nor speak the same language, or be of the same religion, or have the same core beliefs. It always brings smiles.

It’s my hope and belief that as they sing, people recognize on some level what is happening, that they become a part of a community in that moment, a feeling of connection they’ll want to revisit often, and spread to their family and friends.

Since the first of the year I’ve been consulting with ARC Industries, (in partnership with Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities who has been providing job training services for adults with disabilities for over 50 years), to increase the music and live arts participation and training opportunities for ARC participants within the greater Columbus arts community. The initial project was to find 6-7 singers to join a community choir. By arranging music activities in the workshops the staff and I began to suss out the folks we suspected had singing talent and also joyfully discovered some folks we didn’t know about!

A lot of you may know about the Harmony Project, A volunteer choir of over 200 adults that come together to sing, serve, and share. What you may not know of are the varied ways Harmony singers give back to our community. For example they sing with 7th – 12th graders at South High School, and with the women at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, and with folks with emotional and mental difficulties who have found ‘an opportunity to be engaged with the community’ at the Commons at Grant and Buckingham.

I talked with Harmony’s Stacey Wayt to see if there was a place for our folks with Harmony, and we agreed to try integrating ARC with the Commons Choir who practice weekly.  I gave copies of the CD of practice songs the Commons Choir had been singing the previous season to Chizuko Cooper at ARC East and Chris Noon at ARC North. The plan was for ARC’s singers to be familiar enough with the songs they could follow along with the Commons and Harmony volunteer singers. We really didn’t know what to expect. Would the two groups accept each other?

It. was. PERFECT.

The music started, everyone waited through the introduction, and then, as one, lifted up their faces, opened their mouths and sang the first song, and then the next! Then after a brief group discussion sang ‘Lean on Me’ with such feeling I had tears in my eyes. The more everyone sang the bigger all of our smiles got and the more unified the voices were. The group gelled.

It all culminated today, marking September 22, 2015, as the first day that 7 women and men from ARC Industries were accepted as a part of the Commons in Harmony choir! The choir will be performing at the December 1, 2015 Harmony performance at the Ohio Theater!

Thanks to Harmony’s Stacey Wayt and Peg Meckling for giving us this chance, to ARC staff members Chris and Chizuko for being the leaders, to the Commons choir for offering their friendship and making space for us, and especially to our ARC singers who are cooler than cool, who practiced, and showed up, and joined right in!
I see wonderful friendships already forming!
I’m so proud of this beautiful community of singers!

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