By Rachel M. Anderson
When Carol Beese moved from Chicago to Edina last year to be closer to family, she didn’t think it would ever feel like home.
“I came from a community where everyone knew me to a place where nobody knew me,” she said.
During the past five months, Beese has participated in several activities offered in her new community, The Waters of Edina, but it wasn’t until after the event she attended Feb. 21 that she finally felt at home.
Beese was one of about 60 seniors who came down from their apartments to enjoy a concert put on by band students from Valley View Middle School and Edina High School.
The concert was part of a nationwide program called Harmony Bridge. Its mission is to bridge generations through music.
“No matter what your age, music is one of those unifying things that can bring people together,” said organization
founder and Juilliard graduate Michael Levine of St. Louis Park. Levine also founded Dallas Brass and has been involved with music all his life.
He formed Harmony Bridge six years ago, and the organization is now active in seven communities throughout the nation, including Edina. More than 30 music students from Valley View Middle School and Edina High School performed a variety of folk songs, including “Ode to Joy,” “The Muffin Man,” “Home on the Range,” “Liza Jane,” and “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
“We play familiar songs that people will recognize and will bring back memories,” said Levine, who added that performing the music is only part of what Harmony Bridge kids do. “They also learn the skills necessary to become performers. They are not just sitting there behind a music stand with their clarinet or trumpet. They are learning how to be actively aware of their audience and connect with their audience.”
Following the performance, the kids interacted one-on-one with the audience members.
“They visit, they talk, they get to know each other,” said Levine.
It was a profound experience for both generations. With tears running down her cheeks, Beese said, “This was lovely. The warmth that was in that room. The joy. As the music played, I suddenly felt like I was at home.”
That’s exactly what she told cameraman David Peterjohn. He interviewed her right after the concert for a segment about Harmony Bridge that aired Feb. 25 on WCCO-TV’s “Life to the Max” program.
Bob Dean, who used to play clarinet, saxophone and flute with the “Glenn Miller Orchestra” and “The Classic Big Band and the Nostalgics” under the direction of Dan Odegaard, was also interviewed for the show.
“They were great – a wonderful organization,” he said.
Mabeth Gyllstrom, who is retired but used to be a vocal instructor at St. Cloud State, was impressed as well.
“I enjoyed the concert immensely,” she said. “I used to go to concerts all the time, but I haven’t been able to attend any in a while. I think today’s performance was wonderful.”
The kids took a lot away from the experience as well.
“It was a really enlightening experience, especially seeing the effect the music had on the people while we were playing, and getting to talk to members of the audience afterwards,” said Valley View Middle School student Jacob Olinger.
Edina High School sophomore Eva Hadjiyanis, 16, played percussion and also juggled balls during the show said, “I think it’s a really good idea for us to connect the generations. There is just such a giant gap between us, and it’s nice to know I helped close it a bit today.”
The Harmony Bridge event isn’t the only collaboration there has been recently between The Waters of Edina senior living community and the Edina School District. Last spring, students from Edina schools participated in an intergenerational art show. “Art and All that Jazz” featured the work of both students and residents. Seniors have also gone into Countryside Elementary and interacted with the kids.
“We try to partner with a variety of different things through the Edina School District because we think it’s very important for the seniors who live here to stay involved with the community at large, and also for the students to have a window to understand seniors and the legacy they have left for all of us,” said Chris Deibele, the active life manager at The Waters of Edina.
The Waters of Edina is home to more than 150 seniors, and has been open since October 2013.
For more information about the community, go to thewatersseniorliving.com/communities/edina.
More information about Harmony Bridge can be found at harmonybridge.net.
Rachel M. Anderson is a contrbuting writer for Sun Newspapers.