By Brendan Lai-Tong
Welcome back to the Music in Community Series! For those of you who just started following along, this series focuses on music teachers and groups who are doing great things for their community. If you haven’t already done so, please read our previous entries where we featured Candace Love, a music teacher who started a FREE music school, and the KICS and Appachianote Bands from Egypt and Italy.
Today we are featuring an outstanding voice teacher; Sommer Garner. Her wonderful group of students went above and beyond what was asked of them; putting forth a tremendous effort to help their community and those in need. Sommer and her students continue to strive for perfection as you will see in her story below.
I am always looking for new opportunities to give my students a chance to perform in public. I believe that the more they get out there in front of people, and the more they can experience different venues and audiences, the more comfortable they will become in their performances, and the more they will grow as artists. As they are doing this, they are also learning how much they have to give by sharing their talents, and how much of an impact they can make by doing so.
Over the last year, my students have been involved in singing events that have benefitted our community in various ways. Some have auditioned for, and become part of a group that sings at various community and social events. The program is made up of music that fits the need of that particular event, and any monies raised/paid for the entertainment goes to support the arts in our county through the local community theatre. So as well as providing entertainment for cultural events in and around our area, they are also helping to keep the arts going and growing and available/accessible to the general public in York county.
This past spring, we did a Gala of sacred music to raise money for a mission project in Grenada, which provided for construction of housing and small repairs for the poorer communities in Grenada that could not afford to do it themselves. My students provided an hour and a half of singing, as well as some instrumental dinner music, and gave up an entire day due to travel and rehearsal. The event raised $3300 for the mission.
Thirteen of my students are currently working on another Gala, ” A Night of Broadway to Benefit World Hunger.” This event will be held at a local church in our community. It is hosting a “Heffer Dinner” to raise money for needy communities around the world, to help provide them with livestock for food. The Broadway music will be the entertainment for this dinner.
There is another church in our community that needs help in the area of their music ministry. Due to the strains in the economy right now, they are not able to hire staff nor pay performers to come in for special services. My students have been approved to help provide offeratory solos throughout the 2012-2013 season. As well as providing this service, many are active in the music ministry in their home churches also.
While I think the services that my students are providing and will continue to provide are wonderful and beneficial to many, what I find most rewarding is to see them grow personally through it. The value of helping others, rather than the monetary payment has become exciting for them, and any self-centeredness, or diva qualities that often surface in a group of performers has fallen to the wayside as they pull together to help these different causes. They help each other with their songs, their presentations, their confidence. To see a student sitting in the front of the room mouthing the words along to another’s solo, to help them, really warms my heart. I feel so lucky to be a part of their lives in this way. I get to see them grow not only as singers and performers, but also as people. And they make me proud.
The Voice Studio of Sommer Michelle Garner
We would like to congratulate Sommer and her students. It is especially noteworthy that they raised $3,300 for the construction of housing and repairs for the poorer communities in Grenada. We hope that more teachers, ensembles and organizations will follow suit! Sommer will be receiving a $75 Sheet Music Plus gift certificate.
As always, thanks for following our blog. We hope that you enjoy this series; keep watching this space for upcoming stories.
Want to have your story featured on our blog? We will continue to regularly award $75 gift certificates and feature musicians, teachers and organizations helping the communities around them. Don’t hesitate to send your story to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you haven’t already done so!
Brendan Lai-Tong is the Assistant Marketing Manager at Sheet Music Plus and holds degrees in trombone performance from University of Miami and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.