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May 24, 2018 10:00 PM

Finding Their Harmony

Sioux Falls, SD

Whether it's playing or just listening, music can bring people together. A unique Sioux Falls nonprofit is evidence of how powerful sharing a few tunes can be. You know it when you see and hear it.

11-year-old Maddy Eggers and 10-year-old Josephine Sorto Benitez wanted to do this interview together. Which makes perfect sense, given what Harmony South Dakota is all about.

Dan Santella: How does music make you feel. Maddy?

"Passionate," Eggers said.

Dan Santella: Why?

"'Cause I like the sounds, it just makes me want to dance," Eggers said.

Dan Santella: How does music make you feel?

"Makes me feel nice and comfortable. If I'm stressed, I'll just put on music, and sing with it," Benitez said.

Maddy and Josephine both sing and play the violin in Harmony South Dakota

"Harmony South Dakota is an after-school program that utilizes the power of ensemble music, so choirs and orchestras to teach kids the life lessons that they need to be successful, compassionate, healthy kids," Harmony South Dakota Executive Director Dan Goeller said.

10-year-old Suzanna Subah sings and plays the viola.

"It's fun, and we get to do a new song, and play new songs, and it's cool," Subah said.

KELOLAND News asked her how she feels to be around a bunch of different people in this program.

"Happy and kind of scared, but it's fun," Subah said.

Dan Santella: Why kind of scared? 

"Sometimes I can get kind of shy around people, I don't know," Subah said. "Like the fifth graders."

The roughly 60 participants range from about six to 14 years old. Everyone sings and plays a stringed instrument. Participation in the program is free. 

"We all come together and sing and play instruments, just like your family at home," Subah said. 

"I think it's easy when you look at the kids and hear how well they sing, and especially how well they play in their orchestras, it's easy to think of it as just a youth orchestra or a children's chorus," Goeller said. 

But, like music, it's not just about learning to play or sing.

"It's important to point out that these disciplines that they practice each day as they work cooperatively together are really things they're practicing that are life skills," Goeller said. 

What's more, a kid belongs here.

"So if maybe they feel like a little marginalized, or disenfranchised, they don't have a place where they feel like they belong, this is a place where they know that they're going to learn how to make a valuable contribution," Goeller said.

"I feel that I'm not judged, and it just makes me happy," Eggers said.

The kids take what they learn to the stage with regular performances. 

"We do four concerts a year, so that keeps our kids very challenged, because about every eight weeks we have a concert, a completely new repertoire, choral pieces and orchestra pieces," Goeller said.

It might be hard to pin down exactly what music does for people. But it's not hard to see and hear how Harmony makes these kids feel.

"It makes me feel exciting, 'cause like, the sound of the music, it makes me, it's interesting," Benitez said.

"It's just fun to be here, and I like it, and, yep, that's all I have to say," Subah said.

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