Every December, the Harmony Music School’s entire class comes together on stage to light up the night with music at their annual End of Fall Recital. This year, all 40 students will perform together at the school, which is housed inside Hinshaw United Methodist Church, located at 4501 W. Gate City Blvd. in Greensboro. Each student will also perform a solo song with the instrument they have been learning to show their family, friends, and community how they have progressed this year. Everyone is welcome to come listen on Dec. 18.
One year after opening HMS in 2013, founder Lyn Koonce said that she had been busy doing everything to fulfill everyone’s needs for the school when she received a powerful message that she was doing exactly what she was meant to do. One night after a recital, one of her students, Fernando Bedolla, ran up to her and said, “Thank you, Miss Lyn for giving the piano lessons. It makes something in my heart happy.”
From that night on, she understood her role in providing an oasis to offer free music lessons and instruments to at-risk kids in Greensboro. Koonce, who went full-time singer-songwriter in January 2018, performs at public venues and private parties. Fans say she has a voice as sweet and pure as the Carole King covers she sings. Koonce has long been a music advocate and is a member of Gate City Songwriters. I believe she is creating a legacy her entire community can be proud of.
HMS was born when Koonce, who also serves as the music director at Hinshaw United Methodist, was inspired to open a music school after learning about The Joy of Music School in Knoxville, Tennessee. At that time, she was working full-time writing and producing commercials at Rock 92, WKZL when the owner Allen Dick of Dick Broadcasting, told her about the school his father, James had started. Dick put Koonce in touch with Frank Graffeo, executive director of JOM, whom she said, was very generous with providing information, and invited her to visit and attend volunteer and marketing meetings to learn more.
Upon returning from Tennessee, she began thinking about what she would need to open a similar school in Greensboro, but she couldn’t start it right away. The four things she needed included a place to have the school, instruments, teachers and students. When her church offered the space, she began recruiting students and teachers, starting with her musician friends. Then she decided to make the school more legitimate as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit. She said that her greatest gift is in watching the relationships between the students and their teachers, and said it is all about connecting and creating community.
“My life changed with this school, I felt like I had a purpose,” Koonce said. “I don’t have children of my own, so I began wondering what my legacy was and asking what more I could do.”
Koonce said running HMS is a full-time job done on a part-time basis. Lacy Holder, a volunteer who is updating the website and Facebook page, will soon take on administrative tasks so Koonce can spend more time working toward the bigger picture.
Koonce said the music teachers who volunteer their time teaching piano, guitar, violin, and flute have doubled from six in 2013 to 12 in 2018. Those volunteers include three UNCG students teaching violin, piano instructors Charlotte Stone, Jack Gorham, James Esterline, Justin Baynes, a Penn Griffin School of the Arts student and Koonce. Koonce also teaches guitar, along with Abigail Dowd, and Bobbie Needham will be joining them to teach guitar in January along with a new flute instructor.
Koonce said HMS’s long-term goal is to be able to offer lessons to kids who qualify throughout Guilford County. For now, she explained that they are in a pocket for kids in and around the church, and those that go to neighboring schools. HMS also wants to continue musical culture education for children with more field trips to experience free concerts.
Right now, the school has a waiting list of seven students, and more volunteer teachers are needed to fulfill the requested lessons. Registration takes place every August and classes begin after Labor Day. Each student signs up to learn an instrument and, after signing an agreement, takes HMS instruments home to practice. If a student wants to learn a particular instrument for classes not yet offered, HMS will seek out another volunteer teacher to fulfill the request.
The school’s wish list for Christmas and beyond includes monetary donations, quality instruments such as guitars, violins, any brass instrument, woodwind instruments, keyboards, and volunteer musicians to share their talent with one to four students each.
TERRY RADER is a writer, poet, songwriter, herbalist and flower essences practitioner who works in Wellness & Community Outreach at Deep Roots Market Co-op, formerly an ad agency creative director, branding strategist, Earth Harmony columnist, a storyteller on a mission to raise awareness for creative people, grassroots causes, sustainability and underground happenings in our community.
The End of Fall Recital by Harmony Music School is on Dec.18, from 7-8:30 p.m., at Hinshaw United Methodist Church, 4501 W. Gate City Blvd., Greensboro, (336) 689.0233. For donations visit www.harmonymusicschool.org and on Facebook (@HarmonyMusicSchoolProject). See Lyn Koonce on Dec. 7, from 7-10 p.m. at The Tasting Room, 901 S. Chapman St., Greensboro and 12/6, 12/13, 12/20, 12/27, 7 p.m. at Pastabilities Restaurant, 1726 Battleground Ave., Greensboro. For more information, visit www.lynkooncemusic.com and on Facebook (@lynkooncegigs).