By LANCE CRANMER LCranmer@NationalChurchResidences.org
COLUMBUS — David Brown brought the Harmony Project to National Church Residences four years ago as a way to help bring residents together through music.
“It’s about finding a common thread with people that wouldn’t normally connect,” said Brown, the founder and creative director for the Harmony Project.
Working with two National Church Residences permanent supportive housing facilities, the Commons at Grant and the Commons at Buckingham, Brown formed Commons in Harmony.
The group, comprised of formerly homeless residents and residents with physical and mental disabilities, performs with the Harmony Project Choir – a group that performs regularly in Columbus.
According to the group’s website, the “Harmony Project Choir brings to life the dreams of performing at a sophisticated level and making a difference in the lives of others. In rehearsals and performances, walls come down and bridges are built, shining a spotlight on a community in harmony.”
On March 18, Brown brought the Commons in Harmony group to Columbus South High School to perform for a group of students Brown is preparing to take on a singing tour of Washington D.C. and New York City.
“The reason I wanted them to come meet you is because they’re very inspiring,” Brown told the students.
Members of Commons in Harmony spoke to the students about their struggles in life – being homeless, struggling with addiction, suffering from mental illness – and related how coming together to perform with the Harmony Project brought a positive influence to their lives.
“If you feel depressed, you should sing. If you feel lonely, you should sing,” one resident told them.
“I almost quit the group after one year,” another said, adding that his counselor persuaded him to stay. “I said, ‘Why me?’ And he told me, ‘You’ll be able to draw some of the other residents in. You’ll be pulling them away from something else in their life that may be negative and getting them into a positive atmosphere. And you’ll see how positive it is to do things the right way.”
“I didn’t tell them what to say. They just got up and spoke,” said Brown. “I wanted them to be able to connect with these students.”
Brown said, by working with the Harmony Project, the Commons in Harmony members find a way to make positive social connections.
“If they’re not around other people, how are they going to re-integrate socially?” he said. “Their caregivers tell us that just by doing this they make progress.”
Commons in Harmony performed a short routine for the Columbus South students, who then performed part of their routine in return.
The Columbus South group will send 71 students to Washington D.C. and New York City in early April. On the trip they will stop to perform at the National Mall, the Statue of Liberty and Columbus Circle