Napanee’s St. Mary Magdalene launches Harmony Lounge and Music Club for local youth

Bishop Michael Oulton speaks during the launch of St. Mary Magdalene's new not-for-profit program, the Harmony Lounge and Music Club. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme
Editor

St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church’s basement will soon be alive with the sound of music-and the youth of Napanee will be much better for it.

On Tuesday the church officially launched its new not-for-profit program known as the Harmony Lounge and Music Club, which aims to provide free music lessons for students aged 11-16.

Funded through a grant from the Anglican Diocese of Ontario as well as the Community Foundation of Lennox and Addington’s Sylvia Clark Mills fund, the program will run an eight-week trial phase Tuesdays to Thursdays from 2:30-5:30 p.m. Music lessons will be led by Karen Sheffield (voice), Jim Knapp (guitar) and Mark Hauser (band). The program will also work in partnership with Napanee District Secondary School, which will feature senior music students volunteering their time to teach piano to younger students. A musical instrument lending library will also be available for students interested in trying out a new hobby.

“To have something like this, where young people can come and your proximity to the school, to be able to come here and have those kinds of programs, that’s going to make a huge difference and lead to very well-rounded citizens,” said Bishop Michael Oulton, who was on hand at St. Mary Magdalene for the announcement.

Teaching kids the gift of music is just one part of the program. Ultimately the goal is to provide a place of belonging. That’s a particularly relatable mission for St. Mary’s churchwarden Chris Yeomans. He shared a story of his upbringing, noting he struggled to fit in as a youth who didn’t excel at sports. It was at St. Mary’s that he discovered a love of music, which was fostered through piano lessons taken at the church.

“At the age of seven I was invited to join the church choir,” said Yeomans, who shared he battled with social phobia and anxiety as a youth. “I was excited and nervous but I attended a few practices and finally one Sunday I actually sat in the choirs box.”

At the age of 10 he began taking piano lessons and worked his way up to playing hymns for the church service.

“With my anxiety this should have been impossible,” said Yeomans. “But the love and encouragement was always felt. This was, and remains to be, a safe place. If I made a mistake while playing, it didn’t matter. What better place to make a mistake than in a place that has to forgive you?”

“Here in this safe place of St. Mary Magdalene, the Harmony Lounge and Music Club will remove barriers that sometimes stand in the way of a young person wanting to experience music,” Yeomans added. “It will be a space of knowledge, encouragement and belonging. A place for a young person to be themselves. A place where their talents will be nurtured and enhanced. A place of music.”

Greater Napanee deputy mayor Max Kaiser was joined by councillor Bob Norrie to officially welcome the club to town. Kaiser noted his own kids benefitted from taking music lessons that weren’t as readily available as they would be now through the launching of the Harmony Lounge and Music Club.

“By the time our kids were in school, that wasn’t an option,” Kaiser said of music lessons being offered at the elementary school level. “I really feel that was a mistake. The government brought out a plan a few years ago that gave breaks to sports signups but nothing for music. Our oldest is our only son, we had the opportunity when he was younger, we got him into piano lessons during lunchtime at H.H. Langford. Later he took music with Sheffield Music, he learned guitar. When he got to high school he had a place to go and it mattered a lot.”

The Harmony Lounge and Music Club program was spearheaded by Michelle Hauser, who has been working behind the scenes for months to get the project to where it is today. In its initial phase the club will offer ukulele, flute, piano, drums, trumpet, trombone and music theory lessons.

Though housed in a church, the club is open to everyone regardless if they are a member of the parish and no matter their religious background.

“We want Harmony be a safe, welcoming place for students to meet up after school or drop in before or after their lessons, enjoy a snack together, practice or jam and find someway to be a part of music together,” said Hauser. “We can build a community around music here.”

To learn more about the program contact Harmonymusicclub@outlook.com or call 613-354-6387. St. Mary’s is located at 137 Robinson Street in Napanee. The club will be hosting an open house this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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